10 hidden gems in the UK worth escaping to

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Portmeirion from above

Looking for a staycation with a difference? Check out our list of hidden gems in the UK perfect for your next break

From canal boat trips to sleepovers in a fairytale castle, there are tonnes of fascinating experiences to be had in British towns and countryside.

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1. A little bit of Italy 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 guests.

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.

2. Drift off into the clouds

House in the Clouds

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds

If you could pluck a house straight from the pages of a fairytale, 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.

No head for heights? There are lots more quirky places to stay available through Boundless partner cottages.com. How about a Grade II-listed garage with its own illuminated 1930s petrol pumps, a brightly painted Romany caravan (with nearby hot tub), a luxurious 19th-century folly cunningly designed as a ruin, or an apartment in a fairytale Scottish castle?

3. Take to the water

Kennet and Avon Canal

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). The canal links the Bristol Channel with London, allowing narrowboats to pass through some spectacular landscapes including Wiltshire and the rolling Cotswolds at a leisurely 4mph.

If even that sounds too fast-paced for you, how about a houseboat? Boundless partner Hoseasons has a great selection moored along the Norfolk and Suffolk waterways.

4. Explore a Second World War lookout tower

Radio 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. Cosy up in a luxury treehouse

Harptree Court treehouse

With prices from £196 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.

6. Go fishing

Whitstable harbour

Stay in a cosy converted fisherman's hut, right on the beach in Whitstable. We've been: it feels like you’re 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.' There are lots of huts to choose from, most of which sleep around four people.

7. Stay in a Napoleonic fort

Martello Suffolk

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. 

The picturesque coastal town of Aldeburgh is a 10-minute walk away along a shingle beach. Sutton Hoo, the Anglo-Saxon royal burial site and Framlington Castle, a magnificent 12th century fortress and one-time refuge of Mary Tudor are half an hour from Aldegburgh.

8. Drink at Britain's most remote pub

West Scotland mountains

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.

9. Create your own fairy tale

Ponies on moor

Clytha Castle is a fairytale-style folly in the middle of the Welsh countryside that has been beautifully restored as holiday accommodation, sleeping up to six people. If you ever leave the dream accommodation, you'll find great walking countryside nearby.

The Usk trail is just on your doorstep, while the heady heights of the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons are fairly close by car. You can also visit Wales' national coal mine museum (Big Pit), as well as Tintern Abbey.

10. Take on a Bear Grylls family survival course

Man tying sticks

Don't expect a cosy camping weekend cooking 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?

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