The 10 Best Self-Catering Stays in the UK

Sometimes you just need some alone time, just you, your nine best friends and a stonking, great behemoth of a pad set among sprawling grounds. Yes, while we're hotel fiends, there are some occasions - a landmark birthday, a hen party or much-anticipated reunion, perhaps - that demand a little more privacy and a lot more space. Travelling between glass-walled pads set by wild shores and high-end barn conversions, we've crash-tested the mattresses and pulled together this definitive list of Britain's 10 best self-catering houses.

Fashion-forward farmhouses, gravity-defying barn conversions and Britain's best places for a group getaway

hotel

Durslade Farmhouse

Somerset

"Everything is going to be alright" reads Martin Creed's neon artwork which spans the length of this dappled, neo-gothic farmhouse just outside the bohemian enclave of Bruton. It turns out, everything's actually going to be pretty great. Renovated by gallerists Hauser & Wirth, this characterful house is staggered with bold contemporary design decisions - printed wallpaper and colour-block furniture - while still paying homage to the building's medieval past. It's a six-bedroom palace fit for art-world royalty.

Address

Durslade Farm, Bruton, BA10 0NL

hotel

Bibury Farm Barns

The Cotswolds

What could be cosier than a barn conversion scattered with sheepskins and velvet upholstery? Bibury Farm Barns doesn't just have one such property, but five. While the buildings themselves might be punctured by centuries-old beams, they're dotted with 21st-century titbits - botanical bath products, Sonos sound systems and high-end coffee machines, being three. It also gets bonus points for geothermal heating. The surrounding area is a prime spot for amateur ramblers, with Blenheim Palace, Cotswold Wildlife Park and various cartoonishly perfect English villages just a stroll away.

Address

Bibury Gloucestershire GL7 5PB

This image is on holiday

hotel

Hunsett Mill

Norfolk

It's the type of sharp-edged feat you might spot on a TV programme - the kind in which ambitious architects have on-screen meltdowns - such is the sheer beauty of this mill conversion. From the outside, nestled in the crook of a river, it's a patchwork of original red brick and charcoal-grey wood panelling smattered with multi-storey slabs of unframed glass windows. Inside, it's more homely than its stark exterior would lead you to believe, with a snug, open-plan kitchen-lounge. This property really sings in summer, when you can take lunch on the garden terrace with the water trickling in the background.

Address

Chapel Field Norwich NR12 9EL

hotel

Balancing Barn

Everyone knows that classic Hollywood scene: a car teeters over a cliff-edge; will those inside cascade to their deaths? It's a literal cliff-hanger - the stuff of nightmares. Balancing Barn takes this trope and reverses it. This luxury, eight-guest rental property is an impressive feat of engineering which looks like it should be about to topple into Suffolk's tumbling wilderness. The interiors are contemporary - think pixelated wall art and furniture which looks like oversized origami. Truly daring guests can take a ride on the rope swing which hangs tauntingly underneath the building's overhang. Go on; we dare you.

Address

Thorington Halesworth IP19 9JG

hotel

Kinloch Lodge

The Scottish Highlands

Given the Vikings' conquests back in the day, there's a pleasing circularity to the idea of blending Nordic and Scottish design - "Scandi-scot" some have called it. Nowhere is this harmonious blend better exemplified than here, at the Duke of Sutherland's former hunting retreat, where pared-back Scandinavian furniture sits in a weather-pocked shell looking out over a fluttering lake and Ben Loyal mountain. There are seven double bedrooms - enough space to sleep 14 well-fed dinner party guests. Unlike the others in this list, it's not self-catered: you'll have a chef and the food will be exquisite. Sorry, we couldn't resist.

Address

Sleat Isle of Skye IV43 8QY

hotel

The Chickenshed

Monmouthshire

It's hard to believe that this eight-guest property was once merely a shed filled with clucking chickens (and the related stenches). Today, those unsavoury rustic elements have been stamped out. While design-savvy guests will note nods to the property's former life - corrugated roofing (in tin, not iron) and wood-panel cladding, albeit in a chic shade of cedar - this open-plan, country bolthole is unmistakably luxe. It's underpinned by polished concrete floors, warmed by a stand-alone wood-burning stove and sliced down the side by a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows.

Address

Parkhouse Trellech NP25 4PU

hotel

Secular Retreat

Devon

Please, join us in worship at the glassy altar of Secular Retreat - the 10-guest, high-luxe manifestation of Swiss architect, Peter Zumthor's wildest dreams. Natural light saturates every concrete-smooth corner of this contemporary pad where modernist furniture (designed specifically for the property) sits in lavish open spaces, like artworks in a White Cube gallery. The Devon coast swirls invitingly in the background, just a hop and a skip beyond the house's extensive gardens. Peter Zumthor is regularly referred to as the world's greatest living architect, so don't expect to stay here on the cheap.

Address

Hyghdowne House Kingsbridge TQ7 2NL

This image is on holiday

hotel

Walled Garden at Wilderness Reserve

Suffolk

No expenses are spared at this vegetable-patch-turned-super-luxe-crash-pad. Inside the red-brick perimeter of this Victorian walled garden, you'll find a cluster of open-plan glasshouses washed in a muted, earthy palette which open out onto a well-clipped garden, replete with open-air hot-tubs and a sauna - your temporary home away from home. It's an eight-bedroom party place, but there are smaller properties in the grounds of Sibton Park Estate too, if you're looking to host a more intimate soirée.

Address

Yoxford Road Saxmundham IP17 2LY

hotel

Little Cottage

Cornwall

Had modernism's French forefather Le Corbusier upped sticks and discovered the charms of Cornwall, he might have built a home a little like this. It has the same white-stucco charm as his Parisian masterpiece Villa Savoye, and an end-to-end wall of ground-floor windows which make it look like a white box floating in thin air. It's actually the holiday home of Soho Farmhouse architect, Alex Michaelis. He was being a little facetious when he named this 10-guest party house. You'll find a hammock, a jacuzzi, a slide and even a trampoline in its grounds - this is a swarming party palace which begs guests to enjoy themselves.

Address

Sea Meads Penzance TR20 9TA

hotel

Shingle House

Kent

Forget everything you knew about the humble beach shack. This seaside mansion looks like the kind of weekend retreat you might find tucked among the long grasses of Malibu or in an exclusive enclave along the shore of Bondi Beach. It's in Kent, of course. Cushioned amid the shrubbery of Dungeness beach, this minimalist bolthole is a real treat for nature-loving, architecture buffs. It's pet friendly and sleeps eight. We're nabbing the ensuite bedroom with the walk-in shower looking out over the moody coastline.

Address

Romney Marsh TN29 9NE