While the UK is bursting with historic sites, there are also a number of unconventional historic places that are available to stay the night. Scrap the convention of a hotel and instead enjoy the sensitively-restored interior of the unconventional Dunmore Pineapple in Stirling, or ghost hunt amongst the vast rooms of Chillingham Castle, reportedly one of the most haunted buildings in Britain.
Whatever your taste or area of historical interest, there’s an endless selection of unconventional places to stay. Here’s our pick of 10 of the best the UK has to offer.
1. Dunmore Pineapple
Since Christopher Columbus discovered pineapples in Guadeloupe in 1493, they had become a delicacy associated with power and wealth. They became a popular motif, adorning gateposts, railings, fabrics and furniture. The Earl of Dunmore was no exception to this craze and grew pineapples in his hothouse in Stirlingshire. After returning from work as the last Colonial Governor or Virginia he completed this pineapple folly, which surmounted two bothies used as accommodation for his estate staff.
Today, the Dunmore Pineapple is managed by the Landmark Trust, who have leased it from the National Trust for Scotland since 1973. All buildings are restored and open to the public. The pineapple itself can be rented via the Landmark Trust, and has two bedrooms.
2. Chillingham Castle
The 13th century, Grade I-listed stronghold of Chillingham Castle in Northumberland has witnessed its fair share of history. In 1298, Edward I was the first of many monarchs to visit the castle over the centuries. The castle has remained in the same ownership bloodline since the 13th century, and today features fine rooms, gardens, lakes, fountains and tea rooms. Chillingham is considered one of the most haunted castles in England, and brave visitors to the former fortress can embark on evening ghost tours through its many rooms and dungeons, even venturing into its medieval ‘Torture Chamber’.
It’s possible to stay at the castle in one of 8 apartments, either in one of the fine apartments within the castle itself, or the close by Coaching Rooms where the coaches and horses were once kept. Visiting the castle includes access to the stunning grounds in the stunning Northumberland countryside.
3. Appleton Water Tower
Situated on the edge of the Sandringham Estate, Appleton Water Tower was built after Edward, Prince of Wales fell ill with typhoid in 1871, followed by his son three years later. This was a chilling reminder for Queen Victoria of the danger of the disease, since she had lost her husband Prince Albert to the disease. A clean, reliable water supply for the whole estate was an urgent priority, so the Appleton Water Tower with its 32,000-gallon cast-iron tank was built from 1877. The neo-Byzantine design also featured a second-floor room as a viewing room for the royal family and their guests to use for shooting parties or picnics.
Today, it is possible to stay in the tower via the Landmark Trust. It features one twin and one double room, and enjoys views over miles of wide, open landscape from the terrace on top of the tank.
4. Château Rhianfa
Grade II-listed Château Rhianfa is located on the banks of the Menai Strait, with views across to the peaks of Snowdonia, from where to explore Anglesey and North Wales. Built as a gift to Lady Sarah Hay Williams by her husband Sir John Williams, it was based upon sketches Lady Sarah had made of her favourite châteaux in France’s Loire Valley. It was completed in 1851, and remained in the possession of the Williams family until 1957 when it was sold and converted into a number of apartments.
Today, it features 27 individually-styled rooms, 16 of which are in the main building. Highlights include music and drawing rooms, turret showers and summer and winter balconies.
5. The Old Railway Station
Surrounded by the natural beauty of South Downs National Park in West Sussex, the Old Railway Station was originally built in 1892. It has since been lovingly restored, providing two rooms in the Station House and a further eight rooms in the authentically-converted Pullman carriages, with silver-service breakfast to boot.
The sheltered grounds are worth taking a walk, while nearby Petworth itself is bursting with antique shops and coffee spots.
6. Martello Tower, Aldeburgh
The largest and most northerly of a chain of towers in England that were built in response to the threat of French invasion by Napoleon, this Martello Tower was built between 1808 and 1812 and stands at the foot of the Orford Ness peninsula between the River Alde and the sea.
Originally a heavy gun battery, the Landmark Trust acquired the tower in 1971 when it was in a state of severe disrepair. Now converted into a stunning living space, the bedrooms are screened from the main room though not entirely divided, to give a sense of being part of a loftier space. Eating freshly-caught fish and chips from the roof is especially recommended.
7. LV14 SULA Lightship
The only lightship possible to stay on in the UK, LV14 SULA was originally titled SPURN and was stationed on the Humber Estuary between the 1960s and 1980s, shining a Fresnel lens which reached 17 miles and helped to guide sailors. It then served as a historic museum in South Wales, before becoming a therapy and meditation centre.
It was then bought and sensitively restored, and now sleeps up to four guests, who can enjoy the original teak doors, well-equipped kitchen and comfortable lounge.
8. Radio Tower, Jersey
The Radio Tower in Saint Brelade, Jersey, was originally built as an observation tower by German occupying forces during World War Two. Situated on a clifftop overlooking the striking Corbière Lighthouse, the tower is made up of six floors and features a concrete staircase that winds right through the heart.
Today, it serves as accommodation for up to 6 people, and is full of original features such as steel doors and observation slots.
9. St James’ Church, Cooling
The churchyard of St James inspired Charles Dickens in the opening chapters of Great Expectations. The site, which dates to the 13th century, was completed in around 1400 and restored in the 19th century, when a vestry was added and the porch rebuilt.
Today, the church is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust, but is no longer used for worship. Instead, it is possible to stay in the church, which has features such as a 500-year-old timber door, nineteenth-century vestry as well as walls lined with thousands of cockle shells, the emblem of St James. In the churchyard are 13 children’s graves known as ‘Pip’s Graves’, since they are mentioned in Dickens’ Great Expectations. It’s possible to enjoy ‘champing’ – church camping – which offers occupancy for up to 4 campers.
10. Barcaldine Castle
Located between Oban and Fort William, Scotland, Barcaldine Castle sits just a few hundred metres from the shore of Loch Creran. Also known as the Black Castle, possibly due to the colour of its dark stones, it was built in the 16th century by Sir Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy. It is perhaps most famous for being the site of a famous massacre, where Maclan of Glencoe (a branch of the MacDonald clan) his wife, 2 of his sons and many of his clan were murdered in 1692 after the clan failed to take an oath of allegiance to the monarch. These events inspired the ‘Red Wedding’ episode of Game of Thrones.
The castle remained in Campbell hands until 1842, when it was sold. It was restored by new Campbell owners from 1896-1910, and offers B&B accommodation in 6 bedrooms and also features facilities for small weddings along with exclusive use of all 6 bedrooms. It is said to be haunted by the Blue Lady, a Campbell maiden who plays the piano.