English Villas: Cozy, Luxurious Staying
A vacation at an estate in the English countryside can swing too authentic: more shabby than chic, hosted by aristos more house-poor than house-proud. But a desire to indulge in some landed-gentry fantasy—with all its bucolic charm and fireside scotch, butler service and frowning ancestral portraits—persists. The rare arrival on the vacation-rental market of three smartly redone aristocratic houses is all the encouragement we need to start planning a group getaway for the coming holidays or Spring Break.
The Quick Jump from London – After a ten-month reno, Oliver Wallop, Viscount Lymington, and his wife, Flora, a former Firmdale Hotels designer, opened the stonewalled Georgian Farleigh Wallop tit’s been in the fam since the fifteenth century) in Hampshire, just 45 minutes from Heathrow.
Modern updates—wallpaper designed by The World of Interiors founder Min Hogg, as well as hotel-quality mattresses on four-poster canopy beds and en suite bathrooms with freestanding soaking tubs— mix with pieces from when Byron, and later Shackleton, were guests, like a 100-pound candelabra by famed eighteenth-century goldsmith Paul Storr. The butler and staff of five can help you with the horses (there’s 4,000 acres to ride) and a partridge hunt before afternoon G&Ts on the patio by the 40-foot heated pool. $7,250 per night— meaIs, full staff, and some activities included.
The Long Weekend Steal – The 12-bedroom Goodnestone Park, an eighteenth-century Palladian estate in Kent, two hours east of London, took three years to gut-reno. Now, hand-painted de Gournay wall coverings, Colefax and Fowler wallpaper, and overstuffed sofas mix with nineteenth-century oil paintings and Jane Austen early editions (she was a frequent guest after her brother married into the family). There are 24 bikes on hand, an easy way to explore the 2,000-acre grounds and to grab a pint at the FitzWalter Arms, the village pub two miles away. $5,313 for three nights—meals, staff, and activities extra.
The Hosted Holiday – Part of the fun of renting the dozen bedrooms at Somerleyton Hall, three hours northeast of London, is that Baron Hugh Crossley and his young family remain in residence. With their own wing of the sprawling Jacobean house, they’re hardly underfoot. They can show you how to master the yew maze, or Crossley will take you shooting or set you up with Welsh Cob and Arab horses or boats and paddleboards on the property’s two-mile-long lake. The house has serious provenance: The stonework is by the artist who did the sculptures on Parliament, the Crystal Palace’s architect did the conservatory, and a quirky Victorian-era reno left the house with a clock tower originally designed for Big Ben. $6,139 per night—breakfast, staff, and some activities included.