Five Holiday Homes for Architecture Buffs

By: Maxine Sheppard

April 5, 2010

For those wanting a place to call home on their hols, a hotel just won’t cut it. But for many people, neither will an identikit villa, bland city apartment or yet another converted barn. For the architecturally-inclined, the surroundings, the space and the structure itself go hand-in-hand, and are all equally important in creating the perfect environment for the ultimate holiday.

There are some truly extraordinary properties available to rent around the world – at the bottom of this post we offer some suggestions for where to find one. Before that, here are five that have caught our eyes.

Turtle House, El Gouna, Egypt

Turtle House, El Gouna, Egypt

Photo by Marc Ryckaert for Wikimedia Commons


Designed by the German architect and designer Kurt Völtzke and looking more like a Gaudi-inspired spaceship, this holiday home in Egypt’s Red Sea golf resort of El Gouna is described on the owners’ website as an “art and culture house” and a “place that allows the imagination to run wild and creativity to flow”. Inside, the property is dominated by natural stone, novel stairway sculptures and colourful, mosaic-covered columns. There’s even a gallery for hosting exhibitions if you feel like showing off your accomplishments at the end of your stay. The main house sleeps four, though there’s a separate room for two available.

Clavell Tower, Dorset, England

The Landmark Trust's Clavell Tower

Image courtesy of the Landmark Trust

The Landmark Trust is a charity which restores and preserves historic and architecturally interesting buildings and lets them out as holiday homes. With an inventory of over 180 properties (mainly in the United Kingdom, but also in Italy and the United States) it’s almost impossible to select just one, but Clavell Tower, located on the dramatic World Heritage Dorset coastline is one of the Trust’s most beautiful.


The Landmark Trust's Clavell Tower and beach

Image courtesy of the Landmark Trust


Built in 1817 by the 70 year old Reverend John Clavell, it fell victim to both fire and gradual coastal erosion and lay derelict for many years. Landmark dismantled the property and re-erected it further away from the cliff edge, thereby saving a much-loved local landmark and allowing ordinary people the chance to stay in such unparalleled surroundings. The tower sleeps two and is only accessible by a steep footpath.

Twin Palms Estate, Palm Springs, California

The one-time home of Frank Sinatra in Palm Springs

Image courtesy of

An astounding example of mid-century modern architecture and furnishings, the Twin Palms Estate is the legendary former desert retreat of Frank Sinatra, located in central Palm Springs in California. Yes – if you’re not short of a bob or two, you can stay in the very same house that played host to some of the famous movie colony’s most glittering parties, attended by the likes of Bob Hope, Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo.


Swimming Pool at Twin Palms Estate, Palm Springs

Image courtesy of


Even more remarkable is that the estate still houses Ol’ Blue Eyes’ original recording studio, although budding crooners shouldn’t get any ideas – it’s no longer in use, unlike the piano-shaped pool and accompanying his ‘n hers cabanas. There are four ensuite bedrooms and a minimum three-night booking requirement.

Converted Windmill, Santorini, Greece

Converted windmill in Santorini

Image courtesy of


If you fancy acting out your Windy Miller fantasies for a week or two (a reference that will probably only mean something to those of a certain age) then where better than the beautiful Grecian island of Santorini? Responsible Travel offer this three-storey windmill which sleeps up to five and comes with views of the Agean sea from every window.


Converted windmill in Santorini by day

Image courtesy of


As you’d expect, the property’s green credentials are impeccable, from ecological mattresses and solar heating right down to a garden full of seasonal vegetables, and the owners will encourage you to buy local produce – figs, capers, organic cheese – from their neighbours. The bean-shaped pool comes with a hydro-massage section from where you can gaze across to the islands of Ios, Naxos and Amorgos.

Cape Town Villa, South Africa

Villa in Clifton, Cape Town

Image courtesy of


Rental accommodation is going to be in high demand in South Africa this year as World Cup fever takes hold. If you want to make it a month-long trip to remember (and you’re a recent lottery winner) then any of the homes offered by high-end agency Cape Villas should suit your purpose, but this six-bedroomed property in Cape Town overlooking the beautiful horseshoe bay of Clifton Fourth Beach is particularly spectacular.


Bathroom at Cape Town Villa

Image courtesy of


If you can tear yourself away from the wine cellar, Gaggenau full-spec kitchen and sauna, there are some pretty dramatic views of the Twelve Apostles mountain range to be had from the bath, wooden deck and enormous infinity pool. Oh, and if you can’t get tickets for all the games, there’s an 80-inch TV to watch them on.

For more architecturally-inspired holiday properties try Country Cottages Online for the UK and Ireland, or Holiday Pad for a more global selection. Unique Home Stays also offer a collection of extraordinary B&Bs and country houses alongside their self catering collection.


Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.