8 Bizzare Sleeps
In a restored chapel in Shropshire
The Dixie Cups’ 1964 hit Chapel of Love could well have been written about this romantic hideaway tucked among the English oak and chestnut trees of Walcot Arboretum, a 500-yard walk from the nearest road.
Dating back to the 1890s, this corrugated-iron-clad former place of worship was saved from destruction, relocated into the grounds of a stately home and lovingly restored before becoming a place of pilgrimage for holidaymakers in search of original digs. A two-storey bolthole with an open-plan living area made from reclaimed wood, the chapel even has its own organ. Within the grounds of Walcot Hall, guests can make use of the grand old house’s boating lake and croquet lawn, or arrange to explore the surrounding arboretum on a borrowed bike or on horseback. The food-focused town of Ludlow, a 30-minute drive away, has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to fine-dining — for a real treat, try the Michelin-starred Mr Underhills.
Arrive: The entry to Walcot Hall is through the village of Lydbury North on the B4385. The nearest train station is a 15-minute taxi ride away at Craven Arms, from where there are regular trains to Cardiff, Swansea and Shrewsbury.
In a treehouse in Italy
Few treehouses can hold a candle to the Black Cabin in Tuscany. With more square footage than your average London flat, this stylish loft clings to the trunk of a 200-year-old maritime pine, its seven-metre elevation affording panoramic views over olive groves and lavender-covered hills, with a Cimini Mountain backdrop. Inside, contrasting materials are combined to dramatic effect — cedar wood and glass, black steel and white linen. A breakfast that includes homemade lavender muffins and fresh orange juice is delivered to your terrace, and days can be spent lazing by the large pool, horse riding or sampling the farm’s organic produce.
Arrive: Rome’s Fiumicino Airport is a 90-minute drive away. Airlines including Alitalia, BA, easyJet, Jet2, Monarch, Norwegian and Vueling fly from various UK cities.
In a classic car in Germany
Petrolheads still smarting over parental refusal to buy them one of those novelty car beds should consider making a booking at the V8 Hotel. Located in Stuttgart, the capital of German car manufacturing and home to Mercedes-Benz HQ, suites here offer the chance to spend the night in an old motor, from a VW Beetle to a Morris Minor. Specially adapted to take a double-bed mattress, one Mercedes even comes complete with an authentic car-wash style headboard, so you can sleep with your ears flanked by fluffy rollers. V8 is part of the Motorworld classic-car restoration complex, and is also handy for the Mercedes-Benz Museum and factory tours.
Arrive: BA, easyJet, Flybe and Germanwings fly to Stuttgart from various UK airports, including Birmingham, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted (from £110, from Stansted; germanwings.com).
In a Trojan Horse in Belgium
Possibly the world’s weirdest hotel, just outside what purports to be the world’s smallest town, the Cheval de Troie is one of several fairytale creations found at La Balade des Gnomes, near pretty, cobblestoned Durbuy. The work of architect-hotelier Dominique Noel, the two-bedroom horse-shaped house is not designed to carry an elite ancient Greek fighting force, but an open-minded family of four.
The interior is just as unusual as the façade, an imaginative medley of carved wood, iron fretwork and the odd stained-glass window. Other bonkers rooms within the hotel offer the chance to experience life in a troll’s lair, or a night aboard a spaceship, complete with lunar landscape.
Arrive: Take the Eurostar to Brussels, then rent a car for the 90-minute drive to Durbuy.