Isolated or castellated: country houses, it's all for rent

From tree-houses to country piles, every kind of second-home option can be rented, tried and tested
This summer we don't need much of an excuse to crack open the bubbly. The Olympics is a perfect peg to hang a celebration on, but a special anniversary may also bring family and friends together.

Whatever the party you are planning, booking a fabulous backdrop for it is a good place to start.

Coastal cottages in Cornwall
Radio days: Guglielmo Marconi built these cottages and a station in Cornwall to send the first transatlantic message. They cost from £353 a week through the National Trust

Organisations such as English Heritage and The National Trust offer elegant and often inventive venues for house parties. Choose between a baronial Scottish castle, a Devon lighthouse or a 14th century moated manor in Suffolk.

Other companies go further, providing not only the venue but also a fully inclusive and staffed package.

Andrew Loyd had a 20-year career in hospitality working at The Dorchester and then as a butler to a succession of Wall Street tycoons before establishing Loyd & Townsend Rose in 1999.

The company offers bespoke holidays in 50 stately homes, mansions and castles across the UK and Ireland, allowing guests to live like nobility from a weekend to a month.

"The luxury rental market is changing," says Loyd. "People want a special house, but care more about comfort than about the number of Ducal portraits. No one wants creaking pipes and chilly rooms. At the top level people are very picky."

A week at one of Loyd & Townsend Rose's properties with five to 25 bedrooms, could cost a group of 18 £30,000.

Princess Diana’s childhood home, Althorp House
Royal connections: Princess Diana’s childhood home, Althorp House, is available to rent (; 01835 824 642)
“Treehouse suites” at Chewton Glen in the New Forest
Here’s a new one: rent a “treehouse suite” at Chewton Glen in the New Forest from £490 a week (canopy and

For that you get full run of the property, often including heated pools, tennis courts and acres of parkland. And guests can tailor-make a fully staffed house-party package, combining all the comforts of a hotel with a more personal twist.

"Service and attention to detail really matter to rental clients," says Loyd, "though today it's less Downton Abbey, more informal country cool."

Loyd will provide anything from bagpipes summoning you to dinner to Zumba fitness classes.

When Karen Beaumont hired Kincardine Castle in the Highlands last year, her party of 32 was entertained by a ceilidh band accompanied by Braveheart-style Scottish warriors.

"The advantage of renting an entire property is privacy," says Karen. "Most of all it is about the level of service that allows you to create bespoke menus and entertainment. We spent £230 a person per night, comparable with a top hotel for a special occasion."

Loyd & Townsend Rose properties include Althorp, the childhood home of Princess Diana, and Brocket Hall, an 18th century pile in 543 acres of Hertfordshire.

A real dazzler is Eastcourt House, a 17th century Cotswolds manor house sleeping 14, with billiard room and heated pool.

The owners, an entrepreneur and an artist with a young family, have renovated with a light touch, mixing contemporary art and furniture with oak-panelled rooms. A week there costs £24,000.

"These are substantial family homes, filled with porcelain, antiques and English watercolours, whose owners like to let them for part of the year," adds Loyd, who takes on only 20 per cent of the houses he is offered. "Our guests appreciate such special surroundings and we look after them well."

Pink cottage, Nant Las, in North Wales
Pretty in pink: Nant Las, in North Wales, costs from £346 a week (; 0844 800 2070)
The Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottage, in Lynton, north Devon
Great view: the Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottage, in Lynton, north Devon, costs from £646 a week via the National Trust


Holidays in Britain are an increasingly popular option, with companies offering a selection of intriguing holiday homes to rent.


There are six cottages to rent on the Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire ( from £490 a week. In Norfolk, a cottage at Sandringham that sleeps six starts at £600 per week (


Glamorous Camping — glamping — might seem an oxymoron, but Cosy Under Canvas ( provides the more comfortable camping option. Close to Hay on Wye in Wales, its site has teepees and two geodesic domes with comfy beds to retreat to after a night around the campfire, from £295 for a weekend.

Canopy and Stars lists glamping opportunities on its website, from yurts on the Isle of Wight to tree-houses in Norfolk, but top billing for pure luxury goes to Chewton Glen, a fivestar hotel in the New Forest, where treetop suites are unveiled this summer. The six suites float over the valley and have every comfort, but with a pleasing eco-twist (


Hire an original VW Camper Van and enjoy the open road. One Off Places ( has four lovingly restored vans based in the Cotswolds including baby-blue Bertie, sleeping five, and Lily, a sage-green 1973 classic. Prices from £475 a week.


Loyd & Townsend Rose: 01835 824 642
English Heritage: english-heritage.
National Trust:

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