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It’s true the UK’s a wonderful place to visit – we have castles, stately homes, royal palaces and more museums than you can shake a stick at. But why follow the crowd?
Here are 8 places to visit in the UK that will make your holiday truly unique.
Spitbank Fort, Solent, near Portsmouth
The Solent Forts were built more than 150 years ago amid fears of a French invasion but now have a peaceful use. You can enjoy history with a slice of luxury at Spitbank Fort, the smallest of the three Solent Forts, for either an afternoon or a 24 hour stay. There are just 9 bedrooms but a series of unique and handsome lounges, bars and terraces to explore and you can take a tour to learn the significance of everything from the lighthouse to the fort’s very own wine cave.
Travel is a bit of a challenge. It takes about 15 minutes from Gunwharf Quays and the size of the boat varies depending on the number of people travelling. The boat captains are very experienced but in rough weather it can be a little bumpy or even cancelled, although this rarely happens.
Once you arrive relax in beautiful bedroom suites or unwind in the hot pool, lounge around on the sundeck or go fishing off the side of the fort. Booking directly is easiest, but visit Groupon first for any special offers.
Fullers Follies, Brightling, East Sussex
In a typically English village in the heart of the south east you’ll find the most unexpected of structures – a pyramid, an obelisk, a concrete sugar loaf, a mock Greek temple and a tower without any castle walls. They’re all the work of one person; ‘Mad’ Jack Fuller, country squire, benefactor and Great British Eccentric.
You can read more about Mad Jack and his legacy here
Most of Fuller’s Follies are on private land but are visible from the network of footpaths that run around the village. Unless you’re a keen hiker or cyclist you’ll need a car to explore the area.
The nearest hotels are in Robertsbridge though you may want to stay further afield and explore the whole of the historic East Sussex. Check Tripadvisor for good deals.
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Dumfries, Scotland
History not your thing? More of a science geek? This place will blow your mind. Thirty acres of weird, wonderful and distorted landscapes and structures which test your senses, including your sense of humour. A water cascade retells the story of the universe, a terrace distorts space like a black hole and the Quark Walk takes in the smallest building blocks of matter.
It’s a private garden, north of Dumfries just off the A76 and is only open one day a year, usually in May, so be sure you have tickets before making the journey. The next opening isn’t until 2021 so set yourself a reminder for next year!
Dumfries is the nearest city and Premier Inn has a hotel there, plus plenty of others to choose from.
The Williamson Tunnels, Liverpool
Nobody’s really sure why these tunnels were built in 1800 on the orders of a retired tobacco merchant, Joseph Williamson. Some say they were meant to be secret bunkers, others that he was just trying to create work for the unemployed when times were hard. New tunnels are still being uncovered and you can tour them with the Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre.
Located not far from the Royal Liverpool Hospital in the city centre the tunnels are easily accessible, but you must book your guided tour in advance.
Liverpool’s a great destination for a short break with accommodation ranging from top class hotels to a Beatles-inspired Yellow Submarine in the docks. We’d suggest you take a look at Quirky Accom if you like the more unusual and you can read more about them here or try Village Hotels in the suburb of Whiston.
On a similar note there’s a honeycomb of old sandmine tunnels under the Surrey town of Reigate which open to the public a few times a year. Dating back to Norman times and extended during the early stages of industrialisation, they have a fascinating and unique history. We loved our visit to these slightly spooky underground spaces
Surrey is commuter heartland with plenty of rail, road and bus options.
Again plenty of choice and you can’t go wrong using Tripadvisor as a way to narrow down your options.
The Poison Garden, Alnwick, Northumberland
The stuff of hallucinations and herbal nightmares can be found here. Visitors are forbidden to touch, smell, taste or even breathe in the fumes from this collection of rare and dangerous plants. The Poison Garden was the idea of Duchess Jane Percy and when it opened in 2005 it needed special government dispensation to show plants like cannabis, opium poppies, magic mushrooms, deadly nightshade and hemlock. It’s part of a more traditional garden with rhododendrons, petunias and primroses and 300 magnificent specimens of rose.
Alnwick Gardens are in the heart of Northumberland, just off the A1 and easily accessible by car, train and bus. The nearest airport is Newcastle, 35 miles away.
Northumberland is such a wild and beautiful area it’s worth spending a few days there. Rural Retreats have a number of beautiful self-catering cottages within striking distance of Alnwick.
The Gnome Reserve, Near Bradworthy, North Devon
In the Guinness Book of Records for its enormous collection of gnomes and pixies, all hiding in unusual places or peeking out from the undergrowth, you’ll be hard put to spot them all. But never mind, it’s a lovely woodland and wildflower walk even if the Little Folk don’t put in an appearance. The Reserve is open from March to October every year.
Like most of the West Country, access is easier by car, though the roads are often narrow and very busy in high season.
The nearest big town is Barnstaple but Devon is dotted with glorious and gorgeous cottages, B&Bs and small hotels. For something really special check out the North Devon cottages from The Best of Exmoor.
The Museum of English Rural Life, Reading
Reading is not known as a tourist destination, unless you’re following the historic Great West Way. It’s the ‘cultural capital of Berkshire’ with a well respected university and the quirkiest of museums. Follow @TheMERL on Twitter and you will be plunged headlong into an alternative universe that celebrates agricultural history in a 21st century way with absolute units, love for cows and long and rambling chicken stories. The real life museum is just as eclectic, with collections exploring the people, places and issues of the English countryside and rural life. Quite probably the most interesting thing to do in Reading!
The Museum of English Life is part of the University of Reading and can be found in Redlands Road. Reading is easily accessible by car, claiming three junctions off the M4 motorway and it’s in easy reach of the M25, M40 and M3. It’s also a busy hub in the rail network served by several train companies.
Plenty of choice from student rooms to five star luxury, including a Malmaison boutique hotel not far from the city centre.
There are many quirky things to see in the UK so do comment below if you have a favourite.