Abandoned WWII Bunker Transformed Into Luxury Vacation Rental

The site is home to a working dairy farm. It’s on England’s Dorset coast.

WWII radar bunker

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

Nestled within the captivating Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a protected landscape of national importance, a series of bunkers offer breathtaking sea views across Ringstead Bay.

The landowners, who run a dairy farm, discovered the subterranean structures hidden away on the land and last year commissioned an architectural firm to convert one into a functional vacation rental.

The architects tried to come up with a design that would celebrate the bunker’s history. The ‘bomb blast’ window is a nod to that.

WW2 radar bunker

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

According to architectural firm Corstorphine and Wright, the owner’s brief was to “celebrate the enormous historical significance of the structure” while also ensuring that it was a “habitable and commercially viable space.”

The architects worked closely with heritage consultants to develop a proposal that would be approved, made more challenging due to the structure becoming Grade II-listed during the planning phase, which meant any material changes needed consent.

Jonny Plant, a director at Corstorphine & Wright, said one subtle nod to the bunker’s wartime past was to design and build a “bomb blast window.”

It was introduced because “we wanted to play on the history of the bunker,” he said.

The Transmitter Bunker was originally part of the Chain Home radar system used during WWII.

German fighter plane in front of English coast with towers of Chain Home radar system in 1940

Heinrich Hoffmann/ullstein bild via Getty Images

The Transmitter Bunker once served as a vital component of the RAF Ringstead radar station.

RAF Ringstead played a crucial role in the UK’s early-warning Chain Home radar system during World War II.

The Chain Home system’s main objective was to detect and signal the positions of incoming enemy aircraft, contributing significantly to the UK’s successful defense against German air raids.

The bunker was just one of several structures on the land, alongside array antennas strategically placed along the coast.

Decades of decay ended last year when one of the bunkers began to be transformed.

WWII radar bunker under grass and vines

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

RAF Ringstead was decommissioned in 1956, according to the Purbeck Gazette.

In the following decades, the bunkers remained abandoned, covered by overgrown grass and vines, said Sykes Holiday Cottages, which manages the vacation rental, in an email to Insider.

That was until last summer when the current owner enlisted the help of Corstorphine & Wright to start work on transforming one of the bunkers into a habitable space.

The transformation was completed in the spring of this year, breathing new life into the historic structure.

Exposed concrete walls are also part of the effort to maintain its historical character.

concrete walls ww2 radar bunk

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

The architects decided to keep the exposed concrete walls to maintain the character of the building, while also giving it a unique, industrial charm.

“Had we plastered and painted the walls, installed standard fittings and timber floors, all sense of the original building would have been lost,” said Plant of Corstorphine & Wright.

To keep the concrete walls, they had to put insulation on the outside and cover it with earth. It’s an energy-efficient solution.

ww2 radar bunker reearthing

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

Plant said they had to think smart to maintain the concrete but also to ensure that the bunker was also insulated and waterproof.

“In the end, the only option was to completely expose the bunker structure, insulate and waterproof the building from the outside, effectively wrapping it in insulation and waterproofing and then returning the earth and replanting,” he said.

Now, the building is once again submerged in the earth, blending in with the surrounding grassland.

Banked earth walls and the covering of foliage have allowed for a new habitat for wildlife, but it also cleverly insulates the building, minimizing energy requirements needed to heat the space, Corstorphine & Wright said.

The ‘bomb blast’ window is a key feature and brings in a lot of natural light.

Transmitter bunker with seats

Sykes Holiday Cottages

The window brings natural light into the bunker, making it feel airy and light.

Plant said it was a significant challenge to form the opening, which involved using a unique structural solution “to support the roof and retaining walls as well as allow the new glazed doors to sit seamlessly in the opening.”

But, he said, it was ultimately a success: “This solution is now completely concealed.”

The bunker can sleep up to four people.

Transmitter bunker bedroom

Sykes Holiday Cottages

The bunker has two bedrooms, one which comes with twin beds, and the other with a bunk.

It can comfortably fit four people and “two well-behaved dogs,” Sykes Holiday Cottages said.

The vacation rental company added that it “offers an unforgettable staycation experience.”

It also comes with a modern kitchen.

Transmitter bunker kitchen

Sykes Holiday Cottages

The kitchen — a new addition — comes with modern amenities. This includes an electric oven and hob, a fridge-freezer, and a slimline dishwasher.

It’s part of an open-plan living space that also includes a dining area and a sitting area, with an open fire for guests looking to enjoy a relaxing evening together.

There’s also a walk-in shower.

WW2 radar bunker bathroom

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

The bathroom has a walk-in shower, basin, toilet, underfloor heating, and a heated towel rail.

While less attractive, it harks back to the bunker’s past, with exposed pipes and plenty of concrete on display.

The reviews so far say it is ‘truly unique,’ peaceful, and a must-visit for history lovers.

ww2 radar bunker at night

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

The reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with guests praising the “glorious view” and how peaceful it is.

Many also mention how great it is for history lovers, with one review highlighting a little alcove in the property containing books and information on the bunker’s past.

According to Plant, that was the ultimate goal — for people to fully appreciate the bunker’s military past.

“It is imperative that when you stay in the bunker, you are aware that you are staying in a bunker, not any other holiday home, and that you are experiencing history,” he said. “I think we have managed to achieve this.”

Though the bunker pays homage to its past, it has a modern look and is ‘future-proofed.’

WW2 radar bunker inside

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

The historical layout of the bunker remains untouched, the architectural firm said, it has been updated with modern fittings. Overall, it has a quirky yet chic look.

As well as looking to the past, and the present, great focus has been placed on the future.

“It was really important that the design solution utilized the solidity and robustness of the existing structure, revealing and celebrating an important piece of history, whilst also future-proofing it for the client,” said Chris Atkins, founder of structural engineers Symmetry, which worked on the bunker.

Guests can stay there for 2 nights for about $890.

WW2 radar bunker bedroom

Will Scott/Corstorphine & Wright

At the moment, prices start from around £700 for a two-night stay, or about $890.

It’s not cheap, but Sykes Holiday Cottages say that it’s the perfect spot to make your base in Dorset for travelers and history buffs alike.

Sandsfoot Castle is nearby, which was constructed by King Henry VIII, as well as the equally historic Nothe Fort.

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