Introducing some of our favourite self-catering ‘cottages’ – including shepherds huts in deepest Devon, vintage railway carriages in Cornwall (a station staycation), a Scottish island Eyrie, a dinky cottage overlooking Polperro’s fishing harbour and a time-warped tin hut in rural Somerset. They are booking up fast for 2022, but there’s always next year…
Railholiday, St Germans, Cornwall
Within spitting distance of the mainline from Paddington to Penzance this is rail-buff heaven, but you don’t have to be a train-spotter to enjoy a break in one of Dave and Lizzy Stroud’s award-winning steam-age railway carriages. In the grounds of St Germans’ station (the owners live in the former ticket office and waiting room), they offer four unique self-catering ‘cottages’. We’ve stayed in them all, and though it’s hard to pick a favourite, Mevy is the glamour puss (a restored GWR slip coach, it’s all gilded mahogany panelling, red velvet upholstery and a roll-top tub) and spacious Millpool (a ‘Brake Third’ carriage dated 1897) is designed to accommodate those with mobility issues. Go for the vintage Travelling Post Office if you want to wave at passing trains; the oldest, the Old Luggage Van is ideal for cosy twosomes. The place is also a model of green tourism (a biomass boiler, for example, supplies the hot water). And no need to take a car: from St Germans, just hop on a train to, say, Plymouth or any station on the Cornish network. Short breaks from £255. www.railholiday.co.uk).
Halzephron House, The Lizard, Cornwall
Looking out over Gunwalloe’s fishing cove, towards Loe Pool and Porthleven, this cliff-top retreat offers three self-contained spaces for rent: a two-bedroom cottage, The Cabin (a studio in the walled garden) and the Observatory, all set in wildflower meadows and gardens of tamarisk with panoramic sea views. Arty, design-savvy owners Roger and Lucy Thorp, have applied their keen eye to every detail, from recycled timber and polished concrete to crisp white linens, soft wool throws, velvets and luxury double-ended baths (or power showers). The Cottage is so photogenic it was featured in Country Living magazine. Prices range from £250 (low-season midweek break in the cabin) to £2400 (for a high season week in the cottage). https://halzephron.house/availability
Kerswood Farm Shepherd’s Huts, South Devon
In deepest Devon, a journey down impossibly narrow country lanes, peeking at bucolic vistas through gaps in verdant hedgerows, this is the home of Nichola and Graham Hawkins. A pair of highflyers, they found a quieter kind of life, roosting here in this beautiful corner of the South Hams, with chickens, pigs and an exuberant labrador called Bear. You can do B&B in the farmhouse, or self-cater in one of two custom-built shepherd’s huts which sit side by side in a meadowy field – sloping down to woodland, with views of Dartmoor beyond. The shepherds hut are neat and compact and cleverly kitted out with all the usual comforts: power showers and flushing loo, fridge, micro-wave, television – there’s even a wine rack. The furnished outdoor deck is perfect for barbecues and sundowners. From £100 per night. More info here.
The Turret, Oban, West Highlands
Taking in the Sound of Kerrera, Oban Harbour, sunsets and passing ferry boats, the views from this two-bedroom apartment are epic – and best seen from the semi-circular corner turret that inspired the name. On the first floor of Kilbowie House, a fancy-looking baronial-style mansion, you are right on the waterfront a mile or so outside Oban. The owners are architects Suzanne and Mark McPhillips (who used to run the town’s Greystones boutique B&B) and the look is a mix of original Victorian features, cool greys, local art and designer furniture – all very architect-y (if that’s a word). You won’t fight over the bedrooms because they are both lovely, and though one has an en suite, the other has its own bathroom (the underfloor heating in both is particular welcome after a day of yomping across the Isle of Kerrera). Oban, incidentally, has been dubbed the ‘Seafood Capital of Scotland’ so you probably won’t want to do too much self-catering. Prices from £770 a week, or from £450 for a 3-night break in low season (theturret-oban.co.uk).
The Cobbles, Polperro, Cornwall
In our favourite Cornish fishing village, this quaint seaside cottage sits on the Warren (a footpath that heads for the cliffs to the north of the harbour). There is space for four in two top-floor bedrooms: a mini twin and a king-size double. There’s a wood-burner in the first-floor lounge (above); the kitchen below has underfloor heating and a stable-style door that opens right onto the South West Coast path, plus a cliff-hung terrace out the back and dreamy views across the harbour to Peak Rock and the sea. Cobbles is great for families but not ideal for groups of four adults (our six-foot friend struggled to fit into one of the mini twin beds). Note, you have to lug your luggage all the way from the carpark at the other end of the car-free village. We thought it was worth the effort. Weekly rentals from £800 through Toadhall Cottages (3-day breaks available in low season).
Star and Garter, Falmouth, Cornwall
This was a tired old high-street boozer before enterprising young couple Elliot and Becca Thompson bought the building, revamped the Victorian pub and turned the rooms upstairs into three splendidly stylish apartments. Once checked in you could spend an entire weekend here without going out. Downstairs, while away the day over lunch, cocktails, dinner, or a Star and Garter bloody Mary. Upstairs, while away an evening watching the sun go down over the Fal River. The higher you get, the better the views (boats, harbour lights, Mylor and St Mawes in the distance) which is probably why we favour the Crow’s Nest (pictured above) on the top floor, but Penthouse and Starboard are glorious too. All feature boaty colours, lush sofas and beds, painted kitchens and subtle nautical nods. From £110 a night. See Lesley’s full review in the Telegraph here or visit the website.
The Land Girls Cabin, Somerset
We haven’t actually stayed here, but as big fans of corrugated iron, it’s high on our list of must-dos. A relic of the 1940s, this tin-clad cottage was built during the Second World War to house members of the Women’s Land Army – young women recruited to help the home-front war effort by working in agriculture, in this case on a farm in the Somerset Levels.The owners have gone the whole hog, furnishing the place with a collection of original Utility furniture, an old-fashioned radiogram and Bakelite switches. The walls are lined with tongue-and-groove panelling and there’s an enamel stove, a coal fire and a cast iron toilet cistern. A ladder takes you up to an attic bedroom (there’s another downstairs) and there’s an Anderson shelter in the garden. From £380 per week (details from https://corrugatedcottage.com).
The Eyrie, Culnacnoc, Isle of Skye
We were lucky enough to be one of the first guests to stay in this R-Escape – the first of series of holiday lets designed by Skye architects R-House, whose distinctively modern cabins and houses can be seen dotted over the island. Set on a hilltop against the snowy peaks of the Trotternish Ridge, the Eyrie is a contemporary highland cottage, offering luxury self-catering for up to four people in two separate timber-framed ‘pods’. The larger of the two (above) features the main bedroom (both are en suite) plus an open-plan living space, wood-burner, oak floors, full-height windows with spectacular views across the water to Scotland’s mountainous west coast. From £190 a night (minimum 2 nights, for 4 people).
High Barn Cottages, East Riding, Yorkshire.
We stayed here while researching an article for Coast Magazine which covered the white cliffs of Flamborough Head and the East Riding town of Bridlington (think fairground rides, art trails and shell-fishing) and this courtyard of converted farm buildings is conveniently placed in the middle of nowhere roughly half way between the two places. There are five barn-like cottages all beautifully renovated and generously furnished with comfy sofas and big picture windows overlooking East Riding farmland. We stayed in the Hayloft which had two luxury, en suite bedrooms and a massive open-plan kitchen-lounge-diner. Every cottage gets a basket of local goodies, free logs for the woodburner, and a barn owl web cam. You are only two miles away from RSPB’s Bempton Cliff Nature Reserve – in spring, a breathtaking, spectacle of noisy, nesting seabirds. Prices from £819 aweek, or £375 for a 2-night break (https://heritage-escapes.co.uk).