If you didn’t know that the “Great” in Great Britain was strictly a geographical term (it refers to the largest island – containing England, Scotland and Wales – of the British Isles), you’d be tempted to give Britain the accolade anyway. From dynamic London to misty Scottish mountains, there’s enough to see and do here to swallow up months of travel.
There’s just as much choice when it comes to choosing a place to stay, from chic boutique hotels to crumbling castles and converted mansions. And whatever takes your fancy, our indefatigable authors are always on the lookout for the best. From the new Rough Guide to Great Britain, here are 20 of their favourites.
On a farm in a secluded wood, three miles south of East Cowes, you’ll find a lovely, luxury treehouse (sleeps 4) and shepherds’ huts (sleep 6) to rent . Both are beautifully finished and eco-friendly complete with wood-burning stoves, en-suite showers, and even wi-fi. The location is peaceful, with chickens and geese, rope swings to play on and woods to run around in – the perfect combination of nature and home comforts.
This glamorous warehouse conversion has a laidback edge, with gorgeous, colourful rooms with lots of eco touches; the on-site Bruno Loubet brasserie is a popular spot. The Georgian Townhouse, across the square, is more whimsical, with thirteen boudoirish rooms and a cosy cocktail bar.
3. Rough Luxe, London
This funky six-room guesthouse offers comfort and shabby chic style. Each room is different, with the aesthetic varying from peeling plaster to original artworks.
“England’s most rock’n’roll hotel” is a real one-off, featuring extravagantly themed rooms inspired by pop culture and pin-ups. There’s a fifties-style boudoir, a pop art “modrophenia” room featuring bedside tables made from scooters, and even a twin room styled as Lord Vader’s Quarters, complete with light sabre, Darth Vader costume and Star wars DVDs.
Staying in this fabulous lighthouse, perched high up on the dramatic cliffs just west of Beachy Head, is unforgettable. The cosy rooms boast stupendous views, there’s a snug residents’ lounge and – best of all – there’s unrestricted access to the lamproom at the top of the lighthouse, where you can sit and watch the sun go down.
These thirteen two-storey weatherboard cockle-farmers’ huts (sleeping two to six) offer cute, characterful accommodation near the harbour in Whitstable. Most have sea views, and some have basic self-catering facilities.
For a real splurge, indulge in an overnight stay at this 600-year-old castle. It comes complete with portcullis, 60ft curtain walls, gardens, lakes, croquet lawn and nineteen luxurious bedrooms, many with four-poster beds.
This classy designer hotel is set in what was a Victorian prison, part of the Oxford Castle complex. Rooms – which take up three cells, knocked through – are nothing short of glamorous, featuring contemporary bathrooms and hi-tech gadgets. Head through to C wing for bigger mezzanine suites.
Cornwall doesn’t get much ritzier than this, a slice of Mediterranean-style luxury with bright, sunny colours and a yacht and speedboat available to guests in summer. There’s even a fabulous restaurant, too.
10. Staying Cool, Birmingham
The top three floors of the rotunda, right at the heart of Birmingham, have been converted into fully furnished, serviced apartments. All are modern and spotless, and those on the top floor – floor 20 – come with a balcony from where there are panoramic views over the city. The apartments can even be rented for one night – no problem.
11. Cley Mill B&B, Norfolk
This outstanding B&B occupies a converted windmill that offers wonderful views over the surrounding marshes. The guest rooms, both in the windmill and the adjoining outhouses, are decorated in attractive period style and the best have splendid beamed ceilings; self-catering arrangements are possible as well.
12. Hassop Hall, Peak District
Hidden away in the heart of the peaks three miles north of Bakewell, the rugged, solitary hamlet of Hassop is home to the wonderful Hassop Hall, a handsome stone manor house. The interior has kept faith with the Georgian architecture – modernization has been kept to a subtle minimum – and the views out over the surrounding parkland are delightful.
The Lakes’ most famous inn is decidedly old-school – with its cosy rooms, stone-flagged floors, floral decor, vintage furniture and open fires – but walkers can’t resist its unrivalled location. It has England’s most famous mountains on the doorstep. All the action is in the stone-flagged Hikers’ Bar, which has real ales and hearty meals.
14. Low Wray Campsite, Cumbria
This beautiful National Trust site on the shore of a lake is a glampers’ haven. As well as tent pitches (prices vary according to location – some sites are bang on the water’s edge), there are wooden camping pods for couples and families, tipis and bell tents. Bike and kayak hire make it great for families too.
15. Carraw B&B, Northumberland
It’s not often you can say “I’ve slept on Hadrian’s Wall”, but here you can – this beautiful B&B, run by a friendly couple, is built right next to Hadrian’s masterpiece and boasts stunning views. Lovely homely touches, like home-made shortbread and cake on arrival, hot-water bottles and luxurious toiletries make this place really special. Also try the delicious breakfasts – the nutty granola is a winner.
16. Gwydir Castle, Snowdonia
A rare opportunity to stay in an authentic Tudor manor that still maintains the air of a family home. Two splendid bedrooms here have been fitted out in baronial style with four-poster beds, deep baths and eclectic decor.
The spirit of Clough Williams-Ellis, the eccentric architect behind this bizarre village, remains here in styling that’s equal parts grand and eccentric. Though lacking public areas, rooms are excellent and all different, many with beautiful views. Former guests include H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and Noël Coward.
Nine riotously indulgent suites grouped around the famously spooky restaurant just downhill from the castle; expect antique furniture, big leather armchairs, tapestry-draped beds, oak panelling and huge roll-top baths, as well as ultramodern sound systems and complimentary champagne.
Marooned three miles beyond Big Sand at Rubha Reidh (pronounced “roo-a-ray”), this working lighthouse has mesmerising sea views, plus recently refreshed doubles and family rooms.
Stay at this frankly bonkers Edwardian pile on Rùm in the Inner Hebrides to discover the decadence of the landed gentry of the day. A squat, red-sandstone edifice, fronted by colonnades and topped by crenellations and turrets, it’s packed with Edwardian knick-knacks and technical gizmos – from tiger rugs and stags’ heads to giant Japanese incense-burners – and now boasts dorms in the old servants’ quarters.