Hawkers Hut, Cornwall
Everyone needs a little place to escape to. For Robert Stephen Hawker – Anglican priest, antiquary and poet – it was the clifftops near Morwenstow. So soothing did he find the place that he fashioned his own little den there. Over 170 years later, his ramshackle driftwood construction is still in situ. Hawker’s hideaway is the smallest National Trust property and yet must possess one of the most sumptuous views of the lot.
Pickering Place, London
Pickering Place is not only the smallest square in London but one of the smallest in the land to boot. Passing into the paved square – really no more than a courtyard – two things are immediately noticeable. Firstly, it’s a very irregular shape and, secondly, it’s lit by gaslight (the original lamps are still in place). The Georgian edifices that crowd round the little open space take one immediately to another time and are, unsurprisingly, all listed buildings.
Off St James’s Street, London SW1A 1EA
Butley Ferry, Suffolk
With just enough room for two passengers and their bicycles, Butley Ferry is the smallest licensed rowed ferry in Europe. There’s a whole team of selfless volunteers at the oars that don the traditional broad-brimmed hats worn by Suffolk farmworkers and ferrymen since time immemorial. Each year they transport across the creek more than 1,000 passengers and about 500 bicycles.
Near Capel St Andrew | aldeandore.org
Theatre of Small Convenience, Worcestershire
Today, in countries such as the Czech Republic and Slovakia, puppetry is revered and viewed as part of the warp and weft of the respective nations’ cultural identity. In Britain, if you go to the charming spa town of Great Malvern, you can also see it performed in a former toilet. The Theatre of Small Convenience is set a little back from the pavement, behind a tree.
Edith Walk, Malvern, Worcestershire WR14 4QH | wctheatre.co.uk
River Bain, Yorkshire
The shortest river in England that possesses a name, the River Bain somehow manages to pack all kinds of pleasurable experiences into its two-and-a-half-mile run down a largely overlooked valley in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Pleasingly, it’s possible to walk the greater part of the river on paths. From the northern tip of Semerwater, a path on the north side of the Bain leads quickly to a minor road. Use this to cross the river and a signpost for A Pennine Journey will guide you along the riverbank.
The Ferryman's Hut Museum, Northumberland
This is not a place that overwhelms with a mass of facts and figures, however the museum will give you an insight into the lost world of the Aln ferrymen. And after you’ve seen all you wish to see, you can feast your eyes on a view that they too would have recognised. It’s a wide vista speckled with the same seabirds they knew – oystercatchers, redshanks, curlews and gulls – as they plied the waters of the Aln.
Dinghy Park, Riverside Road, Alnmouth, Northumberland, NE66 2SD
Wiston Castle, Pembrokeshire
Wiston Castle sits on a hill in the midst of farmland with a ring of gorse covering its lower flanks. A 40ft-high mound rises above the surrounding terrain. As one of the country’s best-preserved motte-and-bailey castles it offers up not only a faithful representation of what they were like but also gives visitors some insight into the lives of those who inhabited it. Today, though very small in comparison with most Welsh castles, it remains an immaculate little piece of ancient Welsh history.
Near Winston, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire SA62 4PN cadw.gov.wales
Plas Halt, Gwynedd
When it comes to small, secretive railway stations that appear to be inhabiting a dream, you’d be hard pressed to top Plas Halt. Buried in a wood on a mountainside in North Wales, with a single short and very low platform and a single short and very basic stone shelter, its primitive minimalism is wonderful to behold.
The Swallow Theatre, Dumfries and Galloway
The Swallow Theatre has just 50 seats. The website warns that these are “quite comfortable but some people like to bring a cushion”. Even this is still something of a step up though because there was a time in the theatre’s early days when audience members were asked to bring along their own chairs. It’s all part and parcel of the nature of the place – if the audience has to muck in a little from time to time then that’s part of the community spirit the theatre wishes to engender.
Moss Park, Ravenstone, Whithorn, Newton Stewart DG8 8DR. swallowtheatre.co.uk
St Fillan's Cave, Fife
The charm starts with its very location. It’s not on the coast facing the sea or high up on a hillside but at the side of a broad path in Pittenweem. A sort of rustic stone porch has been built around the narrow entrance, which is further guarded by an iron gate emblazoned with a Celtic cross – it’s a tremendously peaceful place. The clamour of the world outside is dulled and you can be still in a space where the constant demands on your senses are abated for a moment.
Cove Wynd, Pittenweem, Fife, KY10 2LE