By Zoe West
From grand estates to clifftop bothies, so far, 500 historic buildings have been carefully restored for holiday rental, providing something for every budget and taste. And the best thing of all? Every single penny of the profits goes towards supporting National Trust conservation projects across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Here’s just a taste of some very special holidays.
A Grade I listed manor house
Why stay in a standard hotel when you could stay in a manor house built from the remains of a Norman hall? Dating back to 1185, Horton Court in Gloucestershire has just undergone a £2 million restoration. Its full-length windows overlook the gardens, which are surrounded by mature woodland and rolling countryside, plus there’s a lake.
The Cotswold Way is on your doorstep, and you can visit nearby Woodchester Park in spring to see gawky heron chicks perched in the Scots pines high above the lake, a haven for these protected birds. Chipping Sodbury, a medieval market town, is down the road, and the bustling city of Bath is just 15 miles away.
✣ Three nights from £1,138, sleeps 10
A lighthouse keeper’s cottage
If you’re looking for a room with a sea view, you can’t get much better than a cottage next to a lighthouse. These two cosy whitewashed Victorian lighthouse keepers’ cottages sit proudly on the cliffs overlooking Whitburn Steel and the North Sea, offering an idyllic spot to soak up the fantastic scenery and wildlife.
Saunter north from Souter Lighthouse to explore The Leas, a two-and-a-half-mile expanse of limestone cliffs, wave-cut foreshores and coastal grassland, home to thousands of nesting and wading seabirds.
The National Trust runs events including seashore safaris, beach cleans and runs. Newcastle’s galleries and restaurants are a 15-minute drive away.
✣ Three nights from £300 for either cottage, each cottage sleeps four.
An island retreat
If you’re after an Enid Blyton-style adventure, this could be the spot for you. Sitting on the water’s edge on this nature reserve, Agent’s House in Poole, Dorset, looks out over the sea and backs onto a shimmering lagoon, a sanctuary to swathes of seabirds. Along with neighbouring Custom House (which sleeps four), it’s one of just two holiday cottages on the 560-acre island, accessible only by boat.
Wander through woodland in search of red squirrels, sika deer, rabbits and more, or take a lazy stroll along the beach. During spring, the dawn chorus on Brownsea is renowned – with no natural predators, it’s a haven for woodland birds such as blackbirds, robins, chiffchaffs and wrens.
✣ Three nights from £451, sleeps 6
An arched gateway
Part of the entrance to the magnificent Berrington Hall in Herefordshire, has been transformed into a quirky holiday home complete with a wood-burning stove and private garden, with sweeping views across the estate’s immaculate Capability Brown gardens.
Venture down to the lake with its reed beds and lily pads, and glimpse spring wild flowers, herons and otters.
As a guest at Berrington Hall you can enjoy free access to the estate with its treasures and works of art whenever you please Or venture further afield to follow the winding River Wye past pretty villages, ancient ruins, market towns and swathes of forest.
✣ Three nights from £358, sleeps 5
A MINI rotunda
Straight out of a children’s storybook, The Round House, nestled in a woodland glade close to Fairy lake certainly has out-of-the-ordinary appeal.
Formerly a gamekeeper’s cottage, this is a miniature version of the ornate Italianate Palace in the same grounds. Walk through sweeping gardens to see splendid displays of spring tulips and daffodils.
Numerous walking trails wrap themselves around the estate in Suffolk, allowing glimpses of bluebells through the trees.
✣ Three nights from £442, sleeps 6
A water tower
Live like Rapunzel in this former reservoir – a unique retreat with a circular room on each floor, linked by a spiral staircase. This topsy-turvy tower has a kitchen at the top, a sitting room below, and a double bedroom on the first floor.
Set on the banks of the River Fal in Trelissick, Cornwall, you can laze on the small sandy beach if it’s warm enough. Take a springtime amble through the woodland to see celandines and primroses, while water tower swallows swoop their way around the landscape, and Trelissick’s orchards brim with pink and white apple blossom.
Jump aboard the King Harry Ferry to St Mawes or the Roseland Peninsula, or wander along Roundwood Quay to watch waders on the tidal mudflats and passing boats on the river.
✣ Two nights from £296, sleeps 2
An ancient tower
Stay in your own 18th-century tower, a former race stand for the Earl of Buckinghamshire, now a luxury holiday pad oozing charm and character.
Original features at this Norfolk abode include a large arched window and a roof terrace with views stretching across Blickling’s rolling fields and woodlands towards the coast. Follow the winding paths through the great wood to see English bluebells in spring, or explore the magnificent Jacobean Hall before stopping for a pint at the estate’s own country pub, the Buckinghamshire Arms.
Beyond the grounds of The Tower, the sandy beaches and cliffs of the Norfolk coast beckon – in spring, you’ll be treated to aerial displays of lapwings over coastal marshes. Blakeney National Nature Reserve is 20 miles away, and it’s a 30-minute stroll to the Georgian market town of Aylsham.
✣ Three nights from £543, sleeps 4
A 19th-century observatory
Hidden among the trees in the Dolmelynllyn Estate of Snowdonia sits Nant Las, a former 19th-century observatory, now a bijou romantic retreat. You can still gaze upon the stars from its veranda as night falls and, when the sun rises, spectacular views across the valley unfold.
The timber cottage offers a cosy little nook with a warming log burner and sloping ceilings. There are miles of walking trails in Snowdonia National Park to explore, and nearby, there’s a footpath to Rhaiadr Du, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in Wales.
The ruined Cistercian Abbey, founded in 1198, is just four miles away from the cottage, or take a short trip to the seaside town of Barmouth, with its estuary and Grade II listed wooden viaduct.
✣ Three nights from £246, sleeps 2
It’s safe to say, woman&home’s Books Editor, Zoe West has read a LOT of books.
As an avid young bookworm obsessed with the adventures of The Magic Faraway Tree and the misadventures of red-haired orphan, Anne Shirley, Zoe never lost her love of reading - and the fact she now gets to do it as her job is a constant source of wonderment for her.
When Zoe hasn’t got her head stuck in a book she is interviewing authors, hosting live events where she gets all the gossip, and seeking out exciting new writers she can’t wait to tell her readers about. You’ll often find her on twitter @zoeannewest looking for ideas and shouting to anyone who will listen about the books she loves.
In a previous life Zoe planned advertising campaigns for major record companies but these days you’re more likely to see her out and about on a book brunch with a flat white and pile of exciting new reads.
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