“Form follows function” is a maxim observed by most modern architects. But before American skyscraper designer Louis Sullivan coined the phrase in his famous 1896 article, such principles were less important. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, landscape design was dominated by the theories of Romanticism, where emotion ruled over reason and the senses over intellect. Creative spirit soared and formal traditions went by the wayside. There was an obsessive interest in ethnic cultural origins; the more exotic, remote and mysterious the more appealing. In architecture, the movement expressed itself through eccentric buildings constructed primarily for aesthetic pleasure. These ornamental structures were made to be seen and, as such, became known as ‘follies’, from the French ‘folie’, meaning foolishness. Depending on the owner’s tastes, a folly might manifest as a crumbling miniature castle constructed within the grounds of a stately home, or a medieval tower overgrown with vines.

Today, during a time when exotic travel is less attainable and curious travellers are searching for escapism on the doorstep, homeowners are once again becoming creative with their estates. From ornate waterside constructions to forgotten farm buildings reimagined, the folly is making a comeback. Here we showcase five eccentric, eye-catching British dwellings you can claim as your own.

The Walled Garden

Perhaps the most elaborate vegetable store in the whole of England, this charming old folly began life as a potato house for Dyrham Park in the late 18th to early 19th century. Tucked away within what was the kitchen gardens to the Baroque country house, this attractive dwelling sits on the western edge of the Cotswolds near Bath and offers guests a historical escape with a modern twist. In contrast to the castellated Bath stone exterior (restored by the now-owners) inside is a clean and contemporary haven.


Daring design and romantic idealism come together in perfect matrimony at this luxury country house in Surrey. The stately home house was designed in Tudor style, with eye-catching dwellings scattered all throughout its 20 acres of grounds. From the Moroccan-style pool house with Moorish windows to the hexagonal yoga studio and Hobbit-inspired barbecue house hidden in the woodland, Rhapsody and its outbuildings capture the very essence of modern folly design.

Thornemead Castle

Not a folly by traditional terms, but if you're looking for an elaborate English homestay to write home about, you can't get much better than an actual castle. Restored to all its former glory with the help of English Heritage, Thornemead Castle holds within its ramparts a treasure trove of antiques, history and romance. Brass chandeliers hang from ornate ceilings, curved oak bookcases house lyrical idioms and Pugin-designed wallpaper akin to that found throughout Westminster Palace decorates the drawing room.

Dragonwood Boat House

Rutland is England's smallest county and, like this boathouse west of Oakham, lives up to its motto, Multum in Parvo meaning 'much in little'. Built in 2013 to emulate a traditional Victorian bolthole, Dragonwood Boat House is the lovechild of talented local craftsmen and Harlequin interior designers, who gave a traditionally-fashioned boat house colourful Italian twist. 


Settled within 11 acres of pastoral paradise near the Bohemian town of Glastonbury, life at this self-catering country home was designed to be nothing but fun. While the house flaunts a spa Jacuzzi, tennis court, swimming pool, flight and racing simulators, it’s time spent in the gardens which one will savour forever. A morning well spent is one that includes a jaunt across the fishing lake on the row boat, where a round structure with a thatched roof makes a handsome spot for kicking back with a book. Or, you may prefer to admire the circular folly from the sumptuous vantage point of black slipper bath in the master bedroom.