The Most Unusual Hotels to Book in the UK

Originally built to defend against a French attack in the Solent, No Mans Fort is now a hotel
Originally built to defend against a French attack in the Solent, No Man's Fort is now a hotel | Courtesy of No Man's Fort / Expedia
Callum Davies

Sometimes a hotel is just a place to sleep, but sometimes it’s an experience unto itself. With such rich, interesting history, the UK presents opportunities for hoteliers to create experiences that feel immersive, abstract or just plain silly. If you want a no-frills overnight stay, this probably isn’t for you, but if you want to inject a bit of weirdness and wonder into things, here are our favourite unusual hotels in the UK.

1. Treehouse Hotel London, for skyline living

Boutique Hotel

Reception area at Treehouse London, Marylebone featuring a large wooden desk and red patterned rug
Courtesy of Treehouse London / Expedia

Yes, it’s a treehouse but not as you know it. A distinct upgrade from your childhood clubhouse, this stunning themed hotel in England is perched high in the London skyline with rooms overlooking some of the city’s most iconic landmarks including the London Eye, The Shard, Canary Wharf and Regent’s Park. The hotel’s Madera restaurant sticks with the treehouse theme with tables located under ceiling plants next to huge windows so you can take in striking vistas.

2. Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa, for a royal stay in Perthshire

Spa Hotel, Hotel

Exterior of imposing castle-like Fonab Castle Hotel, surrounded by grass with Bentley in front
Courtesy of Fonab Castle Hotel / Expedia

Located in a woodland overlooking Loch Faskally in the heart of Highland Perthshire in Scotland, the lovingly restored Fonab Castle Hotel & Spa seamlessly blends historic charm with contemporary luxury. Whether you choose the Loch View Lodge, Woodland Lodge or Castle Room – with its furnishings inspired by the colours and calm of the Perthshire Highlands – expect an experience fit for a monarch.

3. The Bell in Ticehurst, for quirky-cool in East Sussex

Boutique Hotel, Budget Hotel, Independent Hotel, Hotel

The Bell - Ticehurst, East Sussex bedroom interior featuring a double bed, a window seat, green walls, a velvet sofa and a chandelier
Courtesy of the Bell in Ticehurst / Expedia

From the moment you step into the Bell, things get more and more intriguing. For starters, the seven suites over the Bell pub in Ticehurst, East Sussex, have their own silver birch tree right in the room to go with quirky lodging names like Stranger Than Truth, The Moon Wild and, aptly, the Hush of Trees. Need even more character? Sink into a copper bath, take a spin in an old dentist chair or take a photo of the yellow vintage phone for your Instagram account.

4. Stock Exchange Hotel Manchester, for rich character

Boutique Hotel

Dining area with couches in an s formation and ornate walls at the Stock Exchange Hotel
Courtesy of Stock Exchange Hotel / Expedia

As the name suggests, this hotel is in the old Manchester Stock Exchange building, and rather than shedding its financial roots, the owners decided to revel in them. Guests are greeted by a huge entryway with marble pillars and a mirrored reception desk evoking a scene from a film noir. Old photographs of parties and items from the building’s former life dot the walls, and the former trading floor has found new life as a restaurant. Things are a bit less heavily themed in the rooms, but the marble counters and Mad Men-esque furniture will take you back in time.

5. Malmaison Oxford, for a stay in a former prison

Boutique Hotel

Tall, light-filled corridor at Malmaison Oxford with a skylight and a white staircase between levels
Courtesy of Malmaison Oxford / Expedia

If you’re staying in Oxford, you might opt for a place that evokes the academic history of the city. Few people’s first thought would be “I want to stay in an old prison” unless they’d heard of the Malmaison. The company has hotels all over the UK, but the Oxford location is extra special. The walkways, cell doors and many other features have been retained, with all of the usual hotel comforts being built around, between and on top of them. The former exercise yard is now a garden with deck chairs, and the larger suites occupy the old debtor’s tower and governor’s house. There’s also a restaurant in the basement, so if you’ve ever wanted to live out your own prison drama, this is about as close as you can get out of handcuffs.

6. Burgh Island Hotel Devon, for a private island getaway

Independent Hotel, Hotel

Private deck with two chairs right on the water in between two stone cliffs at Burgh Island Hotel
Courtesy of Burgh Island Hotel / Expedia

A hotel on its own island sounds like the set-up to a spy film, but arriving on Burgh Island feels more like being invited to an oligarch’s private home for a soirée. Burgh is only an island during high tide, during which time the only way to reach this lesser-known gem on the Devon coast is via their sea tractor, which resembles an open train carriage with about 4.5m (15ft) between the seats and the wheels. The hotel itself is a gorgeous array of domed ceilings and 1930s-style trappings evoking an Agatha Christie novel, which is fitting given she herself wrote two books while staying here. Activities include ballroom dancing lessons, tennis courts and swimming in a natural seawater mermaid pool separated from the sea by a WWI sluice gate. The rooms have balconies overlooking the Atlantic and come with complimentary gin and tonic.

7. Fingal Hotel Edinburgh, for a stay on a ship

Independent Hotel, Hotel

Outside view of Fingal, a hotel on a boat floating on the water, lit up at night
Courtesy of Fingal – A Luxury Floating Hotel / Expedia

The HMS Fingal used to run supplies to lighthouses along the Scottish coastline. It changed hands many times over the years before finding itself in Edinburgh harbour in the care of the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust. It took three years to convert it to a hotel before it opened in 2019, and it now shines with all the opulence of the Titanic but with none of the peril. The rooms are awash with nautical quirks including cabin trunks and porthole windows, and the beds have custom throws handmade by a local weaver. The best views can be found exploring the upper deck or in the Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar, where you can dine in the company of relaxing jazz music and sip on a cocktail.

8. Hard Day’s Night Hotel Liverpool, for Beatlemania


Modern bedroom with king size bed, yellow pillows, a painting of John Lennon and Yoko Ono and a yellow armchair at Hard Days Night Hotel
Courtesy of Hard Day's Night Hotel / Expedia
It’s really easy to test the appeal of this establishment to newcomers – if you don’t like The Beatles, or are even just indifferent to them, avoid it at all costs. As the name suggests, this loving tribute to Liverpool’s most famous export is absolutely steeped in Beatlemania, with bright, Yellow Submarine-style colours, photographs of the four of them in every direction and their tracks playing in all the common areas. Happily, it’s done lightly enough not to be too obtrusive – the rooms have the odd painting but you won’t find any busts of John Lennon peering over you in the bathrooms. The beds have big comfortable mattresses, and there’s an unpretentious pub-style menu in the restaurant.

9. Titanic Hotel Liverpool, for a stay in a former shipbuilding warehouse

Spa Hotel, Hotel

Underground pool and arched brick columns at Titanic Hotel Liverpool
Courtesy of Titantic Hotel Liverpool / Expedia
While the ill-fated Titanic famously set off from Southampton, it was registered in Liverpool and would have certainly visited had it survived its maiden voyage. The Titanic Hotel honours this history in an old shipbuilding warehouse on the Stanley Dock. The building has been restored to show off its grand features, with big metal pillars supporting the high ceilings and maritime quirks such as cog patterning on the hallway carpets. The spa and pool area is especially impressive – picture a red-brick cellar straight out of a gothic novel. Even the smallest rooms feel first-class at 56sqm (603sqft), and all are outfitted with enormous bathrooms to mill around in a fluffy robe.

10. Hotel Pelirocco Brighton, for punky cool


Bohemian-themed bedroom at Pelirocco featuring a canopy bed, a sofa, a hammock and a wall-mounted sound system.
© Pelirocco / Expedia
Sitting in the shadow of the BA i360 tower, moments away from the beach, the Hotel Pelirocco is packed to the gills with quirks – it’s certainly one of the most unique hotels in the country. The rooms are themed after Darth Vader, Dolly Parton and Betty Page among other icons and countries, with all the fixtures and fittings matching the style in question (Lord Vader’s suite has lightsabers; the Dollywood one has Stetsons). Downstairs, there’s a wackily-decorated cocktail bar which stays open until 3am at weekends, as well as a lounge with a karaoke bar. Adventurous couples might be interested to know that ‘toys’ can be ordered to the rooms, and those who make full use of the bar and dance floor will be glad of the hangover kits available at the front desk.

11. The Rookery London, for sheer decadence

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

Elegant, royal-looking bedroom with four poster bed and red velvet details at Rookery Hotel
Courtesy of the Rookery Hotel / Expedia
On almost the complete opposite end of the London hotel spectrum is the Rookery, which draws on the crime-ridden past of its home – Smithfield – as inspiration for its look. Smithfield meat market used to host the Bartholomew Fair until it was shut down by police in 1855 for being a “school of vice”. The hotel evokes this history with dark colour schemes, carved wood everywhere, red silk and gold leaf. There’s an honesty bar in the relaxed Conservatory bar, or you can sit and read in the well-stocked library. There’s no restaurant but you can order baguettes, crab tortellini and other dishes from the room service menu.

12. Good Hotel London, for mid-century modernism

Boutique Hotel, Hotel

Simple ground floor sitting area with two grey couches, two grey chairs, large potted plants and standing lamps at Good Hotel London
Courtesy of Good Hotel London / Expedia

You can’t fault the Good Hotel for directness in the naming department, and it lives up to its name. Located in Royal Victoria Dock, a bastion of East London urban restoration, this post-modern haunt was shipped over from Amsterdam and secured to the dockside, bringing Dutch hipster sensibilities with it. The wood and industrial lighting have the feel of a flexible office space, but the building was originally a detention centre, and some elements from its past have been retained for the rooms, with lots of handy space-saving solutions such as charging ports concealed under the beds. All the rooms look out onto the Thames and there’s a bar on the roof that has the best views in the house. There’s also a restaurant with a tantalisingly creative menu, which combines high-end dining with street food standards (and pricing).

Heading northwards? Discover our guide to the best hotels or luxurious places to stay in Manchester, and book now on Culture Trip. Or for an affordable stay in gorgeous Oxford, check out our pick of the best budget-friendly hotels in Oxford, bookable on Culture Trip.

Pierre de Villiers contributed additional reporting to this article.

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