Unless your name is Kate Middleton your chances of living in a castle are probably as slim as the royal bride-to-be. But how about renting one?
Staycationing is forecast to be the popular choice for family holidays and, fortunately, there is a wide variety of homes available, from fairytale castles, eco-cabins and modernist miracles to - for next year - a timber boat washed up on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank.
The Landmark Trust (landmarktrust.org.uk) has 183 historic homes to let in the UK, including The Pineapple (from £449 a week). This two-person Georgian folly near Stirling in Scotland dates from the 18th century and is said to have been built by a sailor returning from the Caribbean, where the custom was for seafarers to place a pineapple on their doorposts to indicate their safe arrival home. Or there’s the Gothic Temple in Stowe, Buckinghamshire, a gloriously elaborate domed building within Stowe Gardens. It sleeps four people, from £915 a week.
The National Trust has some 400 "cottages" to rent (nationaltrustcottages.co.uk). In fact, these include manor houses, water towers, even sports pavilions - plus a completely circular roundhouse, which is a former gamekeeper’s cottage built in woodland on the Ickworth Estate in Suffolk in the 19th century; you can expect to see deer grazing in the garden. The Roundhouse sleeps six, and prices start from £596 rising to £1,436 a week.
For the full landed-gentry experience, Guyzance Hall in Northumberland comes with 12 bedrooms and 800 acres of grounds, including a pool, tennis and fishing. The listed 19th-century pile will cost from £4,400 a week (but does sleep 24, which works out at an austerity-friendly £183 a head). It is let by HomeAway.co.uk (reference number: 417412).
Living Architecture (living-architecture.co.uk) was set up by Alain de Botton with the idea of providing the chance to occupy extraordinary architecture. Its most famous project to date is the Balancing Barn, close to the Suffolk coast. This astonishing building does exactly what its name implies: Dutch architects MVRDV have designed a barn-shaped structure, which sleeps eight, balanced over a slope. Prices start at £1,419 for a week. Click here for more on the Balancing Barn.
Later in 2011, Living Architecture will launch the Long House on the north Norfolk Coast, by two of the UK’s leading modernists, Michael and Patty Hopkins. The imposing, flint-built house echoes the ancient churches and barns of the county. It sleeps 10 and will be available from November, priced £1,465 a week.
Most extraordinary of all, next year Living Architecture will unveil a "pop-up" holiday home - a one-bedroom "boat" perched on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank. The temporary installation, by David Kohn Architects and artist Fiona Banner, will be available to rent during next year and bookings start this September. Prices to be announced.
Natural Retreats (naturalretreats.com) has a cluster of 18 cool timber-and-glass lodges near Richmond in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. The lodges have won a gold award for sustainability from Green Tourism. Each sleeps up to six people, a week’s stay costs from £560 (rising to £1,510 in high season).
Forest Holidays (forestholidays.co.uk) offers a double whammy: high-spec homes within the National Forests. The scheme is run jointly by the Forestry Commission and The Camping and Caravanning Club and there are a total of four sites in England and three in Scotland. The newest, and most architecturally thrilling, lies within the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, with sustainable cabins blending seamlessly among the trees. Prices start at £366 a week for a "copper beech" cabin that sleeps six, rising to £1,067 for a 10-bed treehouse.
For the wow factor, there is The Hide (right), a modern steel-and-glass house dramatically cantilevered over the waters of Somerford Lagoon. It was designed by AR Design Studio and is the centrepiece of the Howells Estate near Cirencester, Gloucestershire.
The Hide sleeps 16 and prices start at £2,500 a week, rising to £4,000 at new year. For information see howellsestate.com.