Best of British: Converted spaces

BY Fiona Hicks

1st Jan 2015 Travel

Best of British: Converted spaces

Fond of a fixer-upper? These great British digs give new purpose to historical locations. From a former fort to big green buses and a thoroughly modern pirate ship, these spaces have been given a serious face-lift. 

Spitbank Fort, Hampshire

spitbank fort hampshire

Once under the jurisdiction of the Royal Commission, this 19th-century structure is bizarrely yet brilliantly one of the most opulent spots around. 

Situated just off the Portsmouth coast, the 50m-wide construction was completed in 1878 to protect the harbour from attack by Napoleon III. It remained in use until 1962, when it was declared surplus to requirements and disposed of by the MoD. 

It’s now been renovated as a luxury venue space. Gone are the guns, and among the many perfectly appointed rooms, you’ll find a library, a wine cave and a selection of bars. There is even a hot tub and a fire pit (see above).

It’s a popular destination for lunch trips, as well as weddings. Enjoying panoramic views while soaking in the rooftop pool? There are worse ways to begin a honeymoon.


Big Green Bus, East Sussex

big green bus east sussex

One creative couple decided to turn this West Midlands Metro Bus into a rentable holiday space. Sleeping six, there’s a fully-fitted kitchen, a wet room and loo, and even a log burner. 

“With 689,000 miles on the clock, it had travelled the equivalent distance from the earth to the moon, back, and then halfway to the moon again!” says Adam Colliers-Wood, a trained carpenter who carried out much of the work himself. “It was destined for the scrap heap when I bought it, but it’s now enjoying a leisurely retirement in Sussex.”

Both Brighton and Lewes are a short drive away, and there’s the welcoming Six Bells pub within walking distance. If you can’t bear to leave the delights of the bus, you can even arrange to have a hamper full of local produce—plus a bottle or two of wine—ready for your arrival.


Wendy the Aberporth Express, Wales

Wendy the Aberporth Express

From boats to buses to trains… the delightfully named Wendy the Aberporth Express is a good reason to venture to the west coast of Wales. Once voted one of the top five spots to enjoy the seaside, this Edwardian railway carriage looks out over Cardigan Bay, with a mesmerising aspect of the Irish Sea.

The carriage is a cornucopia of creature comforts. A woodburner in the salon, a hairdryer in the bathroom and a heated towel rail in the bathroom make it easy to settle down for a cosy night in. Despite its blustery coastal position, the carriage is lined with oak, insulated and panel-heated, which means that it’s always snug. 

Wander out onto the deck, cup of tea in hand, and you might even be able to spot dolphins in the distance if you’re really lucky.


Tamesis Dock, London

tamesis dock

“Tamesis is a unique conversion in an even more unique location,” says proud co-owner Neema Rai. Anyone who’s acquainted with Vauxhall, London, knows this is the place to head for a rollicking night out. The former Dutch barge is a glorious blend of settings: part pirate ship, part good old pub—with a hint of themed nightclub thrown in.

However you see it, there’s plenty of merriment to be had. Drinks flow (which can make meandering the wonky floor a fun challenge) and live music plays while the Houses of Parliament look on.

It also serves some rather decent nosh, so it’s a great place for a spot of lunch during the day when it tends to be a bit quieter. The nachos are worth a try, as is the Tamesis burger. Health-conscious folk can even opt for the vegan Scotch egg.


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