take the plunge
A weekend on the water
Book one of these spots to ensure your next staycation goes swimmingly
Swimsuits at the ready: this season’s most soothing travel trend comes surrounded by H2O. And the usual bog-standard hotel room has been cast completely adrift, too, replaced by unique accommodation in the shape of converted boats, floating cabins, luxury lakehouses and the odd raft or two. Ready to dive in? Here’s our pick of the best on-the-water escapes for autumn.
Bed down on London’s oldest houseboat
The Harpy spent much of the last century as ‘HMS Harpy’, a functional Edwardian customs pontoon office. Now, however, it’s a particularly fancy-looking four-bedroom houseboat with art deco furniture, Egyptian cotton linen, countless objets d’art and views of the higgledy-piggledy London skyline. Although it might look shiny and new (Sonos speakers and Sky TV come as standard), there’s still history in these creaking decks and you’ll find little nods to the boat’s past incarnation dotted about, including a photo of King George V paying an official visit in 1920. It’s moored in a truly prime location, with everything from the Tate Modern to Shakespeare’s Globe just a hop, skip and a jump (onto dry land) away.
Sleeps eight, from £550 per night; hostunusual.com
Hole up in a private Cheshire lakehouse
On a duck-dimpled stretch of water in the grounds of historic Coddington Mill, you’ll find this soothingly tranquil, and seriously great-looking, lakehouse cabin. This is a place to take a breath, slow things down and soak up the sound of, well, silence. Because with no one but the birds for company, you can gleefully soak in the al fresco copper tub, nestle down with a book in front of the crackling fire or feed the ducks as you pad barefoot about the decking. When it comes to food, you’ll find plenty of cosy pubs nearby and local honey, fruit and freshly laid eggs available in the local community. When you’re not eating, there’s plenty to explore in the surrounding area too, from meandering cycle trails to Chester’s ancient and picture-perfect cathedral.
Sleeps two, from £380 for two nights; canopyandstars.co.uk
Drift on a raft in Essex
Channel Swallows And Amazons by casting off from the outside world and spending the night adrift in a wonderfully serene floating two-storey cabin in Essex. The Raft – crafted from hand-sawn pine and larch from the nearby farm – has an adventurous, pioneer vibe to it. But while you may feel like you’re on your own in the middle of the wilderness, you’re actually tethered to the banks of a peaceful, reed-fringed lake (with the odd mallard visitor pootling by). Outside, you’ll find a rowing boat for sloshing about in or for sculling across the water to the wood-fired hot tub perched on the bank, where a muscle-easing wallow comes with dazzling views of the stars.
Sleeps two, from £200 per night; canopyandstars.co.uk
Get black tie-ready in Edinburgh
Fingal has come a long way since it started life as a lighthouse tender, helping to maintain lighthouses and transport their keepers and supplies to some of the most treacherous spots in Scotland. In fact, it’s almost unrecognisable today given that it’s upped the swanky stakes with lashings of wood panelling, leather and squeaky-polished glass, and now exists as a 23-cabin floating boutique hotel. Awash with old-world charm and seafaring history, and with all the glamour of a glitzy superyacht, you could easily forget that the towering cranes and buzzy working docks of Leith are just outside the porthole window.
From £200 per night; fingal.co.uk
Live like a nautical nomad in Cornwall
This classic sailing boat, which would not look at all out of place in Pirates Of The Caribbean, is actually moored within the historic Georgian walls of Cornwall’s Unesco-listed Charlestown Harbour. Built in 1904, Mascotte – all Edwardian opulence and the type of craftsmanship that comes with years of salty-skinned experience – is the largest of the surviving Bristol Channel Pilot Cutters, which nimbly ferried local maritime pilots to and from larger ships. Now, it’s a perfect place to wake up to the sound of the sea, stargaze from the polished deck and spot wildlife in the surrounding harbour waters. In spring, you can hop on a day-long sailing trip around St Austell Bay, but in the meantime you can spend your time exploring the historic inner harbour, which has been immortalised on-screen in the BBC’s Poldark, Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland and The Personal History Of David Copperfield.
Sleeps nine, from £180 per night; charlestownharbour.com