Sign up to our email to receive our most splendid special offers each month!
More Info

We will never share your details with anyone else, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

This website uses cookies. Click here to read our Privacy Notice. If that's okay with you, just keep browsing. CLOSE
Email me my favourites!


by Adrian Mourby

Purpose-built hotels are a late nineteenth-century phenomenon. Before the word “hotel” became respectable in Britain we had public houses and coaching inns. In the twentieth century many of these were upgraded to become hotels. But many of our finest hotels today are conversions of stately homes and gentlemen’s town houses. It’s no exaggeration to say that the hotel, once a dubious place reserved for commercial travellers, saved many British country houses - and Georgian town houses - from dereliction and demolition. But many other kinds of buildings have been converted into hotels in this country. In my selection below you’ll find forts, castles and churches, a lunatic asylum, an orphanage and bawdy house. A good number of them are part of the Malmaison and Hotel du Vin chains. In fact an entire editor’s pick could be devoted to just Hotel du Vin and Malmaison, companies that specialise in converting unusual buildings to hotel use. This, then is a celebration of some of the best - and certainly some of the strangest - buildings ever converted to hotel use in Britain. But there are more out there; and as our appetite for staying in hotels grows, there are likely to be even more imaginative conversions coming up soon. The hotel is no longer a dubious place on the edges of society. It’s where grown-ups go to play.

Showing below are all 3 records in "THE TEN BEST HOTEL CONVERSIONS IN BRITAIN"

Tuddenham Mill

High Street, Tuddenham, Tuddenham

Tuddenham Mill, High Street, Tuddenham, Suffolk

Watermills became popular for conversion into houses in the early twentieth century because they usually had large rooms and a picturesque stream running nearby. A number of these conversions are now also hotels, most notably Tuddenham Mill, a seventeeth-century water mill on the Suffolk/Cambridge border. With its white clapboard upper storeys, overhanging winch housing and tall brick chimney this looks like a mill that Constable might have painted. Inside, the low wooden beams in the dining room testify to the mill’s authenticity and the original mill wheel, once used for milling flour, is a prominent feature of the bar. The rest of the hotel is modern, carved out of the existing structure to create spacious white rooms with high ceilings. For the full rural effect, book the Mill Room or Mill Room East where the bathtubs have views of the millpond through picture windows.

Solent Forts

Canal Side, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth

Solent Forts, Canal Side, Portsmouth, Hampshire

Without a doubt the most unusual hotel conversion in Britain is Spitbank Fort, built as part of the seventeenth-century sea defences for Portsmouth Harbour. Today it is a private circular island in the Solent. Work on the fort was ordered in 1861 by Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria’s first prime minister, but not completed until 1878 by which time Palmerston was dead and his fortresses had gained the epithet Palmerston’s Follies because no one could see the point of them. In 1898 the sea-battered fortress was given the function of defending Portsmouth harbour against light craft and fitted out with searchlights and two smaller guns, but it never saw action. In 1962 the Ministry of Defence declared it surplus to requirement and Spitbank was sold off, eventually becoming a hotel that can only be reached by boat and (indirectly) helicopter. Although much of the fort’s original circular layout has been retained, the interior contains such un-Victorian features as a sauna and games room, a rooftop hot pool and firepit and nine luxury bedroom suites.

The Wood Norton

Worcester Road, Evesham

The Wood Norton, Worcester Road, Evesham, Worcestershire

This Grade II listed Victorian country house was built for Prince Philippe d'Orléans, great-grandson Louis Philippe, the last King of the French who had abdicated in 1848. Prince Philippe died in 1926 as the last claimant to the French throne. Because it was hidden away within acres of remote woodland on a hill facing south towards the continent, the BBC bought Wood Norton in 1939 and used it as a monitoring station during World War II. Sadly they accidentally burned down much of the Prince’s original upper storey in the process. Later Wood Norton became an alternative broadcasting centre if London were to be destroyed first by V2 rockets and then by nuclear warfare. The BBC also used it as a training centre. When I received my BBC training in 1979 I was shown the bunker in the grounds where, in the event of nuclear armageddon a skeleton staff would play old episodes of The Archers for the benefit of those few survivors out there in post-holocaust Britain. After the BBC sold off Wood Norton in the 1990s it functioned as a hotel for a few years but a lot of renovation was needed. In 2012 it reopened restored to the kind of Orleanist splendour in which Prince Philippe would feel at home.

To view the icons please zoom in

See more great hotels....