Looking for something a bit different? 20 UK short breaks with a twist

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Portmeirion Hotel

Sleep in a luxury treehouse... see dolphins in the wild... stay in a perfect Italian village in Wales... 20 UK holidays with a difference

1. Stay in an Italian village in Wales

The architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis started building Portmeirion, a little Italian-style village that just happens to be in north Wales, in 1925 and it proved to be his life's work: it was completed in 1975, just three years before his death.

Since the 1960s, it has been most famous as the location for the TV series The Prisoner – but it was already a must-visit place in the 1930s, with Noel Coward among the famous visitors. But as well as being a photo opportunity, Portmeirion has always been a holiday village at heart: it has a hotel and 14 holiday cottages and makes a unique base for exploring Snowdonia. portmeirion-village.com

2. Sleep in the clouds

If you could pluck a house straight from the pages of a fairy tale, this would be it. Originally a water tower, this remarkable building in Thorpeness, Suffolk, has been converted into a 70ft-tall luxury holiday home, with room to sleep up to 11 and a cavernous open-plan games room on the top floor, overlooking the beautiful Suffolk coast. Step into your own fairy tale for the weekend. 

3. Take to the water

Enjoy life in the slow lane with a UK canal holiday

Enjoy life in the slow lane with a canal holiday - perhaps navigating from Bristol to Bath on the Kennet and Avon Canal (a weekend's trip) or the 137-mile trip along the Grand Union from London to Birmingham (which takes more than a week). See our Top 5 UK canal break ideas here: boundless.co.uk/be-inspired.

4. Stay in an old World War II look-out tower

Built on the orders of Jersey's occupying German forces during the Second World War, the six-storey Radio Tower offers panoramic views from its 360-degree observation platform/lounge/diner and has now been restored as a three-bedroom holiday let by Jersey Heritage.

5. Drive Scotland's answer to Route 66

Launched in 2015, the North Coast 500 is a circular route round Scotland's most northerly and remote roads. Starting and finishing in Inverness and taking you as far as John O'Groats, the UK mainland's most northerly village, the NC500 is promoted as Scotland’s answer to Route 66. There's over 500 miles of beautiful Scottish coastal scenery to enjoy and a website with suggestions of sights to see and stops along the way: northcoast500.com . For more ideas on UK road trips: boundless.co.uk/be-inspired/driving/five-road-trips

6. Stay on a farm

Wake up in the middle of the Welsh countryside and go and collect fresh eggs for your breakfast... Cwmcrwth Farm in Carmarthenshire offers a great base for an away-from-it-all break – plus you get to feed pigs and donkeys – and, at the right time of year, you can bottle-feed new-born lambs,.  


7. Paint the Lake District

Engage with some of the UK's most beautiful scenery as you learn to paint watercolours on location in the Lake District. Artist Jane Ward teaches four-day courses to small groups including both beginners and those looking to improve and at the end of a hard day's art, you go back to stay at the fabulously located Glenthorne Guest House in Ambleside. For more info: janeward.co.uk/painting-holidays/

8. See dolphins in the wild

You don't need to go abroad to see dolphins, whales, sharks, seals and porpoises in the wild: they are regularly sighted in the Hebrides. Sea Life Surveys specialise in wildlife trips from their base on the isle of Mull.

9. Sleep in a log cabin

 Swallowtail Hill Farm in Rye, Sussex, has been actively developing biodiversity for more than a decade – meaning there's plenty of bird life, butterflies and barn owls in the area, alongside regular farm animals.

The kids can feed the goats while you learn to drive a tractor. Out in the woods and fields, there are several equally idyllic accommodation options, including Hansel and Gretel-style cottages-on-wheels and cosy log cabins.

10. Join the have-yachts

If you fancy holidaying like the super-rich, then how about a night on Sunborn, a 108-metre yacht moored at the Royal Victoria Dock in London? Spend the day taking in the sights of the capital, before returning to the yacht for fine dining in the restaurants with views across the lights of the city.

11. Live on a Yellow Submarine

In the town where the Beatles were born you can stay on a narrowboat reinvented as a yellow submarine. The outside: just as you would hope. The inside: a glitzy celebration of 60s pop style, complete with Beatles gold discs and a scooter from Quadrophenia. Unique. Sleeps up to eight people.

12. Make history

Or, at least, help uncover history. Orkney archaeology tours offer you the chance to spend a week at the north Scotland archipelago under the expert guidance of professional archaeologists. They will guide you over Neolithic and Viking sites as well as more modern digs. Only available to a maximum of eight people at a time, this is a real hands-on experience with the opportunity to see 'live' excavations.

13. Sleep in a Napoleonic fort

Many of the mini castles built around the coast to keep Napoleon out 200 years ago have now been converted into holiday lets, including the Martello Tower on the coast at Aldeburgh, Suffolk. They make for spacious interiors, great sea views (of course) and unique holiday experiences. 

14. Stay in a castle

Clytha Castle is a fairy-tale-style folly in the middle of the Welsh countryside that has been beautifully restored as holiday accommodation, sleeping up to six people.

15. Sleep in a lighthouse

Just two hours' drive from London, the once-derelict West Usk Lighthouse, overlooking the Bristol Channel, has been beautifully re-imagined as a holiday home. Bedrooms have either four-poster beds or waterbeds and there's even a sauna. And – seriously – they've got a life-sized Dalek as well. Unusual enough for you?

16. Drink at Britain's most remote pub


This holiday takes getting away from it all to a whole new level. The Old Forge Pub in Knoydart, West Scotland, is 18 miles from the nearest road or a seven-mile ferry trip across the water, making it mainland Britain's most remote public house. Surrounded by mountains and forest on the shore of Loch Nevis, The Old Forge is famous for its super-fresh seafood, ales brewed at Glenfinnan micro brewery and raucous ceilidhs, with a variety of accommodation ranging from self-catering apartments to wild camping.

17. Bear Grylls family survival course

Don't expect a cosy camping weekend toasting sausages over a campfire. On this Bear Grylls survival course, you'll be daubed in camouflage paint, purifying water in a sock and wading through mud up to your neck – but it's got to be somebody's idea of fun, right?

18. Sleep in a fisherman's hut 

Stay in a cosy, converted fisherman's hut, right on the beach in Whitstable. We've been: it feels like you are miles from anywhere when, in fact, there are tremendous seafood restaurants and a bustling little town within five minutes' walk. Sample user review: 'The nicest room we'd ever been in... You can hear the clanging of the beached boats and the swish of the sea all night.'

19. Stay in a vintage, luxury American trailer

 A little slice of vintage Americana, three miles north of Dartmouth, Devon. Stay in a luxury, silver Airstream trailer – it has all the retro cool of a vehicle built in 1956, but has been refitted with all mod cons, too, including flat-screen TV, Wi-Fi, power shower, underfloor heating and air conditioning. Proper glamping.

20. Cosy up in a luxury treehouse

With prices from £250 a night, it's not cheap but, then again, a luxury hotel suite perched in the treetops is a pretty unique setting. Secluded and idyllic, the Treehouse at Harptree Court near Bath, is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that takes the idea of 'glamping' to a whole new level (quite literally). Lots of nice attention to detail – a copper bath, a welcome hamper of local goods – has helped it win rave reviews from visitors.

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