Imagine staying in a castle, or how about a mill dating back to 1800, or perhaps a “music room” with Baroque interiors and a piano takes your fancy?
Or there’s an 18th century chateau, but maybe you and 14 friends and family would prefer to camp out in an actual medieval manor.
You’ll have to source your own staff, but all of these properties (and more) are available as vacation rentals through the Landmark Trust. Based in Britain, the building conservation charity was founded in 1965 to rescue and repair buildings possessing remarkable qualities, architectural, historical, or setting.
The Trust also has a few properties in France and Italy and a sister organisation in the US has saved a few homes in New England, including that of Rudyard Kipling. All represent historic periods from medieval times to the 20th century and all are distinctly different.
The whole idea behind the Landmark Trust is a win-win.
Precious landmarks approved for renovation get the TLC they need, while the punters get to take a step back in time. For history buffs, amateur architects, and those fond of old houses, it doesn’t get any better. For the rest of us looking for an unusual place to escape the stresses of modern life, Landmark’s nearly 200 properties provide the perfect antidote. Meantime, rental fees pay for the building maintenance.
There are properties in urban and rural settings, and also inbetween.
Some are set amidst historic gardens; others look out at the sea. And inside, each home is decorated simply, with furniture that feels traditional to the time, yet comfortable.
Kitchens are well-equipped and modern, but that’s as far as new technology goes. The beauty of a Landmark Trust building is the no TV policy. I find it essential to bring a radio/CD player, and a laptop with a DVD player can come in handy, but these are Wi-Fi free spaces.
A historian weaves together an album for each house detailing original owners and the houses’ various incarnations and uses for rooms, land, etc. Even the bookshelves are lined with reads relevant to the house. Dogs are welcome and exploring the local area is encouraged, with walking maps and a box of brochures for nearby activities. Properties sleep two to fifteen people and many have separate buildings. For example, Banqueting House, where I enjoyed a recent stay, would be perfect for a multi-generational family of ten. Made up of four different buildings, the main East Banqueting House sleeps four, a pepperpot lodge sleeps an extra two, and the adjacent West Banqueting House sleeps two with room for an extra two in the Almonry just across the way. Set in the Cotswolds it’s a great area for antiquing, mountain biking, and long walks.
Whatever their surroundings, what these houses are best for is chilling out and doing a lot of nothing, especially if nothing amounts to lazy mornings, leisurely meals, and lots of wood on the fire.
Landmark Trust properties are rented out for three or four-night breaks or for a week, and booking via their website is easy. The site is so comprehensive; symbols indicate whether they’re equipped with showers, baths, woodstoves or open fires (very important for dirty weekends), whether there are steep stairs, and even whether the area is particularly noisy. Housekeepers act as local caretakers and provide simple instructions about accessing the house and keys and can also answer questions about the house and the area.
If you’ve ever fantasised about stepping back in time, or seeing how the other half lives, this is the easiest and probably cheapest way to do it. You’ll have to settle for stoking the fire yourself, though.