Five unique UK holiday rentals to book for 2021

Holidaying at home has never been more popular and from eco-builds in Mawgan Porth in Cornwall to cosy cottages in Wales, there are plenty of places to choose from. Rosie Paterson rounds up a few of her favourites

For more inspiration, make sure you pick up Country Life’s December 30 issue — it’s our annual travel special, full of many more ideas for adventures far and near.

Prennek House, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall

Sure, there are bigger and shinier houses out there, but Prennek House reminds me of all my favourite childhood holidays, along the surf-bashed beaches on the north Cornish coast. And who wants to come home to an overly-stylised pad, after a long day outside, only to worry about spreading sand everywhere?

That’s not to say that Prennek House isn’t thoughtfully designed — it just doesn’t let the design compromise on its practicality. It’s a new, eco-friendly build that has utilised reclaimed and local materials throughout (it’s clad in local Cornish larch), with large communal spaces on the ground floor (including a separate utility room) flooded with natural light, and four bedrooms that can all be easily converted from double rooms to twins. A wrap-around garden terrace and handy outdoor shower looks out across Mawgan Porth beach, and there’s a separate, sunny roof one upstairs that you’ll want to keep all to yourself. Finally, it’s dog friendly — always a big plus in our book.

Unlike so many other coastal properties, Prennek hasn’t gone down the full nautical route (a very good thing). There’s the odd nod here and there — the blue kitchen counters and coastline maps hanging on the walls — but it doesn’t, as it so often does, feel twee and overbearing. And despite the clean lines and contemporary style there are plenty of cosy nooks to hide away in: from the window seats in the kitchen and two bedrooms, to the deep-set velvet living room sofa.

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Mawgan Porth itself is often overlooked for the busier Polzeath, but the surf is just as good and the dramatic Bedruthan Steps are an easy and bracing walk away. In the little village, there’s an excellent supplies store (as well as multiple farm shops in the surrounding area) and the nearby St. Eval candle company is well worth a visit.

Available through Perfect Stays 

Castle on the Well, Exmoor, Devon

A new addition to the Unique Homestays portfolio for 2021 — once the site of a chapel that is said to have been built by St Petroc (a 6th century British prince and saint).

The building now in its place is a modern-style castle with mullioned windows, sandstone walls and a castellated roof on the outside, and stylised-country interiors on the inside. Six people can be accommodated across three bedrooms — one with an antler shape-inspired velvet headboard.

Outside there’s a fire pit and an acre of garden to explore, as well as the neighbouring north Devon coast.

Available through Unique Homestays 

Semaphore Tower, Surrey

Nestled in the heart of Chatley Heath Nature Reserve, Semaphore Tower — constructed in the wake of the Battle of Waterloo — was once a vital link in the signalling chain between Whitehall, London, and Portsmouth Docks.

Following extensive restoration work, it’s available to hire for the first time in 2021, through The Landmark Trust, and will sleep four over five storeys. It’s the perfect rental for a small family, or two couples, visiting from London or the Home Counties. The best bit? Guests can enjoy 360 degree views across the treetops from the roof terrace.

Available through The Landmark Trust

Millbrook, Llanvihangel Crucorney, Wales

Millbrook is a Grade II*-Listed traditional-style cottage, well placed for keen walkers who want to explore the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains.

For non-walkers, the market town of Abergavenny is just five miles away, as well as the 13th century ruins of Llanthony Priory.

You may find you never want to go outside though thanks to Millbrook’s warm and charming interiors — think low, oak beamed ceilings, stone fireplaces and a wood burner (curl up next to one with a board game), an Aga and roll top bath. And don’t forget the Turkish rugs, scattered throughout.

Available through Sheepskin

Cloister House, Melrose, Scottish Borders

The most apt choice for history lovers because Cloister House sits in the shadow of Melrose Abbey (and the three peaks of the Eildon Hills).

Originally built for the Minister of Melrose Church by John Smith — the same architect responsible for Sir Water Scott’s nearby home — Cloister House was restored by Historic Environment Scotland and now sleeps eight people, in four bedrooms.

The Edwardian-inspired interiors are elegant (especially the sweeping mahogany rail staircase) and a gated courtyard ideal for any children and dogs (up to two are allowed).

Available through Crabtree & Crabtree