Written by Nora Walsh
When King Charles III is topped on May 6, the world will witness, for the primary time since his mom’s coronation in 1953, a ceremony that packs greater than 1,000 years of British pomp and pageantry right into a single day. But for some folks, in the future won’t be sufficient.
Britain teems with castles that supply vacationers an opportunity to stroll the identical halls and sleep in the identical quarters as monarchs of days passed by. Those who revel within the grand spectacle unfolding in Westminster Abbey might also need to soak within the noble lore within the previous stone partitions of a few of these castles.
“The sheer drama of the past thousand years of royal history in Great Britain is like a long-running soap opera,” mentioned Tracy Borman, a London-based royal historian and the creator of “Crown & Sceptre,” a historical past of the British monarchy from William the Conqueror to Charles III. “You’ve got the king who marries six times, the virgin queen, the crown changing hands numerous times on the battlefield, abdication, usurpations, scandal. It’s basically the best drama you could ever hope for.”
Sleeping in a fortress can really feel like taking part in a bit half in that sweeping story. “When people stay in a castle they never forget it,” mentioned Roger Masterson (aka the Castle Man), founding father of Celtic Castles, a journey firm and reserving platform that works with greater than 100 castles throughout the United Kingdom.
In the previous 12 months, Masterson mentioned he had observed a rise in Scottish fortress bookings specifically, which he attributed to the protection of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and the royal household’s journey again to London from Balmoral Castle, the place the queen usually spent her holidays. “It really showed off Scotland at its best,” he mentioned.
These six British castles might not be Balmoral, however they nonetheless give vacationers an opportunity to steep themselves in historical past and get a style of dwelling, if not like royalty, no less than like the Aristocracy.
Set in Kent, the “Garden of England,” simply 35 miles from Buckingham Palace, Hever Castle transports friends 700 years again in time with fairy-tale structure that encompasses a medieval sandstone gatehouse, a double moat and two portcullises reached through a drawbridge.
But it’s the fortress’s storied historical past because the childhood residence of Anne Boleyn, the second spouse of Henry VIII, that makes it a well-liked day journey from London. “Anne decided to marry Henry when she was living here in 1526, which ultimately led to her own coronation via the break with the Catholic Church in Rome — a decision that changed the face of Europe and the course of history,” mentioned Owen Emmerson, Hever Castle’s historian.
Visitors overnighting on the 27-room bed-and-breakfast or the four-bedroom cottage nestled throughout the property’s 125-acre grounds obtain complimentary entry to relic-filled exhibition rooms and a four-acre Italianate backyard. The fortress’s oak-and-walnut-paneled rooms home artifacts together with a prayer guide belonging to Boleyn that bears her inscriptions and signature. On exhibit by means of November are coronation robes worn by Cate Blanchett within the 1998 movie “Elizabeth.”
Rooms from 185 kilos (about $230) on weekdays, 210 kilos ($264) on weekends; day passes to the fortress and gardens price 23.10 kilos ($29), together with tax.
More than 40 Scottish kings, together with Macbeth, have been topped at Moot Hill, on the grounds of Scone Palace in central Scotland.
The Gothic edifice, which dates to the twelfth century and functioned because the seat of the Scottish Parliament for hundreds of years, has been the established residence of a protracted line of earls from the Murray household (which nonetheless owns the fortress). Travelers can hire the personal wing, which sleeps 16 friends in eight bedrooms. An ambiance of the Aristocracy reigns within the eating room, drawing room and lengthy gallery, that are stuffed with regal furnishings, together with ivory, porcelain, royal portraits and silk brocade wall coverings. Outside, the property’s 100 acres attraction guests with flowering gardens, 250-year-old Douglas fir bushes, and a star-shaped maze of inexperienced and copper beech hedges designed to evoke the Earl of Mansfield’s household tartan.
On guided excursions, guests can see a reproduction of the Stone of Scone, a sacred throne that was used throughout the coronation ceremonies of Scottish kings. “In 1296, it was taken by King Edward I of England and brought to Westminster Abbey,” mentioned Stephen Brannigan, head of Scone Palace.
Perhaps probably the most well-known go to to the palace got here in 1842 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed on their strategy to the Highlands (at appreciable expense to the Fourth Earl, who expressed in a letter the inconvenience of the go to, but additionally knew that declining was not an choice). Prices begin at 4,500 kilos per evening (about $5,660, two-night minimal) for 10 folks, together with breakfast and tax; every extra visitor is 450 kilos ($566) per evening.
Originally an Eleventh-century manor home constructed for a Saxon lord within the Bristol countryside, Thornbury Castle was transformed right into a fortified fortress by Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham, in 1510 with the permission of King Henry VIII.
Guests overnighting on the fortress, a 27-room Relais & Châteaux property, are met with a powerful stone facade studded with medieval-style battlements and gunports, oriel home windows, and manicured Tudor gardens throughout the 15-acre grounds. Opulent interiors embody interval décor, four-poster beds and silk wall hangings. Outdoors, friends can partake in conventional nation pastimes like archery and hatchet throwing, and even take pleasure in a falconry show.
“The Buckingham story is a microcosm of the Tudor era — politics, religion and beheadings,” mentioned Tony Cherry, a neighborhood historian and creator who leads guided excursions of the fortress, recounting its wealthy historical past, royal hyperlinks and architectural particulars. “Stafford, a potential successor to the throne, conspicuously flaunted his wealth and royal blood, which made him a threat to the king, who had him tried for treason and beheaded in 1521.” Subsequently, Henry VIII grew to become the proprietor of the fortress for 33 years and visited in 1535 along with his second spouse, Anne Boleyn, who misplaced her personal head the subsequent 12 months; friends can guide a lavish suite named in Henry’s honor. Rooms, with breakfast, from 280 kilos (about $352), together with tax.
“When our guests arrive, they comment on how it is like arriving at a grand home because there is no reception desk or no bar,” mentioned Jill Chalmers, managing director of Glenapp Castle, a Relais & Châteaux property perched on the rugged Ayrshire coast of southwestern Scotland.
Panoramic views of the Irish Sea and the volcanic island Ailsa Craig complement a storybook facade topped with turrets, towers and crenelations, and a 110-acre personal property stuffed with gardens and woodlands.
“We have personal hosts and butlers that tend to guests,” Chalmers mentioned, including that Glenapp Castle’s proprietor will usually give friends a private historical past tour of the fortress. A four-bedroom penthouse with a private butler, a non-public chef and a sauna was lately added to the resort’s 17 suites.
Guests can dine on the fortress’s new restaurant, in a 130-year-old greenhouse that echoes an identical conservatory at Balmoral. Epicures may be a part of the chef to forage for Scottish elements like wooden sorrel, wild garlic and apple blossom inside and across the property.
Traditional nation pursuits together with trout fishing and pheasant capturing are a number of the greater than 70 experiences Glenapp presents. Guests may concoct a private scent from 21 botanicals with a grasp perfumer and discover the Hebrides islands on an in a single day journey within the fortress’s personal boat with a private chef and a butler. Low season charges from 323 kilos (about $406) per evening for a garden-view suite, together with a full Scottish breakfast and tax.
Originally a searching lodge courting again to the early twelfth century, Amberley Castle was reworked right into a fortified manor home throughout medieval occasions and has hosted King Henry VIII, King Charles II and Queen Elizabeth II over the centuries.
Located within the West Sussex hamlet of Amberley, identified for its thatched cottages, the Relais & Châteaux fortress nonetheless flaunts its authentic stone curtain partitions with crenelations, a working portcullis and twin-tower gatehouse. The interiors showcase giant wood-burning fireplaces, barrel-vaulted ceilings and mullioned stone home windows, whereas 19 visitor rooms function uncovered beams and the unique stonework.
“The castle’s location is everything,” mentioned Masterson, the Celtic Castles founder. “It’s close to London in a beautiful English village, and you have really good access to the south coast of England and Arundel Castle, which is another super visitor attraction nearby.”
Guests can stroll the 12-acre grounds alongside resident peacocks or take pleasure in a sport of croquet, tennis or golf on the 18-hole placing course. Nearby, South Downs National Park’s rolling hills, river valleys and woodlands — best for horseback using, mountain climbing and biking — stay as timeless because the fortress. Rooms from 260 kilos (about $327), primarily based on double occupancy, together with breakfast and tax.
Family, royal or in any other case, is all the things at Forter Castle, a Sixteenth-century fortress about 80 miles north of Edinburgh within the Scottish Highlands.
“It very much feels like a family home,” mentioned Katharine Pooley, the proprietor and inside designer, who personally chosen each design element as she and her father meticulously restored the fortress.
Goatskin chairs, antler candelabras, wrought-iron chandeliers and tartan rugs share house with Pooley household pictures and heirlooms. Five of the six bedrooms are named for her father and the 4 siblings with designs that mirror their respective personalities. Furnishings embody antiques and four-poster beds with Ralph Lauren linens. Pooley additionally commissioned a hand-painted mural depicting the historical past of the fortress on the Great Hall’s ceiling. A big Pooley sword hangs above the Great Hall’s fire — a tribute to the household’s historical past of manufacturing high-quality swords that the royal household makes use of throughout some ceremonial occasions.
The tightknit vibe is a draw for different households, too. “Many of our guests are multigenerational families with some sort of ancestral link to Scotland,” mentioned Maryln McInnes, the fortress’s supervisor.
In one intriguing transformation, a former dungeon has turn into a designer kitchen stocked with Le Creuset cookware the place friends can put together their very own meals, or guide a non-public chef.
Other extras embody a non-public bagpipe efficiency, conventional ceilidh dancing and Highland pastimes comparable to archery, air-rifle follow and ax throwing. Low-season long-weekend charges for as much as 12 folks begin at 3,812 kilos (about $4,800, three-night minimal) on an exclusive-use foundation, together with tax.
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