Whether you’re looking for niche or baronial glamour, it’s possible to stay in some of the UK’s oldest properties. Some are part of organizations such as the National Trust, Landmark Trust or English Heritage while private owners tend to use Loyd & Townsend Rose. staying at one of the L&TR properties – and those listed below – allows you to soak up history in a way not possible on a day trip. An extensive portfolio includes Inveraray Castle on the shores of Loch Fyne.
Owned by the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, it sleeps up to 13 people, with ancestor portraits, an armory and grounds full of madness. It’s a classic sporting area, with fishing, shooting and stalking in the heart of Perthshire.
If you have a small group you can stay in an equally venerable environment. From Henry VIII, Hampton Court became the place the Royal Family used to get away from London quickly. On the banks of the Thames, the Landmark Trust now rents The Georgian House to holidaymakers. Next to the real tennis court used by Henry VIII, an enclosed garden is reserved for you and the attic rooms offer superb views over the roofs and the courtyard. Seating eight people and featuring antique furnishings, you get free entry to the palace during opening hours and to the park after hours.
In Suffolk, Ickworth is one of the National Trust’s most flamboyant properties; an Italianate rotunda with paintings by Velasquez, Titian and Gainsborough while the park has fantasy, monuments and sheep. You’ll also find the Round House there, in the woods near Fairy Lake. With curved walls, a wood-burning stove, three bedrooms and deer grazing nearby; you also get free entry to Ickworth House.
Cardigan Castle in Wales has both medieval ramparts to climb and Regency gardens to explore. Opened to the public in 2015, there is a selection of self-catering apartments as well as guest rooms. Overlooking the River Teifi, head to Gardener’s Cottage, which has antiques and atmosphere.
In Yorkshire, Rievaulx Abbey is one of English Heritage’s heritage gems. At Refectory Cottage, built in the 19th century, guest amenities include a powerful torch so you can wander around what was one of England’s largest and most impressive monasteries before Henry VIII took it. dissolved in 1538. Accommodating four people in two bedrooms, this cottage could be built on a more modest scale, but the setting is still spectacular.
On the Northumberland coast. Bamburgh Castle is privately owned. With Anglo-Saxon foundations, a Norman keep and nearly destroyed during the Wars of the Roses, the castle has three independent properties with views over the Bamburgh Sands, the castle cricket ground and private terraces.
In Devon, Tiverton Castle dates from 1106 and is now a mix of romantic ruins, walled gardens and a castle that is still privately owned. A visit will introduce you to its secret passageways and medieval toilets, Civil War armor and a wealth of eclectic content. There are five vacation rentals around the castle, with lots of old world charm.