When it comes to quirky self-catering accommodations, it’s hard to beat the Landmark Trust. The charity, founded in 1965, offers stays in dozens of historic buildings in Britain and beyond, which will leave your friends and family seriously impressed.
It has 200 properties in all, from a pineapple-shaped house in Scotland to John Betjeman’s former home in London’s Smithfield.
Among the most spectacular, however, and a contender for the country’s most in-demand vacation home, is Clavell Tower.
Bagging up a long weekend at this 19th-century Tuscan-style tower, overlooking the sea in Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset, will require some intense planning – it’s completely sold out until January 2025. It’s a 26-month waiting list.
Stays for 2025 will go on sale next fall – exact date to be defined – and The Landmark Trust predicts they will be snapped up in no time. Why wouldn’t you want to stay in a four-story curiosity just a stone’s throw from the beautiful coast that fascinated Hardy and PD James?
There is also an uplifting backstory. In 2006, Clavell Tower was in a sorry state and was in serious danger of ending up in the sea. It was then that the Landmark Trust stepped in and spent nearly £ 1 million to refurbish it and move it 82 feet inland to escape the imminent threat of coastal erosion. It was opened to guests in 2008.
The tower was built between 1830 and 1831 by Reverend John Richards, who owned nearby Smedmore House and who took the name of Clavell when he inherited the estate, possibly to celebrate his 70th birthday, but also as a folly to use of the guests of the house. The Clavell family archives contain cheerful watercolors and illustrated verse showing that it was widely used for picnics and pleasure.
He later served as a coast guard lookout, until the 1930s, when he was gutted by a fire. Thomas Hardy was introduced in South Dorset when he fell in love with the coast guard’s daughter, Eliza Bright Nicholls, and wooed her on cliff walks (she later dumped her for her sister. ). PD James set The Black Tower, one of his detective novels, here, and the tower was also included in the music video for The Style Council’s 1985 single Boy Who Cried Wolf.
Despite high demand, stays at the Clavell Tower, which sleeps two, are relatively affordable, with a four-night break costing from £ 580.
“The diminutive Clavell Tower has long been a place of inspiration,” said a Landmark Trust spokesperson, attempting to explain the high level of demand. “And it continues to fascinate holiday guests. His situation will be familiar to many South West Coast Path hikers, and his charm includes sublime views from every slightly curved room and waking up to the sound of the waves.
It is not the only over-subscribed property of The Landmark Trust.
Dunshay Manor (sleeps 9; four nights from £ 722), just down the road from Clavell Tower and overlooking Corfe Castle, is fully booked until January 2024.
Astley Castle (sleeps eight; four nights from £ 1,339) near Nuneaton, whose restoration won the 2013 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize, has nothing left until December 2023. Thus like Little St Winifred’s Well in Shropshire (sleeps two; four nights from £ 191).
But there is availability for late 2022 in a number of other gems. You could spend a few days this summer at The Birdhouse (sleeps two; four nights from £ 351) in Shropshire, for example, one of the most romantic and isolated charity book retreats, December 16-19.
Or you could spend the weekend at Coop House (sleeps three; four nights from £ 543), an 18th-century Gothic summer residence beside the River Esk near Carlisle, November 18-21. See his website for more details.