The world is full of quirky homes, something the average traveler eventually discovers. Some houses are perched on towering rocks in the middle of rivers, others border the sides of steep cliffs, while some are so tiny that you’re forced to hunch over when you go inside. Too strange or impossible to live in, a few eventually become tourist attractions. Here’s a sample:
Quay House, Wales
You think your living space is cramped? Spare a thought for the former inhabitants of Quay House in Conwy, Wales. The entire home is about the size of most people’s bathrooms, with a floor space measuring just three metres by 1.8 metres and a total height of three metres!
No surprise then, that it’s listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest house in Great Britain. The tiny abode had been occupied for a few hundred years until 1900, when the local council declared it unfit for human habitation. The last owner was a fisherman named Robert Jones, who would have found it a particularly tight squeeze considering his height – 6 ft. 3 in.
The house, which is painted red on the outside, is now a tourist attraction. There are just two rooms – the main floor, which has a tiny living room with some historical pictures, and the bedroom on the second floor with a bed and cabinet. It’s not possible to enter the upper floor due to structural instability and the small size, though it can easily be viewed from a step ladder. Cooking and washing areas would have been located outside. A lady in traditional Welsh clothing usually stands outside Conwy House, which has an impressive (and much larger) neighbour – Conwy Castle, the 13th-century fortress, which is one of the great castles of Wales and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hanging Houses, Spain
They call them las Casas Colgadas, or the Hanging Houses. The unusual dwellings, which date to medieval times, are in the historic Spanish town of Cuenca, east of Madrid. Built above a spectacular steep cliff wall overlooking the Huécar River, the balconies of these narrow three- and four-storey homes literally hang over the bluffs. By the early 1900s the homes were abandoned and lay in ruins, though they’ve since been restored with many original features preserved including a late Gothic arch, part of a staircase and a coffered ceiling in the Mudéjar style.
The houses are best appreciated from the outside during the day or at night when they’re illuminated. In the 1960s a pair of the hanging houses were converted to the Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol, making it possible to see the structures from the inside, along with a permanent collection of 129 abstract paintings and sculptures by Spanish artists.
The Little White House, Canada
What makes the Little White House in Saguenay, Que. so extraordinary isn’t its age or appearance but its precarious-looking position and the fact that it’s still standing. In July 1996, one of the worst flash floods in recent Canadian history hit the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region after 280 mm (11 inches) of rain fell in the span of a few hours, the equivalent to the amount of rain usually received in a month. Thousands of residents were evacuated, 56 buildings were destroyed and many homes were swept away. But not the Little White House.
It remained unharmed as the raging waters of the Chicoutimi River flowed around it. The house was spared in part because it was built on solid rock and also because its earlier owners took precautions after a previous flood and raised the dwelling on higher concrete foundations.
Now, the century-old home has become a symbol of resilience and is a local tourist attraction. La Petite Maison Blanche, as it’s known in French, has been preserved as an historical park and museum that commemorates the flood. The exhibition is on three floors and includes a film, games for young people, souvenirs and a unique collection of photographs. Unlike most attractions, this one comes with a guarantee. If you’re not completely satisfied with your visit, your money will be refunded, no questions asked!
Castle Ward, Ireland
Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount Bangor and his wife Lady Anne could never agree on anything, including the kind of house they wanted. So rather than argue, they did the only sensible thing a couple with money could do. They built a home to satisfy both their desires.
Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland, is an 18th-century mansion built in two contrasting architectural styles. The front, built of Bath Stone and overlooking Strangford Lough, was designed in Georgian style, the Viscount’s favourite, while the rear of the house is Gothic, Lady Anne’s preference. The interior is also a mix of styles including the Gothic library (complete with a secret panel), a Neo-Classical mansion hall with Italian colonnades, an extravagant fan vaulted ceiling in the boudoir, as well as Rococo stucco and pedimented doorways. Describe by some as one of the oddest homes in Europe, Castle Ward became a National Trust property in 1952 and is open to the public year-round. Located three km from the village of Strangford, the mansion is situated on 280 hectares of formal gardens and woodlands.