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Standard E-edition 4th July 2012 - country house rentals

Homes & Property – Country house rentals

4 Jul 2012 by fullscreen

Isolated or castellated, it’s all for rent

From tree-houses to country piles, every kind of second-home option can be rented, tried and tested, says Cathy Hawker.

This summer we don’t need much of an excuse to crack open the bubbly.  The Olympics is a perfect peg to hang a celebration on, but a special anniversary may also bring family and friends together.

Whatever the party you are planning, booking a fabulous backdrop for it is a good place to start.

Organisations such as English Heritage and The National Trust offer elegant and often inventive venues for house parties.  Choose between a baronial Scottish castle, a Devon lighthouse or a 14th Century moated manor in Suffolk.  Other companies go further, providing not only the venue but also a fully inclusive and staffed package.

Andrew Loyd had a 20 year career in hospitality working at The Dorchester and then as a butler to a succession of Wall Street tycoons before establishing Loyd & Townsend Rose in 1999.  The company offers bespoke vacations in 50 stately homes,mansions and castles across the UK and Ireland, allowing guests to live like nobility from a weekend to a month.

“The luxury rental market is changing,” says Loyd.  “People want a special house, but care more about comfort than about the number of Ducal portraits.  No one wants creaking pipes and chilly rooms.  At the top level people are very picky.”

A week at one of Loyd & Townsend Rose’s properties with five to 25 bedrooms, could cost a group of 18 £30,000.  For that you get full run of the property, often including heated pools, tennis courts and acres of parkland.  And guests can tailor-make a fully staffed house-party package, combining all the comforts of a hotel with a more personal twist.

“Service and attention to detail really matter to rental clients,” says Loyd, “though today it is less Downton Abbey, more informal country cool.”

Loyd will provide anything from bagpipes summoning you to dinner to zumba fitness classes.

When Karen Beaumont hired Kincardine Castle in the Highlands last year, her party of 32 was entertained by a ceilidh band accompanied by Braveheart-style Scottish warriors.

“The advantage of renting an entire property is privacy,” says Karen.  “Most of all it is about the level of service that allows you to create bespoke menus and entertainment.  We spent £230 a person per night, comparable with a top hotel for a special occasion.”

Loyd and Townsend Rose properties include Althorp, the childhood home of Princess Diana, and Brocket Hall, an 18th century pile in 543 acres of Hertfordshire.

A real dazzler is Eastcourt House, a 17th century Cotswolds manor house sleeping 14, with billiard room and heated pool.  The owners, an entrepreneur and an artist with a young family, have renovated with a light touch, mixing contemporary art and furniture with oak-paneled rooms.  A week there costs £24,000.

“These are substantial family homes, filled with porcelain, antiques and English watercolors, whose owners like to let them for part of the year,” adds Loyd, who takes on only 20 per cent of the houses he is offered.  “Our guests appreciate such special surroundings and look after them well.”

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  • “It was a spectacular weekend. We and our guests had a terrific time. The castle was exceptionally comfortable and we all felt completely at home thanks to the understated but highly efficient service and support they provided. Food was also amazing… a truly memorable party. We are very happy.” T. W., USA

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