Whether you want battlements or baronial glamor, it’s possible to stay in some of the U.K.’s very oldest properties. Some are part of organizations such as the National Trust, the Landmark Trust or English Heritage while private owners tend to use Loyd & Townsend Rose. taying in one of L&TR properties – and the ones listed below – allow you to soak up history in a way that’s not possible on a day trip. An extensive portfolio includes Inveraray Castle on the banks of Loch Fyne.
Owned by the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, it sleeps up to 13 guests, with ancestral portraits, armoury hall and folly-filled grounds. It’s a classic sporting estate, with fishing, shooting and stalking in the heart of Perthshire.
If you’ve got a smaller group you can stay in just as venerable surroundings. From Henry VIII onwards, Hampton Court became the place that the Royal Family used as a quick escape from London. On the bank of the Thames, the Landmark Trust now lets The Georgian House to holidaymakers. Next to the real tennis court Henry VIII used, there’s a walled garden that’s yours alone and the attic bedrooms give superb views onto the roofs and courtyard. Sleeping eight and with antique furniture, you’ll get free entry to the palace during opening hours and the grounds 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 parkland has whimsy, monuments and sheep. You’ll also find the Round House there, in woodland near Fairy Lake. With curved walls, a wood-burning stove, three bedrooms and deer that graze nearby; you’ll also get free entry to Ickworth House.
Cardigan Castle in Wales has both medieval battlements to clamber and Regency gardens to explore. Opened to the public in 2015, there are a selection of self-catering apartments but also some B&B rooms. Overlooking the River Teifi, head for Gardener’s Cottage, which has antiques and atmosphere.
In Yorkshire, Rievaulx Abbey is one of the jewels of English Heritage’s properties. At Refectory Cottage, built in the 19th century, amenities for guests include a powerful torch so you can wander around what was one of England’s most important and impressive monasteries before Henry VIII dissolved it in 1538. Sleeping four in two bedrooms, this cottage may be built on a more modest scale, but the setting is still spectacular.
Up the coast in Northumberland. Bamburgh Castle is privately owned. With Anglo-Saxon foundations, a Norman keep and nearly destroyed during the War of the Roses, the castle has three self-catering properties with views of Bamburgh sands, the castle’s cricket pitch and private terraces.
In Devon, Tiverton Castle dates from 1106 and is now a mixture of romantic ruins, walled gardens and a castle that’s still privately owned. A tour will introduce you to its secret passages and medieval toilets, Civil War armour and a host of eclectic contents. There are five holiday lets around the castle, with plenty of ancient charm.