Take a fresh look at your lifestyle.

Hotels with a BIG difference: I’m a travel writer and these are nine of the quirkiest English properties I’ve ever visited, from a sea-tractor transfer to floating spas, moats… and wig closets

0

England has a reputation for eccentricity – and as I’ve discovered, its hotels proudly keep up this tradition.

I’ve reviewed some of the best hotels in the land, and many have quirky features that help make the stay even more memorable. 

Or are peculiar through and through.

Here, I’ve picked out a few of my favourites, from a sea-tractor transfer to a floating spa, and from a moat to a wig closet and a wellbeing concierge service. 

Scroll down for the full list and decide which of the nine hotels you’d most like to stay at.

Arrive by sea tractor at Burgh Island Hotel

Above is the sea tractor that transports guests to Burgh Island Hotel when the tide is in

You don’t often arrive at a luxury hotel on a tractor, but it is often the only way to reach Burgh Island Hotel off the coast of Bigbury-on-Sea in Devon. 

This luxury Art Deco property was built in 1929 to act as a private retreat for film director Archibald Nettlefold to host his lavish parties, and has hosted notable guests including Agatha Christie, The Beatles and Winston Churchill. 

When the tide is in, the only way to reach the island is by the hotel’s unique hydraulic sea tractor, making it the perfect setting for Agatha Christie’s classic novel And Then There Were None.

The tractor was designed, the hotel says, in 1969 by Robert Jackson, a pioneer of the nuclear power station programme in the 1950s, for ‘a case of Champagne’. 

Burgh Island Hotel

Burgh Island Hotel has hosted Agatha Christie, The Beatles and Winston Churchill

Guests can swim in the hotel’s outdoor Mermaid Pool, take part in Murder Mystery weekends, don 1920s garb for the hotel’s themed dinner parties or just relax amid the stylishly decorated rooms that bring The Roaring Twenties back to life.

Rooms from around £460 B&B. Visit www.burghisland.com.

4×4 driving experience at Bovey Castle

Bovey Castle has its own 4x4 off-road driving experience set in steep, wooden terrain. Above - Sarah is all smiles as she tackles the course

Bovey Castle has its own 4×4 off-road driving experience set in steep, wooden terrain. Above – Sarah is all smiles as she tackles the course

Many rural hotels boast an outdoor activity or two, but Bovey Castle in south Devon has a whole range of them available for guests without leaving the grounds – a benefit of being located in 275 acres of rolling Dartmoor countryside. 

As well as an 18-hole championship golf course, fishing lake, croquet lawn, tennis courts, clay pigeon shooting range and archery course, five-star Bovey Castle has its own 4×4 off-road driving experience set in steep, wooden terrain. 

Wrestling the Land Rover 110 Defender through vast puddles, along narrow tracks and up and down sheer inclines is an exhilarating, heart-pumping experience – thankfully there’s a luxury spa, several restaurants, and a well-equipped cocktail bar to help you recover from the adrenaline rush afterwards.

Rooms at Bovey Castle start at £239 for room only. Visit www.boveycastle.com.

The ‘medieval manor’ of Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa, West Sussex

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa has the look and feel of a medieval manor house and estate, but was actually built in 1927

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa has the look and feel of a medieval manor house and estate, but was actually built in 1927

Tucked away down a little country lane on the south coast between Littlehampton and Bognor Regis, Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa is a little haven of calm surrounded by green fields and just a short stroll from the sea at Climping Beach. 

While it has the look and feel of a medieval manor house and estate, it was actually built in 1927 for Lord Moyne of the Guinness brewing family and his wife Evelyn. The architect, Amyas Phillips, searched the country for original stone, woodwork, doors, windows and fireplace to give the hotel its 500-year-old feel, with low ceilings, tapestries, winding staircases and stone courtyards. 

Thankfully, the service, food and facilities (including its spa with indoor and outdoor pools) are all bang up to date, so what you get is a historic-style manor house with a modern feel. Bedrooms are in the main house or in buildings scattered around the grounds – there’s also a chapel and dovecote – and to really get that Tudor feel, stay in the grand Baylies Suite with its four-poster bed, wood-burning fire, twin baths and mullioned windows.

Rooms start at £310 per night for two adults sharing on a B&B basis. Visit www.hshotels.co.uk/bailiffscourt.

The moat at New Hall Hotel and Spa, near Birmingham

Step back in time with a stay at New Hall Hotel and Spa, which dates back 800 years and has its very own moat

Step back in time with a stay at New Hall Hotel and Spa, which dates back 800 years and has its very own moat

There’s nothing quite like arriving at a hotel with its very own moat to make you feel like you have stepped back in time.

That’s the feeling you’ll get when you check into the 800-year-old New Hall Hotel and Spa in Sutton Coldfield.

Built by the Earl of Warwick as a hunting lodge in the 13th century, New Hall is England’s oldest listed inhabited moated house and still has the mullioned windows, crenellated towers and drawbridge to make a stay here an authentically historic one.

Over the centuries, the hotel has added some modern comforts, such as a spa with indoor swimming pool and 2 AA Rosette restaurant, but a tour of the hotel will reveal some great original features, including ornate staircase carvings, the 500-year-old Great Chamber with original oak panelling and even some poetic diamond-scratchings on the leaded windows from a love-crossed Elizabethan nobleman.

Rooms from around £180. Visit www.handpickedhotels.co.uk/newhall.

Monkey Island Estate – and its floating spa

Five-star-hotel Monkey Island Estate has a floating spa - inside a barge on the River Thames

Five-star-hotel Monkey Island Estate has a floating spa – inside a barge on the River Thames

There can be few things more relaxing than having a floating massage on a floating spa on a private island.

The spa barge operated by five-star-hotel Monkey Island Estate is certainly one-of-a-kind.

Moored on the banks of tiny Monkey Island in the middle of the River Thames near Bray, this luxury barge has been refitted as a luxury spa to ensure guests return to dry land completely relaxed.

The island itself is a uniquely secluded spot, with the hotel set amid seven acres of grounds reached only by a footbridge over the Thames.

Guests would be surprised to know that the pristine, manicured lawns of Monkey Island – perfect for al fresco riverside drinks and dinner at the hotel’s restaurant – rest on debris dumped here after the Great Fire of London, which made Monkey Island a viable site for building on.

However, the history of island goes back to the 12th century, when Augustine Monks settled here, giving the island its name of ‘Monks Eyot’. Individually-designed rooms include the luxury Wedgewood Suite decked out in iconic blue-and-white hues.

Rooms at Monkey Island Estate start from around £137. Visit www.monkeyislandestate.co.uk.

The wig closet at The Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa, Midhurst, West Sussex

The Queen¿s Suite in the historic Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa in Midhurst boasts a stunning carved four-poster bed - and a wig closet

Sarah writes that the wig closet is 'a perfect spot for making yourself feel like royalty'

The Queen’s Suite in the historic Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa in Midhurst boasts a stunning carved four-poster bed – and a wig closet. Sarah writes that it’s ‘a perfect spot for making yourself feel like royalty’

While most hotel rooms come with the latest modern features, it is a refreshing change to find one with its very own wig closet.

The Queen’s Suite in the historic Spread Eagle Hotel and Spa in Midhurst, West Sussex, dates back to 1430 and is reputed to have been slept in by none other than Queen Elizabeth I herself.

The room boasts a stunning carved four-poster bed, sitting room and thoroughly modern bathroom, but it is the wig closet that I loved the most, a perfect spot for making yourself feel like royalty (and it’s a very handy spot for getting ready for dining at the hotel’s restaurant after spending the day in its spa with indoor pool, I discover).

Cromwell, Guy Fawkes and Admiral Nelson have also stayed in this historic building, which boasts original timbers, stained glass windows and even an original suit of armour to welcome guests.

Rooms at The Spread Eagle start from around £140 a night. Visit www.hshotels.co.uk/spread-eagle.

The Sunborn London yacht hotel 

Sunborn London yacht hotel is permanently moored in Royal Victoria Dock in East London

Sunborn London yacht hotel is permanently moored in Royal Victoria Dock in East London

‘You walked into the room like you were walking onto a yacht’ was the song going through my mind when I arrived at Sunborn London yacht hotel, my first stay on a ship that wasn’t actually travelling anywhere.

This luxury yacht hotel is permanently moored in Royal Victoria Dock in East London, next to the ExCel London conference and exhibition centre, and is a short walk from the cable car over the Thames by the O2. With 10,000 square metres of floorspace, Sunborn London is as spacious as any land-based hotel, with 138 bedrooms and suites over five floors, plus a bar, restaurants and several terraces for those warm summer evenings. 

The entrance evokes a golden age of sailing, with a gleaming polished double staircase and chandelier – and enjoying a cocktail next to the sparkling blue water of the dock while water-skiers practice jumps nearby is certainly different from your usual London hotel experience.

Rooms from around £100. Visit www.sunbornhotels.com/london.

Spiritual Wellbeing Concierge at The Mandrake

The Mandrake hotel in London¿s Fitzrovia offers a ¿Spiritual Wellbeing Concierge¿ service

The Mandrake hotel in London’s Fitzrovia offers a ‘Spiritual Wellbeing Concierge’ service

Lying on the floor of a white-tiled hotel penthouse room being treated to a crystalline sound bath isn’t usually part of a typical hotel stay, but this is business as usual at The Mandrake hotel in London’s Fitzrovia.

The 33-room luxury hotel, just off Oxford Street, claims its ‘Spiritual Wellbeing Concierge’ service is the first of its kind in the world and born out of a belief that ‘the soul needs to be nourished just as much as the mind and body’.

In practice, this meant spending a rather pleasant hour trying not to fall asleep on a yoga mat next to 12 other attendees while our class leader sounded wind chimes, chakra triangles and frosted quartz singing bowls to create soothing vibrations.

So that’s the mind and soul taken care of. What about the taste buds? The Mandrake has you covered, not least via its cocktails, expertly made by The Mandrake’s mixologists at its Waeska ‘ethnobotany’ bar.

Rooms start at around £390 per night. Visit www.themandrake.com.

The best sea views – Cary Arms & Spa, Devon

Sarah writes that rarely has she been so close to the waves as at the Cary Arms & Spa near Torquay

Sarah writes that rarely has she been so close to the waves as at the Cary Arms & Spa near Torquay

Many coastal hotels offer stunning views of the sea, but I’ve rarely been so close to the waves in the UK as at Cary Arms & Spa near Torquay. With a private terrace suspended over the beach, the views across the sweeping curve of Babbacombe beach in the heart of the ‘English Riviera’ are yours to enjoy, as is a lounge with a flickering virtual fire, coffee table made from stones and driftwood and a bedroom decked out in a classic nautical theme. 

With folding glass doors throughout, the Beach Suites allow you to fully immerse yourself in the landscape, with a bracing plunge into the waves or by rolling out of bed onto the decking to soak up the sunshine. With just seals and dolphins for company, you could pretend – fleetingly – that you’ve been shipwrecked.

Rooms at Cary Arms & Spa start from £275. Visit www.caryarms.co.uk. 

For more from Sarah visit www.aladyofleisure.com.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.