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How to Live Like Royalty

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Try a castle for your next vacation.

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It's not always enough to be a mere "guest" in a luxury hotel. Wouldn't it be better to feel like you own the place? Not just the room. The whole place -- and the outdoors as far as the eye can see?

You can. At this time of year -- in the "shoulder" season between summer and the holidays -- you can be lord of the castle for about the per-person price of a room in a luxury hotel.

You can choose from thousands of historic castles, grand villas, great houses, or modest but beautifully renovated cottages for rent by the weekend, the week, or even longer.

Except for the December holiday period, prices stay low or go even lower until the next high season. (Some close down in mid-winter.)

These places all look spectacular from the photos, but there are more basic questions to ask than if you were booking into a Sheraton (HOT):


  • Is there any staff on site? Most are "self-catering," meaning there's no restaurant. But you'll want to know if there's maid service, or at least someone to call if the lights go out.

  • Does it have the modern amenities you count on? These may include heat or air conditioning, never mind Internet access.

  • Are there any extra fees for those amenities?

  • If you're taking small children with you, are there any safety issues? You don't want the kids leaping off the tallest tower.


If you're ready to browse, here are some resources.

At the more modest end of the scale, Britain's National Trust rents out 360 historic homes and cottages sprinkled around the countryside of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The Trust is a non-profit group that protects and maintains historic homes and other structures, gardens, archaeological sites, and monuments throughout the British Isles.

At its site,The Trust offers holiday rentals of its spruced up, nicely decorated, and modernized cottages and old houses, most in spectacular country locations. Rambling farmhouses and some small manors are available along with many oddities like stone towers, old vicarages, and renovated stables.

Many of these properties are small but charming country houses formerly owned by spinners, potters, and farmers who hopefully are on the Costa del Sol laughing their heads off at the tourists sleeping under their homely thatched roofs.

Prices currently range from about $460 a week to about $1,400 a week.

If you have a grander vision or are planning a special event, another British site, UniqueHomeStays.com, offers "large country houses" for rent. And when the Brits say large, they mean large. Some of these are stately homes that sleep 50 or more people, although they'll rent you a wing or two for smaller groups.

The prices are all over the map, as are the locations, but many seem to work out nicely in terms of cost for a group. A place called Rosewastis Manor on a bay in Cornwall can accommodate up to eight people for about $2,400 a week in the off-season.

Another European operator on the high end is Holiday-Chateau.com. The emphasis here is on locations for big special events, but not all are grandiose. Facilities range from a converted barn on a Scottish estate to a chateau on 50 acres in the Languedoc region of France.

The Colorado-based Five Star Destinations allows you to search by such categories as "historic castle" or "chateau."

Of course, this time of year, some of us just have to go south. If this means you, try LuxuryRetreats.com. They have 2,000 villas for rent in resorts all over the world. The company Villas of Distinction also focuses on upscale houses in beach resorts.

If you prefer to deal directly with the owner, a number of castle-dwellers have their own sites. Those worth a look include Chateau Lagorce near Bordeaux, where you can get 10 en suite bedrooms for about $8,100 this time of year. Or, you can move into part of Chateau de la Guilloniere near the Loire Valley for about $2,800 a week. And, an apartment in the Chateau de Ranton -- a genuine fortified fourteenth century medieval castle built to withstand the Hundred Years' War -- can be had for about $1,400 a week. It's got everything from battlements to a swimming pool.



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