10 of the best ways to find bargain places to stay in the UK

From priories to Wetherspoon’s, Oxford colleges to seaside cottages, we share ideas for low-cost breaks around the country

Boutique bargains

Malmaison, the boutique chain with hotels in 16 UK cities, is offering a winter stay for two for £75 in 13 locations, including Edinburgh, Belfast and Brighton, provided they spend at least £50 in the restaurant. The Cheltenham one is a little more expensive at £85, Oxford is £125 and London £155. Rooms must be booked at least 10 days in advance for stays until 23 February (excluding Saturdays). Hotel du Vin, another upmarket chain, has a similar deal but with prices from £99, including hotels in York, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bristol.
malmaison.com, hotelduvin.com

Bothies and bunkhouses

Foreland bothy, Lynton, north Devon.
Foreland bothy, Lynton, north Devon. Photograph: Mike Henton/National Trust

The National Trust has bothies sleeping two to 10, and bunkhouses sleeping 10 to 44, from £6.75pp. The facilities may be basic but the locations are impressive. For example, Foreland bothy near Lynton in north Devon, is right on the South West Coast Path (from £27 a night for four) and Beudy’r Gelli Bothy is in a meadow by a river in Snowdonia (from £90 a night for 10 people). South Shore Lodge, a Victorian conversion with bunkbed accommodation on Brownsea Island, Dorset, has sea views, a garden and beach access (from £702 for three nights for 12 people).

Hostel hire

YHA Coverack
YHA Coverack, Cornwall. Photograph: YHA (England & Wales)

The YHA has more than 100 hostels, houses and cottages across England and Wales that are available as exclusive hires for selected dates in winter (often winter only). Prices start at £199 a night for the entire place, which means groups can stay for under £7 a head. For example, YHA Coverack, a Victorian country house in Cornwall, costs from £199 and sleeps 30. YHA Helmsley, a purpose-built property in the North Yorkshire market town, costs from £349 and sleeps 40. YHA Buttermere, a historic house in the heart of the Lake District, costs from £499 and sleeps 60.

Religious retreats

Clare Priory, Suffolk.
Clare Priory, Suffolk. Photograph: SPK/Alamy

Scores of monasteries and religious centres across the UK provide a peaceful, pocket-friendly bed for the night, often in beautiful old buildings and usually open to all. The website Monasteries.com lists 36 in Britain (and many more across Europe, from €23 for an en suite single). Benburb Priory in County Tyrone, for example, has singles from £34.50 and doubles from £46. Other options include ancient abbeys (Nunraw, Caldey, Buckfast), retreat houses and theological colleges. One highlight is Clare Priory in Suffolk, established in 1248.

Boozy breaks

The Catherine Wheel, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
The Catherine Wheel, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Photograph: Gillian Evans

Wetherspoon’s is known for its keenly priced pubs (and outspoken founder), but it also has 55 affordable hotels across the UK: 44 in England, seven in Scotland and four in Wales. All are attached to pubs and many are in historic buildings, such as the 18th-century Wyndham Arms in Bridgend, which has doubles from £50 room-only. Sundays are the generally the cheapest nights to stay, with doubles at all hotels about £50, including the Catherine Wheel in Henley-on-Thames, which also has family rooms for four from £65.

Student digs

College accommodation in Cambridge.
College accommodation in Cambridge. Photograph: David Borland-VIEW/Alamy

The website UniversityRooms.com offers digs in student halls of residence during the holidays. Rooms naturally tend towards the no-frills but are affordable for expensive university towns such as Oxford and Cambridge, and often in central locations. It’s also a treat to sleep amid the dreaming spires where the great and good may once have laid their heads. Oxbridge colleges get booked up quickly, particularly the historic ones, but there is still some summer availability. For example, Hughes Hall, Cambridge, has en suite doubles for £90.

Cottages, Pembrokeshire

The Long Barn, Littlehaven.
The Long Barn, Littlehaven, Pembrokeshire. Photograph: tinmanphotography

Coastal Cottages is a 40-year-old family-run business with about 500 properties in Pembrokeshire. While the collection includes beachside mansions and even clifftop castles, most are humbler dwellings that offer great value for money, such as Honey Hook cottage in Nolton, a converted barn sleeping five, with log burner (from £302 a week). Another barn conversion, Long Barn in Trehale near Mathry, sleeps six and has beams, exposed stone, a rolltop bath and a galleried crog loft in the eaves (from £480 a week).

Seaside apartments, Kent

Harriet, Broadstairs, Kent.
Harriet, Broadstairs, Kent. Photograph: Kevan Smith

Despite the name, My Seaside Luxury has a range of affordable seaview apartments in Ramsgate (for the best bargains) and Broadstairs, Kent. Elizabeth, an airy top-floor apartment in a late-18th-century building in the town centre and named after the campaigner and Ramsgate resident Elizabeth Fry sleeps four from £90 a night, and Queenie, a simple one-bed near the seafront sleeps two from £40 a night. Near the park, beach and clifftop walk to Broadstairs, Harriet, a small but stylish pad sleeps two from £50.

Woodland cabins, Devon

Blytheswood, Dartmoor.
Blytheswood, Dartmoor. Photograph: Host Unusual

Host Unusual’s quirky places to stay include a few bargains, such as new listing Blytheswood: two former bunkhouses, now cosy cabins, in ancient woodland on the edge of Dartmoor. Both have double beds, kitchenettes, woodland showers and the use of fire areas and barbecue (logs and kindling included). The woods are home to horseshoe bats, pied flycatchers, hazel dormice, badgers and deer. There are forest walks from the door, plus three pubs, a shop and a tearoom within walking distance. The Nest is £50 a night (sleeps two plus one small child) and the Cabin, £75 (sleeps two adults and two children), both with a two-night minimum stay. hostunusual.com

Seaside cottages, Norfolk

Winterton Cottages, east Norfolk.
Winterton Cottages, east Norfolk. Photograph: Blake Borough PR

Winterton Cottages is a collection of about 40 holiday homes in and around Winterton-on-Sea, an unspoilt seaside village in east Norfolk, a far cry from the expensive hotspots further north. The properties range from fisherman’s cottages for two to large houses for groups. The two Old Chapel Cottages were converted from a Methodist church built in 1812 and sleep four from £553 a week. The Old Village Shop is now a three-bedroom house – complete with a replica shop window – close to the sand dunes, cafe, fish and chip shop and pub. It sleeps six from £735 a week.


Rachel Dixon

The GuardianTramp

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