Stately home owners cash in on a summer of staycations

Rent an heir B&B! As stately home owners cash in on a summer of staycations, check out these palatial piles to make you Lord (or Lady) of the manor

Times are tough for stately home owners. Yes, really — for the aristos still hanging on to their ancestral homes, owning a palace is the ultimate money pit.

Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed, is said to cost more than £1.1 million a year for the Earl of Carnarvon to maintain (before any repairs).

So it’s no surprise that earls, dukes and lords are inviting hoi polloi in to help pay to keep the roof over their heads. From escape rooms to murder-mystery dinners, film shoots and drone tours, these entreprenerial peers have all sorts of ideas. Some stately homes even offer a stay — as long as you’ve got plenty of money to spare.

Here, LIBBY GALVIN tells you which nobles will have you over for the night . . .    

STEP INTO LIZ TAYLOR’S DREAM HOME

Stays are limited to a fortnight, because Eleanor is adamant she will not allow her home to become ‘a factory nor a venue’

Where: Kirtlington Park, Oxfordshire.

The price: £28,000 a week for 16 guests.

The lowdown: The most recent stately home to throw open its doors to overnight guests, it was announced last week that Kirtlington would be available for private stays for a princely sum.

Owner Peter Buxton’s predecessor, second cousin Christopher, famously refused to sell the Grade-I listed mansion to a very insistent Elizabeth Taylor.

Built in 1782 for politician and second baronet James Dashwood, it stayed in his family until 1909 and has belonged to Peter and Eleanor Buxton since 2017. Prince Charles has been known to play polo on the estate, and the building has previously earned its keep by setting the scene for ITV’s Ruth Rendell Mysteries.

Now, you and 15 of your closest friends can stay over. The mansion is the second largest in Oxfordshire after Blenheim Palace.

Guests enjoy the run of eight bedrooms, a drawing room, saloon, great hall and a library, as well as a cinema and gym.

Stays are limited to a fortnight, because Eleanor is adamant she will not allow her home to become ‘a factory nor a venue’. 

FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF TV’S QUEEN VIC 

Carlton Towers belongs to the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, but has been occupied by his younger brother Lord Gerald and his wife Emma since 1990

Where: Carlton Towers, North Yorkshire.

Carlton Towers belongs to the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, but has been occupied by his younger brother Lord Gerald and his wife Emma since 1990

The price: From £46,200 a week for exclusive use of 16 rooms in spring to £62,200 a week in summer, before meals and activities.

The lowdown: You might recognise this Victorian Gothic pile with its imposing clock tower from ITV’s Victoria.

Carlton Towers belongs to the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Edward Fitzalan-Howard, but has been occupied by his younger brother Lord Gerald and his wife Emma since 1990. They are not afraid to hawk out their home, using the proceeds from renting out the estate as a film set, for weddings, and overnight stays in 16 of the bedrooms (including one with a ‘secret’ priest hole) to keep them afloat.

But it’s not as hard-going as it was in 2009, when they were forced to sell off £2 million-worth of family silver and heirlooms to finance repairs. ‘Things are tough. We have to be inventive — there is not much we wouldn’t do to save our home,’ Lord Gerald said.

CHUKKERS AWAY AT HOME OF POLO  

As well as the luxurious bedrooms, dining room and library, other facilities for guests to enjoy include both an indoor and outdoor pool, as well as a bowling alley

Where: Cowdray Park, West Sussex.

The price: £80,000 a week bed and breakfast for 44 guests in 22 bedrooms over summer.

The lowdown: World-renowned as the home of British polo, Cowdray Park was inherited by the 4th Viscount Cowdray Michael Pearson in 1995.

The viscount, a former film producer who attended Gordonstoun with Prince Charles, moved out of the main house in 2010 to a smaller property on the 16,500-acre estate on which the ruins of the original big house still stand after they were destroyed by fire in 1793.

He is said to see the Tudor house as a ‘burden’ he does not wish his son, Peregrine, to inherit, but attempts to sell the beautiful house have so far failed.

That is great news for tourists with deep pockets. As well as the luxurious bedrooms, dining room and library, other facilities for guests to enjoy include both an indoor and outdoor pool, as well as a bowling alley.

DOMINIC WEST PLAYS KING OF THE CASTLE  

It must be worth almost £42,000 a week to take part in Gaelic football on the lawns, a scavenger hunt, falconry and Irish dancing — or to spot The Wire’s West

Where: Glin Castle, County Limerick, Ireland.

The price: £21,732-£41,925 for a week, for 15 rooms.

The lowdown: Hop over to the Emerald Isle for Irish hospitality courtesy of actor Dominic West and wife Catherine Fitzgerald, whose father was Desmond John Villiers FitzGerald, 29th Knight of Glin.

Glin has been in the family for 800 years, from medieval ruin to the current castle, built in the 18th century. After Desmond’s death, most of its contents were auctioned off and the castle was put up for sale. However, Catherine says: ‘The house has its own spirit, which won’t let us out of its grasp.’

Now commoners can book in. It must be worth almost £42,000 a week to take part in Gaelic football on the lawns, a scavenger hunt, falconry and Irish dancing — or to spot The Wire’s West (who calls himself ‘the Basil Fawlty of Limerick’).

BE NEXT IN SUCCESSION FOR THIS FORTRESS

It looks like a medieval Norman fortress, but was built between 1810 and 1824 by the 1st Earl Somers. It is still owned by descendant James Hervey-Bathurst and his family

Where: Eastnor Castle, Herefordshire.

The price: £31,150 plus VAT for a week for ten people, or £57,540 for 23. Includes all meals.

The lowdown: If you feel like you’ve been to Eastnor Castle before, it could be because you’ve seen it in HBO drama Succession when it hosted Shiv Roy’s extravagant wedding.

It looks like a medieval Norman fortress, but was built between 1810 and 1824 by the 1st Earl Somers. It is still owned by descendant James Hervey-Bathurst and his family, who — due to being ‘overhoused and underfunded’, in his ex-wife’s words — live in smaller rooms while allowing the rest of the house to be used for filming or hire. Twelve grand bedrooms are up for grabs within the castle walls.

‘Our private quarters are smaller rooms, and we mostly live in the kitchen,’ says James, who admits the family only have full run of the house two or three times a year when they shut the place for a few days.

JOIN THE UPPER CRUST AT SCONE PALACE

For a more affordable option, book the three- bedroom, self-catered Balvaird wing for £3,100 a week for a group of up to seven

Where: Scone Palace, Perth.

The price: Exclusive use of the whole palace for up to 24 people is about £16,000 a night, or £112,000 a week

The lowdown: Scone, where Robert the Bruce and Macbeth were crowned, is home to the 9th Earl of Mansfield, Alexander David Mungo Murray, his wife and their four children.

They have welcomed The Great British Bake Off and The Antiques Roadshow in to film in the grounds.

For a more affordable option, book the three- bedroom, self-catered Balvaird wing for £3,100 a week for a group of up to seven. 

PS… THE NEW-MONEY PAD RUN BY PIPPA’S FATHER-IN-LAW

Your host is likely to be none other than James Middleton, little brother to Pippa and the Duchess of Cambridge. James promises to show guests things ‘they don’t necessarily know they can do’

Where: Affric Lodge, Glen Affric Estate, Inverness.

The price: £138,600 plus VAT for seven nights for 16 guests, all-inclusive.

The lowdown: Owned by David Matthews, who on buying the estate in 2008 gained the courtesy title Laird of Glen Affric. The land will eventually be passed on to James Matthews and his wife Pippa (nee Middleton).

It’s a fabulous if rather ‘new money’ addition to the stately home rental market — a laird is a Scottish landowner and not a title given by a monarch or inherited.

But at Glen Affric, there are many lord of the manor activities on offer. Guests at the Victorian hunting lodge can sample deer stalking and partridge shooting in 10,000 acres of grounds, plus trout fishing on the loch.

The reading room walls were painted by Sir Edwin Landseer, famous for the lions in Trafalgar Square.

Your host is likely to be none other than James Middleton, little brother to Pippa and the Duchess of Cambridge. James promises to show guests things ‘they don’t necessarily know they can do’ — seaplane charters, ceilidh dancing and yoga.

HAVE BREAKFAST WITH THE SEYMOUR FAMILY

Bradley House became the home of the Seymour family (yes, that Seymour — Jane was the third wife of Henry VIII) after they left Wolf Hall. You can book up to three ensuite bedrooms in a wing of the property

Where: Bradley House, Wiltshire. 

The price: £3,695 for seven guests for a week.

The lowdown: A real HeirBnB — one of the few stately homes on the Airbnb site. Home to the 19th Duke of Somerset John Seymour and family, you book directly with John, declared a ‘superhost’ by the site and given rave reviews for the breakfasts he cooks for guests.

Bradley House became the home of the Seymour family (yes, that Seymour — Jane was the third wife of Henry VIII) after they left Wolf Hall. You can book up to three ensuite bedrooms in a wing of the property.

‘This ancient house has belonged to the family since it was built circa 1690,’ says John. ‘My wife and four children enjoy showing the house to visitors and explaining the many historical connections to British royalty. We speak French, Italian and Spanish between us all.’

FISHING AT THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE’S SEAT

Built in 1185 by King John, it has played host to famous names including Sir Walter Raleigh, Fred Astaire and John F. Kennedy, as well as providing the set for ITV film Northanger Abbey

Where: Lismore Castle, County Waterford, Republic of Ireland.

The price: From £68,450 for a seven-night stay for up to 16 guests in high season.

The lowdown: The Irish seat of the 12th Duke of Devonshire, Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish, the Gothic Revival-style castle is lived in by his son, Lord Burlington. Well, an apartment is — the rest is available for private hire.

Built in 1185 by King John, it has played host to famous names including Sir Walter Raleigh, Fred Astaire and John F. Kennedy, as well as providing the set for ITV film Northanger Abbey.

Shooting, fishing, diving, surfing and horse-racing are on offer — and the Lismore point-to-point each March is top class. 

 

 

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