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UK: Six Stays Far from the Madding Crowd

Isolation can be a blessed thing, and in these strange times, even more so. Here are six escapes where you can get away from everyone and everything.

Doves Cottage – Abercastle, Pembrokeshire

Abercastle is a tiny inlet with a little harbour at the top, which is usually dotted with fishing boats. Nearby, there was once a 'tap house’, giving a warm welcome to sailors. This is now Doves Cottage. The cottage has steps from the door into the sea and every window has a water view. Access to the cottage is via the picturesque Coastal Path. Doves Cottage is a cosy retreat in a magical setting. Seals, peregrines and a wide variety of seabirds are often seen from the south-facing terrace, yet the neighbours are some distance away and rarely seen. The self-catering cottage sleeps two in a sweet attic-style bedroom upstairs. Hide away from the world, but do pop out to see Carreg Samson, a 5,000-year-old Neolithic Burial Chamber half a mile west of Abercastle.

The Eastbury – Sherborne, Dorset

For something a little more connected, yet retaining a feeling of seclusion, the 26-bedroom Eastbury Hotel in Sherborne opened five Victorian Garden Potting Shed Suites last autumn. Spacious and thoughtfully designed, the suites have their own private external entrances, large bedrooms with tri-fold doors and private patios with fire pits, perfect for sitting around late into the evening. Additionally, the hotel has an acre of private walled gardens for guests to enjoy. Medieval and mellow-stoned, Sherborne is a pretty market town with an abbey, almshouse and two castles, one originally built by Sir Walter Raleigh.

Le Boat: Cruise the Thames – Benson, Oxfordshire

Boating is a great option for staying contained while still getting out and about. The Benson Return cruise with Le Boat allows holidaymakers to explore the western section of the River Thames. Here, moorings are easy to find and the distance between locks is greater than at the river’s eastern end, which means more cruising. There are few activities as relaxing as gently motoring along the river, with ducks and swans for company. The dreaming spires and universities of Oxford are a six-hour cruise to the west of Benson, or head east and in six hours, boaters can tie up in Henley-on-Thames.

Little Cottage – Praa Sands, Cornwall

Praa Sands is a white-sand beach and coastal village in Cornwall that once served the mining industry. Now it's all about tourism, but Little Cottage is set apart, standing on Praa Sands, between Helston and Penzance. The garden runs seamlessly to the beach, visible through the lounge windows. Architect Alex Michaelis transformed the cottage’s crumbling bones into a sleek, modernist beach house. Despite the name, Little Cottage is not so little, with four bedrooms, a large, open-plan kitchen and living room, and a games room. The extensive garden has a hot tub, trampoline, slide and fat boy hammock, all with views of the beach below. Bliss.

If you've read my piece on Portsmouth, here, you'll have a good idea where his fortress is situated – and it doesn’t get any more isolated than a private sea fort in the middle of the Solent. Designed to protect Portsmouth harbour from a French invasion, work started on the Napoleonic Fortress in the 1860s, taking 17 years to complete. The more recent refurbishment provided nine en suite bedrooms, a dedicated Champagne bar, library, gym, two rooftop sundecks, a sauna, an open-air hot tub for 10 people and a lighthouse. Guest access is by boat, making it a private island hideaway for a well-heeled family.

Shepherd’s Cottage – Eilean Shona, Scotland

Eilean Shona is a tidal island, nestled in a tranquil loch on the dramatic west coast of Scotland. There are no cars here or roads – and very few people. Guests park on the mainland near the ruin of Castle Tioram and meet the ferryman for a 15-minute boat transfer. On Eilean Shona’s northern shore, a 45-minute walk from the jetty, is the lovely one-bedroom Shepherd’s Cottage, a remote, off-grid idyll in which to unwind. Here, days are spent building campfires, crabbing, swimming, painting, picnicking, kayaking and walking the island’s coastal and woodland paths. Guests are likely to spot wildlife including sea eagles, otters, pine martens and seals.

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