When it comes to quirky self-catering accommodation, it’s hard to trump The Landmark Trust. The charity, founded just over 50 years ago, offers stays in dozens of historic buildings in Britain and beyond, all of which will leave your friends and family seriously impressed.
It has 198 properties in all, ranging from a house in Scotland shaped like a pineapple to John Betjeman’s London home in Smithfield.
Perhaps the most spectacular of all, however, and a contender for the most in-demand holiday home in the country, is Clavell Tower.
Bagging a long weekend at this 19th-century folly, which overlooks the sea at Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset, will require some intense planning – it is completely booked up until July 2019. That’s a 19-month waiting list.
So set a reminder for March 3, which is when stays for the second half of 2019 go on sale, and The Landmark Trust expects them to be snapped up in no time. Because who wouldn’t want to stay in a four-storey tower just a stone’s throw from the same beautiful coastline that captivated Hardy and PD James?
At a glance | What is The Landmark Trust?
There’s also an uplifting backstory. Around a decade ago, Clavell Tower was in a sorry state – and in serious danger of being washed into the sea. That’s when The Landmark Trust stepped in and spent almost £1million having it refurbished and moved 82 feet inland to escape the impending threat of coastal erosion.
“Clavell Tower was built between 1830 and 1831 by the Reverend John Richards (who took the name Clavell when he inherited the estate),” explains Sophie Campbell, Telegraph Travel’s UK expert and a Blue Badge guide. “It was erected, possibly, to celebrate his 70th birthday, but also as a folly for the use of house guests and a useful landmark. Later it was a coastguard lookout and, it’s thought, an observatory, but the archives of nearby Smedmore House contain all sorts of jolly watercolours and illustrated verses that show it was much used by the family for picnics and pleasure.
“Thomas Hardy was introduced to south Dorset when he fell in love with the coastguard’s daughter, Eliza Bright Nicholls, and courted her on walks along the cliff (he later dumped her for her sister). PD James set The Black Tower, one of her crime novels, here.”
Despite the high demand, stays at Clavell Tower, which sleeps two, are relatively affordable, with a four-night break costing from £480.
It isn’t The Landmark Trust’s only oversubscribed property. Astley Castle near Nuneaton, the restoration of which won the 2013 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize, has just one free weekend (June 7-10 2019) available.
Belmont, a pink, Grade II-listed Georgian summer retreat, also in Dorset, is completely full until the second half of next year. Visit its website on March 3 if you fancy bedding down in either of these (and don’t mind waiting a year-and-a-half).
But there is availability for 2018 at a number of other gems. You could spend a few days this summer at The Birdhouse in Shropshire, one of the most romantic and isolated retreats on the charity’s books.
There are plenty of free weekends too for Martello Tower in Suffolk, the largest of a chain of fortifications built to counter the threat of Napoleon.
For more options, see The Landmark Trust’s website, or check out our gallery of its most remarkable properties for inspiration.
16 incredible Landmark Trust properties