Safari lodges. Tree houses. Egyptian architecture.
Not the themes you’d expect to pop up when searching for a hotel stay in the UK, right? So we thought it pertinent to reveal some of the unique hotel experiences you can enjoy on these very shores.
Ham Yard Hotel, London
1 Ham Yard, W1D 7DT
Why leave the hotel to go bowling and gorge in first-class surroundings when it’s all under one conveniently placed roof? The newly opened Ham Yard, part of the same group that also run the similarly celeb friendly Charlotte Street and Soho Hotels, contains a 1950s bowling alley complete with solid maple lanes and back-lit balls imported from Texas, and, if that weren't glitzy enough, its bar and restaurant may just be the very definition of swanky. Time it right and you might even get to watch a film in the hotel's 190-seater digital screen theatre.
Saunter outside the grand manor of Chewton Glen, navigate 500 yards through thick woodland and onto a giant gangway. And now what are you looking at? All going well, some luxury treehouse suites seemingly plucked directly from Tolkien’s Shire and tweaked by J.J. Abrams in the name of high-end adventure. Inside you’ll find all sorts of classy amenities (chess sets, glass jars of marshmallows) while out on the deck you’ll find sun loungers to loaf on before a dip in the hot tub. Honestly, it makes Centre Parcs look like Butlins.
See a photo of a beautiful hotel room belonging to a low-cost UK hotel chain and you immediately think of a catch: paper-thin walls; booming nightclub next door; Lenny Henry in a bathrobe sprawled across your queen size bed. Well thankfully at Manchester’s new Motel One, which brings designer accommodation at prices as good as £70, along with central location, meaning you're only a glow stick's throw from The Warehouse Project, you really are getting a genuine bargain. And channeling the city's rich Britpop history with its cool furnishings, some might say it’s superb.
Thought travelling just an hour outside of London would just lead you to a soggy bag of fish and chips in Brighton? Think again, as this is all it takes to get to Aqua Sana's luxury spa, located in the peaceful setting of Bedfordshire countryside. Here you'll find a load of unique relaxation experiences, including a Fire & Ice spa, indulgent couples massages, mud baths, and male-centric treatments that use sandalwood and peppermint scents (so you can smell proper manly).
Edinburgh without the historic buildings would be like Glasgow without deep-fried confectionary. Unthinkable. The G&V Royal Mile Hotel, on the other hand - and whisper this – provides a refreshingly modern change to the crumbling walls and aged tartan which inevitably meets you once you cross the foyer and leave its doors. That's because this swish five-star residence is like a mini-palace of pop art, with its Italian restaurant, spa and signature rooms soaked in some eye-popping design by a trio of local artists.
Be it mediocre watches or oversized sunglasses, nothing helps ramp up a product’s cool factor more than lumping the word ‘aviator’ before it. Not that this modish and aviation-inspired hotel, created by TAG and adjacent to the runways of Farnborough, needed help in that regard, accenting its upscale rooms and suites with black glass walls, chrome and Egyptian cotton bed linen. Then there’s the Sky Bar, where noir-like atmosphere and low light vibes provide the ideal excuse for ordering a tequila and ginger beer infused Silver Jet cocktail at all times of the day. Well, unless you’re a pilot about to start a shift.
Affordable yet boutique. Quite how Liverpool’s Hope Street hotel manages to balance both of these traits is surely the secret behind its award-laden success. First erected in 1860 in the style of a Venetian palazzo, minimal in-room design touches (exposed brick, light wood) following a 2003 renovation have only added to the sheer class ingrained inside. For the best experience, visit its critically-acclaimed restaurant, The London Carriage Works, brimming with fresh seasonal and organic produce.
Sat inside a former Greek Orthodox Church, one stay at this hotel teetering on the edge of Glasgow’s fashionable west end is all that's required to become one of the converted. Every one of its 72 rooms and suites has been uniquely designed to the thickly layered extent that you might believe Tom Ford himself had been moonlighting as an interior designer. Order some food down in the wood filled crypt brasserie, before upping the macabre and visiting the hotel’s darkly lit and roundly Gothic cocktail bar - the ideal place to quaff down a Bloody Mary or two.
Contrary to popular belief, Napoleon wasn’t diminutive. He was actually above average height for a man of his time. Another fact you might not know about the French icon is that this attention-grabbing façade, wowing tourists in Penzance since 1835, was originally built as a celebration of his naval campaigns in North Africa, where it later ran as a museum. Incredibly, the Landmark Trust now allow groups of three to rent suites inside. A cracking base camp from which to plot your own coastal missions.
It would be easy to think yourself Sherlock Holmes when checking into the Zetter Townhouse, a 13 bedroom Georgian townhouse and cocktail lounge attracting the great and the good off St John’s Square in Clerkenwell. And not just for its timeless looking furniture, Gainsborough fabrics, or the fact you look good with a pipe - there’s a playfulness to it all. Be it a taxidermy kangaroo to a Victorian dressed cat in the bar, one drink in the bar and the game is truly afoot, whatever the hell that means.
A house floating 70ft in the air? Not a Pixar story involving a cantankerous old man and some balloons but the similarly ingenious story of a former water tower re-purposed as a home now available to rent for holidays. You’ll find roomy floors wedged between the five or so landings, with plush bedrooms, drawing rooms, kitchen and billiards table. It certainly gives a new meaning to the term Airbnb.
Wood-fire pizza ovens, almighty views across Cardiff Bay, beds so comfortable it’ll feel like you’re sleeping on a giant Flump? Just a few of the reasons to stay at this exclusive hotel smack bang in the middle of the Welsh capital. It’s a prime spot for not just exploring the city but returning for a nightcap and taking full advantage of its homely atmosphere and delicious pizza pies. What’s the Welsh word for superb? Yeah, that.
A glamorous townhouse so entwined with contemporary art that you’ll be able to smell the paint before you've stepped into the foyer, Bristol’s Berkeley Square is the city’s premium art hotel. To be fair, it’s also the city’s only art hotel, but don’t let that dissuade you from taking in works from a multitude of artists who hang collections, alternating between months. A room key also entitles you to enter the on-site private member’s club, arguably Bristol’s finest and ideal for some cocktails on the terrace. Or cider if you want to do as the locals do.
Gone are the days of tree houses being the preserve of catapult-happy young rascals. Now, thanks to upmarket eco-dens offering alternative holiday breaks for couples and families, grown-ups are taking over. You needn’t plan a course for Sweden, either - there are plenty of UK locations offering just this, including this sweeping venue in the rural wilds of East Sussex, offering a fully-fitted kitchen, en-suite shower room, glorious sun deck and a Rope Bridge Indiana Jones would tip his hat at. It’s probably good for playing Dungeons & Dragons on, too, we imagine.
Part 21st century castle, part Bond villain’s lair, only recently has this space-age spot, buried deep in the gullies of the Highlands, become available to rent for the masses. And by masses we of course mean those flush enough to rent the whole place for £30,000 per week, staff included. Not that it just caters to oligarchs, mind; instead of venturing abroad, a lot of young couples are chipping in a few grand with friends for a country escape like no other: surrounding lochs and deer-cloaked hillsides for an 11 mile radius. And then there's the Bond aspect: hidden passageways in a bookshelves, £1m Flemish tapestries while you dine, hunting gear on demand and roaring fireplaces - it really is something special. The best way of getting there? Via helicopter, obviously.
Ordinarily, going on a safari within the UK ends with rogue chimpanzees ripping your windscreen wipers off. At Kent’s Livingstone Safari Lodge, winner of the UK’s Best Tourism Experience in 2012, however, a genuine taste of the Serengeti can be achieved without a long-haul flight or a subsequent trip to Halfords. Twin bed luxury African safari tents are perched aloft, allowing you to not only take in views over the Channel to France, but zone out and pretend you’ve gone to Africa as zebras, giraffes and rhinos wander about in front of you. Ridiculous.