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Fancy a Kent staycation? Then what about these unique holiday lets, from prison cells to churches


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What with travel restrictions still in place for many foreign destinations and a wait which is likely to take you into the autumn if you need a new passport, staying locally could be the solution to your holiday dilemmas this year.

But if you're going to stay within Kent's fine borders, you may want to look for something a little different to ensure it has that wow factor.

If you're looking to get a new passport then you may be waiting a long time - so why not holiday in Kent this summer?
If you're looking to get a new passport then you may be waiting a long time - so why not holiday in Kent this summer?

So if your idea of a romantic getaway is staying in a room modelled on a prison cell, or perhaps a Gothic tower then here are some suggestions which may be right up your staycation street.

Church

Champing (what do you mean you've never heard of it?) has been a thing for a few years now and the concept is simple. You pay your money and you get to stay in a church for the night.

Organised by the Churches Conservation Trust, the idea is for venues where regular worship no longer takes place to still have regular use.

Designed to provide an usual night's accommodation, it allows you exclusive use of the church for small groups. And all faiths - or none at all - are welcome to book.

Fancy a bit of 'champing' in Fordwich?
Fancy a bit of 'champing' in Fordwich?

So if you fancied a night at the St Mary the Virgin Church in Fordwich (Britain's smallest village, fact fans), near Canterbury, or St James' Church in Cooling, on the Hoo Peninsula, then your luck is truly in. St James' (an inspiration for Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, no less) caters for parties up to six, and St Mary for up to 10.

See champing.co.uk for more details.

Pros:

Conduct your own sermons (you get exclusive access to the building so no-one else will pop in for a quick prayer)

You can bring (and drink) your own wine. Let's call it holy wine (it's the obvious gag).

St James' Church, Cooling is one of the places for a bit of 'champing' (a blend of the words camping and churches, geddit?)
St James' Church, Cooling is one of the places for a bit of 'champing' (a blend of the words camping and churches, geddit?)

Cons:

Not ideal if the idea of sleeping surrounded by a graveyard gives you the willies.

Prison

If you've always walked on the right side of the law, the chances are you've never spent a night in a cell. But is there a bit of the devil inside you which has always fancied it?

Well now there's the chance for you to experience life on the inside...albeit that you can always escape (without digging a hole with a spoon through several feet of reinforced concrete) and there's loads of mod cons too. A trip to the shower is far less eventful too (you have access to your own private bathroom).

Want to go to jail? Then your luck is in at HMP Penny Rope in Margate
Want to go to jail? Then your luck is in at HMP Penny Rope in Margate

Based in the former wine cellar of a Grade II-listed Georgian property in Margate, the Penny Rope Bed Chamber offers a prison-themed chamber for you to ponder where you went wrong in life. Or, if this is your thing, then where it all went right.

If creating a talking point on social media with your photos ticks your box, then this could be for you.

You can book via Airbnb. And see inside here.

Pros:

You can get an optional mug shot - ideal for those of the Instagram generation or to terrify your children/parents.

What's more welcoming for a romantic break than a ball and chain on the door?
What's more welcoming for a romantic break than a ball and chain on the door?

It's an experience you're unlikely to forget in a hurry

Cons:

It's bunk beds only...so perhaps not ideal for a romantic night...unless the whole prison theme floats your boat.

It's bijou...the bedroom is only about 5ft by 7ft

Pump station

It doesn't look much on the outside...but inside it's all rather swanky
It doesn't look much on the outside...but inside it's all rather swanky

Think romantic or family getaway, and only a select few will immediately think of how nice it would be to stay in a converted Second World War pump station. Or indeed what that actually is.

But we live in odd times, so perhaps that number is growing.

Regardless, this retreat really is quite impressive.

During the war, it was used to send fuel, via under-sea pipes, to northern France. Today you would be fooled into thinking its rather bland concrete exterior ushered in an equally drab interior.

Perched on the shingle of the effortlessly artistic Dungeness, the station can sleep up to 10 people and has been converted into a luxury beach house.

You'd never guess it once pumped fuel to France during the war
You'd never guess it once pumped fuel to France during the war

See Mulberry Cottages for details.

Pros:

Dungeness has been the setting for plenty of pop videos - allowing you to unleash your hidden Beyonce.

You'll be able to take stunning pictures without leaving the comfort of your holiday home

Cons:

You can't pump fuel to France any more (in case you were pinning your hopes on that)

The Gate House mini Gothic castle in Dover
The Gate House mini Gothic castle in Dover

Gothic castle

Dover normally suffers when it comes to holiday locations for being one of those places you drive through while en route to somewhere else. But the Gate House may just convince you that the town is well worth an explore while staying in a rather unique location.

The Grade II-listed, mini Gothic castle was built in 1850 and is believed to have been built as the gate house for the officers’ accommodation for the Dover Castle garrison housed nearby.

You even get your very own turret.

Cottages.com will give you the prices.

Dover Castle may be a touch bigger - but officers from its garrison are thought to have lived in the house
Dover Castle may be a touch bigger - but officers from its garrison are thought to have lived in the house

Pros:

You can truly be a king of the castle for your stay

Cons:

Your castle will be dwarfed by the rather grander one on the hill

Folly

Hadlow Tower may be the county's most famous folly - a building which towers over Hadlow, near Tonbridge, and is the tallest of its kind in the UK.

It's not the cheapest place to stay, but Hadlow Tower does have the 'wow' factor
It's not the cheapest place to stay, but Hadlow Tower does have the 'wow' factor

Built in the mid 19th century, it once formed part of a grand Gothic castle built by Walter Barton May - and dubbed May's Folly ever since.

Since being turned into holiday accommodation the Grade I*-listed property will turn your friends green with envy and even comes with a good story.

Legend has it Mr May built the tower to keep an eye on his estranged wife after she left him. Which seems not only a bit excessive, but not the most subtle of spying positions. Chances are he built it simply to show off his wealth. But let's not let that spoil an otherwise good story.

You get exclusive access to the tower during your stay too. See here for more details.

Pros:

You too can show off your wealth by staying there

If you have long hair you could re-enact that scene from fairy tale Rapunzel (for legal reasons we do not suggest you actually try this, natch).

Cons:

At 175ft high, it's probably not for you if you suffer vertigo

For more news on big brands and good places to enjoy a tasty bite, head to our Eat, Drink, Shop section

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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