For anyone who has a passion for history, holidays are often about visiting as many historic sites in an area as you can manage, spending your days immersed in the stories and objects of the past, but your evenings may be spent in soulless holiday homes, surrounded by bland wall prints, generic furniture and cheap, plastic objects. If you know where to look however, you can find holiday homes that recreate an authentic historic experience, making your holiday something far more memorable and enjoyable.
As someone with a passion for both history and travel, I often feel a huge sense of disappointment when walking into my holiday accommodation to discover it has no personality at all. I may spend the days exploring Tudor castles, 18th century forts or beautiful Art Deco design, but to return each evening to uninspiring, unoriginal and insipid accommodation can easily take away some of the magic.
I am always on the lookout for unusual holiday homes, and have worked my way through many a yurt, train carriage, shepherds hut or wooden shack. Having done a lot of research on vintage holiday homes, I have selected my favourites; either places I have already stayed in or will be booking to stay in as soon as I get the chance.
The Prince's Carriage, Bodiam
The stunning Prince's Carriage sits in some beautiful countryside
Photographs © Host Unusual
Built in 1894, this carriage once belonged to a fairground owner, who lived in it while his show toured the West Country. With mahogany woodwork, hand-painted walls, a flower filled veranda, the carriage sits in 200 acres of East Sussex countryside near the town of Bodiam.
It is filled with incredible period features such as a tiled fireplace, copper coal scuttle, painted ceilings and Victorian lamp; the carriage looks like an incredible place for a summer holiday. Nearby is the historic castle of Bodiam, the town of Hastings where you can visit the site of the 1066 battle, the famous gardens of Sissinghurst and miles and miles of incredible coastline.
Vintage House Aldeburgh, Suffolk
A completely authentic 1920s experience on the Suffolk coast
This incredible holiday home on the Suffolk coast is firmly anchored in 1928 and still has its original fixtures and fittings from that time. With wooden floorboards, a cast iron kitchen range, open fires, authentic bathroom furniture and so much more, this is the perfect place to feel as if you are living in the 1920s.
The location is perfect for exploring the heritage of the area, which includes Sutton Hoo. I stayed here recently and loved it, finding it a really immersive historical experience.
Chauffeur's Flat Coleton Fishacre, Devon
Experience the 1920s in the chauffeur's flat of this 1920s Arts & Crafts house
This small holiday flat, owned by the National Trust, is next to their Arts and Crafts property of Coleton Fishacre on the south Devon Coast.
Built in the 1920s by the D’Oyly Carte family to house their chauffeur, this top floor flat is small and simple, but with some nice authentic touches. What makes it so special though is the unlimited access to the house and extensive grounds, which lead down to the sea.
The house is a beautiful example of Arts and Crafts and is furnished in the Art Deco style, making your whole stay feel like a truly immersive experience. Perfectly located for exploring an area packed with heritage, it makes a fantastic base for historical travellers.
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20th Century B&B, Kent
Photograph © 20th Century B&B
Built in 1935, this Art Deco B&B is in Birchington-on-Sea, on the north Kent coast. Recently renovated, it has four rooms which reflect different eras of the 20th century, from Art Deco to the 1970s.
The house itself is a fine example of Art Deco architecture and is only a three minute walk from Minnis Bay, famous for its sandy beaches and sunsets.
There is no shortage of history in the area, from archaeological sites to World War II museums. The historic city of Canterbury with the famous Cathedral is a drive away, and nearby Broadstairs has a former home of Charles Dickens and a museum dedicated to him, and there is no shortage of castles and coastal walks.
Land Girls' Cottage Glastonbury, Somerset
The 1940s is recreated in incredible detail in this Land Girls' cottage, complete with air raid shelter
Photographs © Under The Thatch
Built in 1940 to house members of the Women's Land Army who went to the countryside to help with farming, the corrugated iron hut has been recreated in true 1940s style with plenty of authentic fixtures and fittings.
Utility furniture, proper eiderdowns, a record player, open fire, hundreds of vintage items to keep you entertained, including a gas mask to try on, the garden even has its own Anderson shelter complete with sandbags.
I stayed here with the family a few years ago and we all loved the place not just its authentic feel but for its beautiful rural location. Only a ten minute drive from Glastonbury and with so much heritage in the surrounding area, this was a truly amazing place to stay and I can’t recommend it highly enough for the historian looking to immerse themselves in the 1940s.
Bertrams, North Devon
Bertram's Bus provides a 1950s vintage stay in the Devon countryside
Photographs © Host Unusual
Bertrams is a double decker red bus, parked in the grounds of a north Devon country house, only 10 minutes drive from the coast. It gets its name from the Agatha Christie novel, ‘At Bertrams Hotel’ (the front cover of which has a red bus on the front), and is fully kitted out in 1950s style.
Stylish 1950s decor includes a vinyl record player, a TV in a wooden cabinet, 1950s radio and other accessories, the bus also has a strong literary feel, with a small Agatha Christie library and references to her novels in the decorations.
It has its own garden and you can explore the wider grounds which include a games, fishing lakes, a hot tub and free roaming alpacas. I have to say, it looks amazing and I can't wait to book a stay. The wider area includes some incredible heritage sites as well as some great places to take kids (it is only a short drive from the Milky Way Theme Park, which kids love).
Peartree Cottage, County Durham
The 1960s come to life in all their formica'd glory in Peartree Cottage
Photographs © Peartree Cottage
In the town of Shildon in the north of England, Peartree Cottage is a 1960s themed cottage designed to transport you back to what the owner calls a ‘Heartbeat Holiday’, after the British TV series ‘Heartbeat’ of a 1960s rural police force.
A two bedroom house with authentic fixtures and fittings, the house still manages to slip in a few mod cons for guests. You can cook in an original 1960s kitchen complete with vintage Belling oven, eat at a formica table, get ready for an evening out at a vanity table with three mirrors and a vanity brush set or spend the evening sitting on a three piece suite complete with lace antimacassars watching TV in a wooden cabinet.
The town of Shildon is home to Locomotion, a huge science museum tracing the 300 year history of the railways and is close to Binchester Roman fort and Kynren, the English version of Puy du Fou, an outdoor show with a cast of hundreds that explores 2000 years of British history.
Photograph © Ben Carpenter Photography
Dimmet is the Devonian word for the half light at the end of the day, and this two bedroom beach bungalow in north Devon is only a few minutes drive from the golden beach of Saunton Sands with some stunning sunsets.
The bungalow has been owned by the same family for over 40 years, who recently refurbished it with authentic 1970s interiors and objects, right down to 1970s recipe books and clothing, so you can dress up in kipper ties and flowing dresses to enjoy your prawn cocktails and cheese and pineapple on sticks!
The house has all the mod cons you would expect, and is a great location to explore north Devon or to have a traditional 1970s bucket and spade beach holiday.
Champing - UK wide
Have a church all to yourself for a completely unique experience
Photographs © Champing
Champing is a new phenomenon, and something I can't wait to try. Run by the Churches Conservation Trust, the word is a mix of church and camping, and involves camping inside a church.
Beds and facilities are all provided and you could find yourself sleeping in the pews, under a pulpit or next to a Saxon font. You get exclusive use of the church with everything ready for your arrival, with your summer evenings spent exploring the wildlife in the churchyards, and nights spent sleeping under vaulted ceilings.
The churches with champing on offer are scattered throughout England, rates are reasonable and where else would you get the chance to sleep in buildings that are many hundreds of years old?