Live Like a King on Your Next UK Vacation

With the recent coronation of King Charles III, audiences around the world may have cast a covetous eye over the monarchy’s regal abodes. The good news is that, while a night at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle may be out of reach, it’s absolutely possible to live like royalty on a great British holiday.

Loyd & Townsend Rose (LTR) arranges exclusive use of incredible country houses, castles and stately homes around England, Scotland, and Ireland. LTR doesn’t just offer luxurious lodgings for a private bash, like a milestone birthday, anniversary, or multigenerational family reunion. They curate 360-degree experiences, topping extraordinary stays with bucket-list adventures that suit each guest’s individual needs and desires.

“We’re as much about service as finding the right property,” explains Jonathan Townsend Rose, who founded the company with his business partner, Andrew Loyd, in 1999. “It’s about giving clients things that they can’t normally get.”

When your clientele includes millionaire celebrities’, there’s little they may not be accustomed to getting but LTR knows how to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Their OTT extras have included everything from building a replica Loch Ness Monster to surprise a client’s wife… to setting up a meeting with the Pope.

Eager for a taste of the good life myself, I’ve signed up for what you might call a tapas tour, with whirlwind stays at a trio of the roughly 350 properties in LTRs portfolio.

The first is Newton Surmaville, a 400-year-old manor house in Somerset, about three hours west of central London. Outwardly, the nine-bedroom mansion is exactly what you would expect—all golden stone and grandeur, set on 62 acres alongside the River Yeo amid gardens and grazing sheep. But stepping through the sturdy oak door, I’m surprised by how chic and contemporary it feels.

When the current owners bought the estate in 2019, they hired acclaimed New York-based designer Jeffrey Bilhuber—whose clients have included David Bowie and Michael Douglas—to introduce 21st Century style without jettisoning the past. Wood paneling, ornate plaster ceilings, stone mantels, and 17th-century tapestries remain, providing an elegant backdrop for modern gathering spaces where sleekly tailored furnishings effortlessly mix with antiques.

The owner’s suite encompasses a spacious bedroom’s with a Jacobean canopy bed, separate dressing room, and a bathroom with a clawfoot tub and freestanding glass-walled shower. Meals, catered during my stay by the talented Chef Tim Ford, are served either at the George IV formal dining table or in the breakfast room beside a flickering fireplace.

Exploring these spaces and thumbing through old, leather-backed tomes foraged from the bookshelves is pastime enough for me. But I am tempted away for a stroll beside the river, as well as an excursion to Brown and Forrest Smokery, renowned for their smoked fish, fowl, and fromage.

When in Somerset, you must also try the cider, and we enjoy a tour of Somerset Cider Brandy Company and Burrow Hill Cider with owner Julian Temperley— father of fashion designer Alice Temperley—and his border collies, Sally and Jax. With mischievous blue eyes peering out from a mop of silver curls, Temperley is as keen to discuss politics and a visit from the sultry actress Joanna Lumley—whose life-sized cutout watches over brass stills—as he is his award-winning libations.

Two hours further southwest, in the exclusive seaside town of Salcombe, South Devon, lies my second stop—The Moult. Built in the 1700s but extensively remodeled over the years, this 11-bedroom mansion perches high on a peninsula, as proud and pink as Barbie’s Dreamhouse, overlooking the teal blue waters of Kingsbridge Estuary. The interior is light and airy, with a relaxed blue-and-white beach vibe.

Amenities include a heated 72-foot swimming pool, and a lush lawn featuring croquet, a trampoline, and a giant outdoor chess set. There’s also a cinema room, where you can watch “Peril at End House,” an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot which was filmed at the home in the late 1980s.

The greatest peril guests face these days is gluttony, as the catering here is to die for. (Ahem). During my stay, we feast on meals from Wild Artichokes, run by Samantha Miller and cookbook author Jane Baxter, and Galley Girls, who prepare a mouth-watering repast of lobster and steak.

Salcombe, nestled in the green folds of South Devon’s “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” is a treat unto itself. Its tidy streets are flanked by ice cream parlors and upscale boutiques like Crew, which sells exactly the sort of breezily sophisticated wardrobe I shall require for my yacht…should I ever acquire a yacht, that is.

In the meantime, I find myself kitted out like an Oompa Loompa, zipped into a pair of waterproof overalls for a RIB ride with Salcombe Sea-N-Shore. As our little vessel whips along the coast, past graceful sailboats with sails unfurled, Ali Jones points out shipwrecks and the romantic 16th century ruins of Fort Charles.

It’s an exhilarating afternoon on the water, followed by yet another opportunity to sail three sheets to the wind—this time with a gin-making class at Salcombe Distilling Company. Distillers Jason Nickels and Harry Wakeley walk us through the process of producing our own blend, from choosing the botanicals to bottling, labeling, and packaging it in a professional-looking wooden box. I dub mine Jolly House Gin-X, in the hopes that the laughter will flow as liberally as the liquor.

With a cheers and a cheerio to Salcombe, I’m off to my final stop—Knowlton Court in Kent, approximately 70 miles east of central London. This 19-bedroom home, built in 1585 and set on a 1900-acre estate, offers everything you could wish for in a stately home—suits of armor, tapestries, crystal chandeliers, historic family portraits, even a chair from the coronation of George V. Yet it’s also friendly and comfortable, thanks to a recent refresh overseen by Fenella Fox-Pitt, who worked as a fashion designer before settling into family life with her husband, Andrew Fox-Pitt, at Knowlton Court, his ancestral home.

The grounds are as spectacular as the house, with vast lawns bordered by fields of wheat, sun-dappled woodlands, and paddocks, where we encounter several racehorse—including the headline-grabbing Snow Leopardess—which Andrew’s mother, Marietta, breeds. (A love of horses runs through the family. Andrew’s brother, William Fox-Pitt, is an Olympic medal-winning equestrian).

Although none of the Fox-Pitts inhabit Knowlton Court currently, Andrew and Fenella live elsewhere on the estate and are happy to greet guests personally. They accompany my friends and I for a vineyard tour and tasting at Simpsons Wine nearby and join us for cocktails and an excellent dinner catered by Stella Grove at Knowlton Court.

It’s a bit like dining with Lord and Lady Grantham. Only the Fox-Pitts, with their ready laughter and insouciant style, are much more fun—and their passion for hospitality is evident.

“In an ideal world, I hope guests have such a special time that they want to come back,” Fenella says with a smile. “We don’t want it to feel like a trendy hotel, but to stay a family home.”

That, in essence, is what an LTR holiday is all about—feeling at home, among the most spectacular residences in the world.

Read Previous

The MSC SEASCAPE Truly Floats Your Boat!

Read Next

Luxury Sustainability in Swedish Lapland: the World’s Tallest Wooden Hotel Offers A Climate-Positive Travel Experience