Stately stays: 5 castles, country estates and follies to bed down in during your next UK visit
If the romance and architecture of period dramas have got you burning for a history-drenched vacation, check out these British estates for a stay that’s less Airbnb and more AirbnBridgerton
Period dramas have a lot to answer for. Not only do they feature incredible costumes that are enough to make any woman dream about being transported back to the days of corsets, but they also showcase some of the most beautiful stately homes ever built, in which dashing young men stride about in breeches, with a wagging hunting dog by their side.
Highclere Castle, England
If you’ve always wanted to stay in the impressive Hampshire estate that doubles as Downton Abbey in the hit TV show, then we have good news and bad news. Although the main house is open for the public to visit, it isn’t open for overnight guests. However, there are two properties on the grounds that visitors can check in to.
About 175 years old, Grotto Lodge is a unique circular cottage in the estate grounds. Designed by renowned British architect Thomas Allom, who also worked on the UK’s Houses of Parliament, it has two double bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room and a kitchen, with classic English interiors throughout.
Also available is the London Lodge situated at the entrance to the Highclere Castle Estate, which was built in the 18th century by the first Earl of Carnarvon, and marks the formal entrance to the estate. It has one bedroom, a kitchen and a living room.
A brief history: Highclere Castle was built in 1679, although the estate can be dated back beyond 749, and is the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. The house features an Egyptian exhibition, in honour of the 5th Earl, who famously accompanied archaeologist Howard Carter on his discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. The park in which the estate is, has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Grotto Lodge costs £1,600 ($2,220) for a three-night stay; check-in on Fridays only. London Lodge costs £850 for a two-night stay for two people; www.highclerecastle.co.uk
Glenapp Castle, Scotland
As befitting a castle in the wilds of Ayrshire, if Glenapp’s walls could speak, they would have plenty to share.
Finished in 1870, it now has penthouse apartments and suites available, and guests can choose from garden or sea views that look out across to Ireland’s Isle of Arran on a clear day.
There’s also the four-bedroom, 370-square-metre penthouse apartment, which offers views of Ailsa Craig island, the Isle of Arran and the Mull of Kintyre. Here you’ll have a private chef and personal butler, as well as a sauna and private elevator. Plus, there’s a spiral stone staircase up to the castle turrets – perfect for night-time star-gazing.
A brief history: Designed by famed Scottish architect David Bryce, the castle is considered a renowned example of the Scottish Baronial style of architecture. It was once home to pioneering aviator Elsie Mackay, who on March 13, 1928 set out with her co-pilot Walter Hinchcliffe to cross the Atlantic in a single-engine monoplane, and both were never seen again.
Prices will be updated once the castle reopens in March 2021; www.glenappcastle.com
Roch Castle Hotel, Wales
Built by the Norman knight Adam de Rupe in the 12th century, Roch Castle honours its rich history by naming its rooms after defining moments in its past. Stay in the one-bed Ap Gruffydd Room – named after the “Last Leader”, the Prince of Wales from 1258 until 1282; the De Rupe, the highest room in the house named after its founder; or the Lucy Walter Room in the upper turrets. The Nest, situated in a round turret, also makes for a unique stay.
One-and-a-half-metre-thick walls ensure you won’t be disturbed during your stay, and the fourth floor viewing platform provides unparalleled views of Skomer Island, St David’s Peninsula in the Celtic Sea and the rolling Preseli Hills.
A brief history: The Lucy Walter Room is named after an inhabitant who later became a courtesan of Charles II, and gave birth to James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth. During the English Civil War of 1642 to 1651, the castle changed hands twice, causing the Walter family to flee when it was captured for a second time by the Parliamentary Forces and burned in 1644.
Hotel prices will be updated in March 2021, and open to guests with a vaccination card; www.rochcastle.com
Helen’s Tower, Northern Ireland
Valentine’s Day might be over for this year, but romance will easily be reignited with a stay for two in this quaint tower, deep in the forests of County Down, Northern Ireland.
"Enchanting" is the word often used to describe this three-storey stone folly in the woods of the Clandeboye Estate, which was built by the 5th Baron Dufferin and Claneboye and named after his mother, Helen.
With a roaring open fire in the sitting room, circular stone staircases and impressive Scottish Baronial architecture, there’s also a reading room and views of the Welsh mountains, Scottish shoreline and the Isle of Man from the roof terrace.
A brief history: The Baron used the tower to house his and his mother’s poetry. He also commissioned works by famous poets over the years, including Helen’s Tower by Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate during Queen Victoria's reign.
The Tower sleeps two and is available for adults only; from £292 for two nights; bookings can only be made through the Irish Landmark Trust; www.irishlandmark.com
Cliveden House, England
This Italianate mansion in the county of Buckinghamshire has a plethora of accommodation options, which includes staying in the main house or taking a cottage on the estate.
With grounds that slope down to the River Thames, you’ll be wandering in the footsteps of a former Prince of Wales, two Dukes and an Earl who have all called it home over the years. And if you like a side helping of intrigue with your stately stay, you'll be interested to know the house played a part in the UK’s notorious Profumo political scandal of the 1960s, with John Profumo and Christine Keeler meeting at a summer party there.
There are a variety of rooms and suites in which to stay, and many have traditional open fireplaces with views of the courtyard and gardens.
A brief history: Over the centuries, Cliveden has elicited starkly different reactions. Lady Frederick Cavendish waxed lyrical about the house in 1863, writing: “When one lives in Paradise, how hard it must be to ascend in heart and mind to Heaven.” Meanwhile, British politician Harold Nicolson decried in 1936: “To live here, would be like living on the stage of the Scala theatre in Milan.”
The current house was designed in 1851, replacing the original, which had been destroyed by fire. Purchased in 1893 by the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor, his son the 2nd Viscount Astor and his wife Nancy Langhorne entertained the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Joseph Kennedy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Franklin D Roosevelt, Lawrence of Arabia, Rudyard Kipling and more at the house.
Classic rooms start from £545 per night, suites from £865 per night; the three-bedroom Spring Cottage costs from £2,250 per night with a minimum two-night stay; www.clivedenhouse.co.uk
Updated: February 21, 2021 07:06 PM