One of the main attractions of renting one of these idyllic cottages is the financial benefit and on this basis the deal can work out well, particularly if two or more couples can share the cost.
In high summer Prior's Lodge and similar two bedroomed English Heritage cottages will accommodate four people. Comparable hotel accommodation -- say two suites in the high-ranking Punchbowl Inn at Crosthwaite in the Lake District -- would cost as much for just one night, although admittedly including a sumptuous breakfast and afternoon tea.
At a time when many of Britain's historic country cottages are being snapped up and refurbished as private weekenders by city dwellers, the concept of offering ancient dwellings as holiday lets is attractive to locals and international visitors, who otherwise might not have the chance to sleep under centuries old timbers and pad around on stone floors.
One of the leaders in the repair-and-let trade is Landmark Trust, with about 180 rescued buildings on its books, including the decidedly eccentric Freston Tower in Suffolk. This 1578 structure has one room on each of its six floors -- and no lift. It does, however, have views down the Orwell River to the sea from the sixth-floor sitting room.
The property is handy for the ancient towns of Ipswich and Colchester and the Constable/Gainsborough Country region around the wonderful parishes of East Bergholt, Lavenham and Long Melford. The nearby Ancient House at Clare dates from 1473 and is also managed by Landmark.
Rural Retreats, a commercial organising specialising in unusual and ancient properties, has everything from converted pigsties to lighthouses. The Manger in deepest Devon is a remarkably refurbished cowshed; the Temple in the Cotswolds is an 1815 take on classical Greece; Chaucer Barn is on a farm once owned by the author of Canterbury Tales.
Another important player in the quirky accommodation line is the Vivat organisation, dedicated to managing former derelict but important old buildings. One of the more attractive is Lincolnshire's Mill Hill Cottage, built in1750 and looking like a piece of Connemara vernacular with its whitewashed walls and thatched roof. The cottage can sleep five and is one of only 200 'mud and stud' cottages that have survived into the 21st century.
Inside is an original bread oven; outside is a bell shaped well. The little property is set in the heart of rural Lincolnshire, a region that was little known until the location scouts for The Da Vinci Code decided this would be the spot for a movie.
Vivat also manages Nettlestead Place Gatehouse in Kent, a crazy-looking two storey affair with a whacking great hole in the middle. Built more than 800 years ago, the single-bedroom cottage is handy for Canterbury, Dover and the almost perfect villages and small towns of the Kentish Weald.
Britain's National Trust is extremely important in the cute cottage industry, with more than 350 self catering properties. One of the cutest is Laundry Cottage near Sevenoaks in Kent -- an archetypal mediaeval affair with timber studded walls and pantiled roof.
Built around 600 years ago, the cottage was part of the servants' quarters at Ightham Mote, a 13th century moated manor house and the subject of the Trust's biggest-ever conservation project. It has a Tudor chapel with hand painted ceiling and a Grade One listed dog kennel.
I'm not sure whether it also has Grade One listed dogs -- presumably they'd be just the thing to help you out if you had a wild boar issue.
By Paul EdwardsJustLuxe