William Gray is a travel writer and editor of 101familyholidays.co.uk
David Else is lead author of the new Lonely Planet guide to Great Britain, published 17 May.
Jim Manthorpe (jimmanthorpe.com) is the author of guidebook Scottish Highlands – The Hillwalking Guide.
Alastair Sawday is founder of Sawday’s, the guide to special places to stay, and recommends cottages for foodies (sawdays.co.uk)
Weekend group breaks:
The Olde Rectory, Worcestershire
For a house party Jane Austen-style you can’t go far wrong with the Olde Rectory. It’s very Pride and Prejudice with fireplaces and four-poster beds, a piano and chandeliers. The drawing room offers views over the gardens to a church.
Sleeps 14 (18 if you’re using sofa beds), £1,995 for four nights; olde-rectory.co.uk
Cliff Barns, Norfolk
Referencing Dallas and the wild west, this cowboy-kitsch three-barn conversion in Norfolk is a great choice for a weekend house party, with high wooden ceilings, slate floors covered in Aztec rugs, cowhide chairs, the odd straw Stetson and eight bedrooms. The barns surround a courtyard with ping pong table, hot tub and barbecue.
Sleeps 18-20, from £990 per night; i-escape.com
Orchard Barn, Herefordshire
Great for groups, Orchard Barn near Ross-on-Wye has sociable living spaces and en-suite accommodation for up to 14 people. “There’s a dining area that seats 16, several cosy and stylish living rooms and a private walled garden, with croquet and other outdoor games,” says David.
Sleeps 14, from £1,420 per week; orchardbarnholidays.co.uk
This sleek, decadent and flashy five-bedroom Cotswold mansion comes complete with a pool and sauna, cinema room, five acres of gardens and lashings of designer pieces: there’s even a Halle & Voigt baby grand piano. In other words, it has everything you need to join the nearby Chipping Norton set for a weekend of horse rides and other shenanigans.
Sleeps 10, from £885 per night; i-escape.co.uk
The Quarry, Devon
Stunning sea views, stylish interiors and access to the South West Coast Path makes the Quarry in Ilfracombe a great choice for a break that’s all about beaches. The house is cosy with a log fireplace in the lounge and a warming Aga in the bright kitchen, and outside there’s a large sun terrace.
Sleeps 13, from £1,300 for three nights; thebeautifulhousecompany.com
Littonfields Barn, Derbyshire
A skilfully converted barn on a working farm in the Peak District. “The bedrooms are on the ground floor, with a large kitchen and cosy sitting room upstairs under ancient gnarled beams. Great for families, a separate games barn has table football, a pool table, Wendy House and a selection of toys,” says David.
Sleeps 12, £1,175 for three nights; littonbarn.co.uk
“Not so much a cottage, more a grand Victorian house, with stained glass, bay windows and sea views,” says David. Perfect for a seaside break – explore the harbour, sail to Holy Isle, go beach combing or swimming if you’re hardy.
Sleeps 10, from £975 per week; cottages-and-castles.co.uk
With magical views down Langdale valley to Scafell Pike, the family-owned Thrang End is one of the Lake District’s best luxury cottages. With a boutique hotel style combined with a lived-in family feel, it has all you need to relax but is perfectly located to hit the Cumbrian Way. Price includes eight passes to Langdale Spa.
Sleeps eight, from £1,650 for seven nights; heartofthelakes.co.uk
Atlantic House, Cornwall
“This gorgeous, open-plan New England-style property near Sennen sleeps seven and has a crisp, fresh, uncluttered interior with views across the sea towards Cape Cornwall. Great for beach breaks – the path leading to surf-sensation Whitesand Bay is right outside the door,” says William.
Sleeps seven, from £579 for seven nights; classic.co.uk
Shingle House, Kent
Forget any preconceptions about coastal architecture, Shingle House at Dungeness is dark, dramatic and soulful. Designed by young Scottish firm NORD, the exterior is finished in tarred black shingle and inside it’s all concrete and timber. Dungeness has a mysterious beauty and this house is the perfect way to enjoy it.
Sleeps eight, from £700 for four nights; living-architecture.co.uk
Balancing Barn, Suffolk
Architecture can sometimes be a little po-faced, so it’s good to see an inspiring design that’s also fun in the Balancing Barn by Dutch practice MVRDV. Clad in silver tiles, it cantilevers dramatically off the edge of a hill. Situated in a nature reserve a few miles inland from Walberswick and Alderburgh, it has panoramic windows with views of woods, ponds and meadows.
Sleeps eight, from £810 for four nights; living-architecture.co.uk
The Lake District Love Shack, Cumbria
“This house is a magical, architect-designed woodland retreat close to the banks of Lake Windermere,” says Emma. A classic modernist design, the space is eco-friendly without sacrificing style, with a cosy interior clad in reclaimed timber and decorated with ethically sourced furnishings. Views over Windermere.
Sleeps two, from £400 for three nights; lakedistrictloveshack.com
Built by Peter Aldington, Anderton House is an exemplar of 1970s modernism. Wreathed in glass, it blurs boundaries between outside and in. Your eyes will be drawn to the changing light on the hills. It has three bedrooms, an open-plan kitchen, dining and sitting area on two levels.
Sleeps five, from £375 for four nights; landmarktrust.org.uk
Fox Hall, built in 1730, has an elegant Palladian style. Once a meeting place for the 18th century’s fashionable set, today it could be described as Britain’s premier bedsit: an exuberantly decorated sitting room comes complete with a bed in a gilded alcove. There’s also a plainer twin-bedroom.
Sleeps four, from £339 for four nights; landmarktrust.org.uk
Cottages for foodies:
Chaffeymoor Grange, Bourton, Gillingham, Dorset
“A brilliant place for house parties, Chaffeymoor Grange has big fireplaces, comfy sofas, terraced lawns and a personal chef,” says Alastair. “If you prefer to do it yourself there’s a fancy range cooker in the kitchen that should satisfy the most demanding chef.”
Sleeps 20, from £3,800 per week; sawdays.co.uk
The Piggery, Monmouthshire
“This lovely cottage is right in the middle of a working farm. Guests are welcome to muck in on the farm or learn how to keep chickens, run a small holding or make sausages on one of the farm’s rural skills courses,” says Alastair. If that all sounds like too much work, simply kick back in front of the wood burning stove instead.
Sleeps four, from £395 per week; sawdays.co.uk
Holling Grange Cottages, Herefordshire
These three beautifully crafted hideaways in what was a tithe barn are situated in the deep country of Herefordshire. “Run by a French chef and a florist, the onsite restaurant is a real treat. There’s a heated indoor pool and Hay-on-Wye is a short drive away,” says Alastair.
Sleeps two, from £500 per week; sawdays.co.uk
The Old Nail Shed, The Anvil Inn, Sawdon, Scarborough, North Yorks
It’s rare for us to fall for a tool shed, but this one has been stunningly revived: interiors are contemporary, stylish and come complete with a free standing bath that demands to be shared. “Once part of the Anvil Inn, opposite, you don’t have far to stagger back after a fabulous meal,” says Alastair.
Sleeps two, from £440 per week; sawdays.co.uk
The Manor House Stables, Martin, Lincoln, Lincolnshire
“Play Mary Berry in this eco-friendly hayloft: take part in a jam making or chocolate course, bake cakes on the little range and create a feast from the generous welcome trug, which spills over with jams, cheeses, chutneys, plum loaf, raspberry wine, vegetables and herbs,” says Alastair.
Sleeps four, from £525 per week; sawdays.co.uk
A picturesque thatched cottage on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds that dates back to between 1630 and 1750, Mill Hill is perfect for a peaceful country weekend. It has an open fire, low beamed ceilings, a pretty kitchen and super cute English rose bedroom. Beware the low, low ceilings.
Sleeps four, from £425 for two nights; vivat-trust.org
Ty Glas, Wales
A charming pale-blue period cottage surrounded by 40 acres of meadows and woods, close to beaches and with views of Carningli. Inside, wood floors, log fires and period details including spiral stairs, a roll top bath and a four-poster bed combine to create an idyllic hideaway.
Sleeps two, from £269 for three nights; underthethatch.co.uk
Dolly the Circus Wagon, near Llangrannog, Ceredigion coast, west Wales
Running away to join the circus might not be an option but a weekend retreat in Dolly gives all of the romance without the hassle of life-changing decisions. Originally built in 1946, it’s been home to acrobats and a clairvoyant and is cheerfully furnished, cosy and comfy. One downside: you need to step outside to visit the purpose-built bathroom.
Sleeps two, from £157 for two nights; underthethatch.co.uk
The Cottage, Charlestown, Cornwall
Take a seaside escape for two in this tiny Cornwall port with a World Heritage listed historic harbour. The Cottage is small but perfectly formed with lots of lovely designer touches. Underfloor heating and top spec gadgets add 21st century comforts but an olde worlde atmosphere is retained with antiques and quirky objects.
Sleeps four, from £114 per night (minimum seven nights during high season); i-escape.com
The Boathouse, Knotts End, Lake District
Tucked away on the shores of Ullswater, this 19th century stone boathouse is a true hideaway with no neighbours, a private stretch of waterfront and waterside views to the fells. The bedroom’s French windows open to a balcony and stunning views, breakfast looking over the water, or eat à deux under the stars.
Sleeps two, from £225 per night, (min two nights); i-escape.com
The Hayloft, Cornwall
With river views from every turn, you can virtually kayak from the door. After a day on the water or by the sea in nearby Fowey, come home to soothing, restful luxury with goose feather duvets, linen sofas and a superb kitchen.
Sleeps two, from £385/week; sawdays.co.uk
The Bothy, Launceston Farm, Dorset
In the former grooms’ quarters of this Dorset farm, this hidden gem is perfect for couples. The cottage is small but has all mod cons, including a woodburning stove and king-size bed with views over the garden and outdoor pool. Best of all is the private courtyard complete with outdoor copper bath: fill it with steaming water and bathe under the stars.
Sleeps two, from £560/week; sawdays.co.uk
An elegant, whimsical and romantic 18th century folly set among the trees and cascading pools of Badger Dingle, The Temple is a neo-classical palace for two.
Sleeps two, from £562 for four nights; vivat-trust.org
This fishing cottage in the picturesque harbour village of Staithes is a great spot from which to explore North Yorkshire’s Jurassic Coast. Choose from endless sandy beaches or the North York Moors national park or find your favourite of the many welcoming pubs.
Sleeps two, from £245 for three nights; dunsleyinstaithes.co.uk
Foxton Locks Lodges, Leicestershire
A log-cabin for two, with hot tub, reindeer skin and faux-fur throws, this is an idyllic rural retreat. Relax in your own private hot tub and watch the sun go down then retreat indoors to the flat screen TV, iPod docking station, stand-alone bath and power shower.
Sleeps two, from £355 for three nights; foxtonlockslodges.com
Gurnard Cottage, Isle of Wight
“This former lighthouse keeper’s cottage sits on the southern most tip of the Isle of Wight and, naturally, boasts stunning sea views,” says William. Take a tour of the lighthouse or stroll up the hill to the pub. It’s dog-friendly too.
Sleeps five, from £809 for five nights, ruralretreats.co.uk
The Red Barn, Lydford, Devon
“Tucked into a valley on the west side of Dartmoor, this six-bed property is a gem for families with its outdoor heated swimming pool, tennis court, and activities such as archery and mountain biking,” says William.
Sleeps 11, from £837 for seven nights; helpfulholidays.com
Greenwood Grange, Dorset
This family friendly group of holiday cottages is only five minutes from Thomas Hardy’s childhood home near Dorcester. So there’s that to keep the adults busy while the children enjoy the pool, games room and tennis courts.
Sleeps two to 12, from £332 to £3,355 for seven nights; greenwoodgrange.co.uk
Tower of Halbar, Braidwood, Scotland
Make a castle your home with a stay at the Tower of Halbar. The 16th-century four-storey defensive tower is filled with original features including twisting stone staircases, a dovecote, gargoyles and stone vault and is set in five acres of native woodland, young orchards and meadow. Great for families but not the elderly.
Sleeps seven, from £1,009 for seven nights; vivat-trust.org
Beech Farm Cottages, Pickering, North Yorkshire
“Located on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, this idyllic farm stay has a choice of eight cosy stone cottages (each sleeping two to 10) a heated indoor pool, children’s playground, walled garden with barbecue area and a paddock with horses, ponies and llamas,” says William.
Sleeps two to 10, from £435 a week; beechfarm.com
For history buffs:
This medieval timber-framed house has beautiful decorative plasterwork on its exterior and an interior that will soothe the most ardent medievalist. Carved beams, steep stairs and sloping floors speak of its 14th century origins and an open fire and cosy furnishings make for a warm and welcoming stay in a pretty and unspoilt Suffolk market town.
Sleeps two, four nights from £314; landmarktrust.org.uk
Channel a Ken Follett vibe when you visit Warden Abbey, which is all that remains of a once great Cistercian Abbey founded in 1135. Sitting in quiet fields that are also an important archaeological site, the entire first floor is taken up by a bedroom with a Tudor fireplace befitting an abbot.
Sleeps five, from £321 for four nights; landmarktrust.org.uk
This former school in the grounds of Fountains Abbey is now a quirky place to stay. “It’s an Arts and Crafts fantasy with turrets, beams, leaded windows and pointy-roofed turrets with deer strolling past outside,” says David.
Sleeps 10, from £675 for three nights, nationaltrustcottages.co.uk
Hardcragg Hall, Grangeover-Sands, Cumbria
With former visitors including Beatrix Potter and Oliver Cromwell, there’s something for every history buff here. Dating back to 1563, this Grade II-listed manor house has seven bedrooms, many with four-poster beds, fireplaces at every turn and a great location.
Sleeps 14, from £1,340 for four nights, lakedistrictselfcatering.co.uk
Hadlow Tower, Hadlow Kent
Opening this month, this Grade I listed Gothic Revival folly is a towering choice for a stay. Accommodation on five levels includes a kitchen with stained glass windows, octagonal dining room with full-length windows on three sides and a sitting room with a wood burning stove. The main bedroom has a double height ceiling, mezzanine bathroom and an eyrie for great views.
Sleeps six, from £956 for four nights; vivat-trust.org
Ty Twt, West Wales coast
Ty Twt has a carefully crafted timber interior that is comfortable and imaginatively designed. Local natural materials – stone, oak, ash, douglas fir and lime – are dominant and the A-frame roof beams are exposed. The house is eco-friendly, comfortable and there’s a wood-burner too.
Sleeps four, from £217 for two nights; wildernest.co.uk
Dyfi Valley Eco-Barn, near Machynlleth, Powys
“Fabulous zero-carbon barn conversion with solar power, a wood burning stove and a cool, modern-rustic interior,” says Emma. It’s located on an organic farm and sits in splendid isolation, with vast ranging views from mountains to sea.
Sleeps eight, from £192 for two nights, underthethatch.co.uk
Home Farm, Cramner, Norfolk
“Cool, contemporary, carbon-neutral development has transformed farm buildings into eight family-friendly cottages without losing luxurious touches such as the shared, heated indoor pool,” says Emma. It garners eco points for geothermal heating, solar power and wind turbine.
Sleeps two to six, from £600 for seven nights; norfolk-luxury-cottages.co.uk
Hidden Glen Holiday Lodges, Laikenbuie, Nairn
“Set within the grounds of a working organic croft full of wildlife, there are red squirrels on the balconies and wildcats in the woods,” says Jim. It’s in a great location too, not far from Inverness and a short drive from the Cairngorms and the sandy beaches around Findhorn.
Sleeps six, from £388 per week; hiddenglen.co.uk
Red Kite Tree Tent, near Builth Wells, Powys
“One of the most innovative low-impact accommodation ideas around, this tree tent is a pod that hangs in a conifer forest like a giant chrysalis, with room inside for a sofa bed and a wood burning stove. The thick wool felt, thermal liners allow for year-round glamping, particularly when you have the fire going,” says Emma.
Sleeps two, from £299 for three nights, sheepskinlife.com
Withyfield Cottage, Bines Green, West Sussex
Made by local craftsmen using locally grown oak, cedar and Douglas pine, the cottage is sealed with clay and insulated with straw. “It’s the ultimate timber chalet and the airy interior is always filled with the scent of seasoned wood,” says Emma. Dogs welcome.
Sleeps two to six, from £640 a week; our-land.co.uk
Wilderness and walking:
Cwrt Y Cwm, Trefin, Pembrokeshire
“Tidy and compact cottage tucked away in quiet village just a short walk from the coast, with stable doors opening out onto a private garden and patio – perfect when the sun shines,” says David. Walkers will enjoy easy access to the coastal path.
Sleeps four, from £425 a week; coastalcottages.co.uk
The two cottages that make up North Farm are available on their own or as a pair as the perfect base to explore the Brecks or head north to the coast. Owner Felicity Hindley will welcome you with local beers, fresh eggs and, if you’re lucky, a slice of cake. Make sure to keep an eye out for the barn owls that are often spotted in the area.
Sleeps four, from £325 a week; northfarm.info
Lochside, Knoydart Peninsula, Scotland
This chocolate-box cottage is a long way from the usual tourist trail. Knoydart peninsular is among the most remote places in Britain and this cottage has a wonderful views of the beach and Loch Nevis. A major attraction is that it is only 15 minutes’ walk from the Old Forge, the most remote pub in mainland Britain.
Sleeps 6, from £550 per week; lochsideknoydart.co.uk
Pentop Cottage, Snowdownia National Park
Situated in a clearing in Gwydir Forest, high in the national park, this cottage is the perfect getaway for active couples, with walking and mountain biking trails at the front door. Interiors are simple but comfortable and at night the stars shine clearly in the forest-dark skies.
Sleeps four, from £214 for two nights; underthethatch.co.uk
Callakille; Strathcarron, West Coast of Scotland
Owned by craft and design company Papa Stour, interiors at this little cottage are uber tasteful: think Farrow & Ball paints, reindeer rugs and open fires. It’s remote – a breathtaking three-hour drive from Inverness through the Highlands – but just 50 yards from a beach with views to the Isle of Skye.
Sleeps four, from £465 a week; wildernesscottages.co.uk
Best for... Romance
Mill Hill Cottage - This stunning thatched cottage on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds is perfect for a peaceful weekend.
Best for... History
Choristers House - This former school in North Yorkshire features turrets, beams and leaded windows. Manna for fans of the Arts and Crafts movement.