Become Lord or Lady of the Manor for the weekend by booking a room in one of these English country houses you can stay in…
If you’ve ever dreamed of living out the Downton Abbey fantasy, then why not book a stay at one of these perfectly refined English country houses you can stay in, which we’re sure would meet the approval of the Crawleys and their set.
Hambleton Hall, Rutland
A little over two hours north of London in the East Midlands county of Rutland, Hambleton Hall has been named the Pride of Britain’s Hotel of the Year for 2016 – one of many awards bestowed on the property since it was converted into a hotel in 1980.
However, Hambleton Hall has always had a history of grandeur. It was built as a hunting lodge in 1881 by Walter Marshall, the son of a shipping magnate. He bequeathed the property to his younger sister Eva, a socialite who welcomed the likes of Noël Coward to stay. In his autobiography, Present Indicative, the playwright and wit noted of Hambleton Hall: “All the warm, comfortable ingredients of country house life were there, the very unfamiliarity of the atmosphere enhancing its charm for me.”
Gravetye Manor, West Sussex
Anyone with a taste for drama would do well to book a stay at Gravetye Manor. The Grade I listed property was built in 1598, yet came into its own during the Victorian era. The innovative gardener William Robinson bought the 1,000-acre estate in 1884 and set about putting his ideas into practice as he sought to replicate the natural habitats of far-flung locations in his backyard. Neglected following the Second World War, the manor was converted into a hotel and restaurant in 1958.
There is a wealth of attractions on the doorstep: the National Trust gardens of Sissinghurst and Glyndebourne opera house are nearby, while the childhood homes of Sir Winston Churchill (Chartwell, now a National Trust property) and Anne Boleyn (Hever Castle) are just a short drive away.
Llangoed Hall, Powys
If local hearsay is to be believed, Llangoed Hall occupies the same spot as The White Palace, the home of the first Welsh Parliament in the early 6th century. What we do know is that the current hall was built in 1632 and then drastically redesigned in 1912 by Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis, the architect behind the playful Italianate village of Portmeirion in North Wales.
Years of subsequent neglect were only reversed by a wealthy benefactor – in this instance, Sir Bernard Ashley, husband of the British fashion designer Laura Ashley.
Though the hotel changed hands in 2012, the standards remain impeccable and, to truly feel like the lord or lady of the manor, nothing beats a stroll around the 17-acre grounds along the River Wye, taking in the views of the towering Black Mountains beyond.
Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire
England’s Stoke Park is one of very few properties in the world with almost 1,000 years of recorded ownership, making it one of our most historic country hotels. The manor Stoke Ditton, as it was once known, can be traced back to the 11th century and was listed in the Domesday Book as belonging to William Fitz-Ansculf, a tenant ‘in capita’ of King William I.
Today, the 27-hole Championship golf course provides a major draw for visitors, but the manor itself exudes country house style. Many rooms come complete with roll-top baths and open fires, while a few even offer views of nearby Windsor Castle. And if being near-neighbours with Her Majesty isn’t a true mark of living the high life, we’re not sure what is.
Swinton Park, North Yorkshire
Bordering the Yorkshire Dales, this magnificent Grade II listed house was begun in 1695 by Sir Abstrupus Danby, a wool merchant whose fantastical forename is thought to be the result of a confused parson’s poor spelling at his christening.
A hotel since 2001, Swinton Park’s 31 rooms and five suites are opulently decorated with antiques and classical paintings borrowed from the family’s collection. For a truly grand experience, book into the Turret Suite, which comprises a bedroom, bathroom and sitting room, each on separate, circular floors of the tower.
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