Photo courtesy of HomeExchange.com
Living in a castle – even for a few days – is a dream-come-true experience that no longer requires marrying a royal.
Innovative castle proprietors worldwide have opened the doors to their fairytale properties, offering overnight stays as a rental, home exchange or commercial hotel. You can stay in five-star luxury, swap your urban penthouse for a manor, or even take your pick of chateaus and villas listed on Airbnb.
Though some require booking the entire property – often for more than $1,000 a night – some arrangements require no payment at all. Ed Kushins, CEO of HomeExchange.com, stayed in a castle in Provence, near Avignon, for which he swapped his partner’s home in suburban Geneva. He has also stayed in a manor outside of Dublin in exchange for time in his Hermosa Beach house. The exchange service offers pieces of history in and around Paris, Antibes, Versailles and Bordeaux.
Kushins said it’s also a great way for owners of underutilized second homes to try something different.
Marsha Calig, of Southern California-based Calig Travel and Cruises, credits the rising interest in historic destinations to the popularity of the Harry Potter franchise and period dramas such as television’s “Downton Abbey.”
“People love castles and history and everything involved with them,” she said. “There’s a romance associated with kings and queens and castles.”
Here are a few historic examples to consider.
Glenapp Castle Hotel, Ayrshire, Scotland:
This Relais & Château-owned hotel is about 18 miles south of the Turnberry Golf Club in Ayrshire. Built in 1870, the castle opened in 2000 as a luxury hotel after six years of restoration. The 17 oversized suites are furnished with antiques to sweep guests back in time, but not too far: You can still get wireless Internet access. The castle, complete with turrets, stone walls and formal gardens, sits on 36 acres in the fishing village of Ballantrae and is the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “The Master of Ballantrae.” Rates begin at about $300 per night.
Isle of Eriska Hotel, Benderloch, Argyll, Scotland.
Located on the west coast of Scotland and about two hours from Glasgow International Airport, the Isle of Eriska Hotel offers the next best thing to a moat: a 300-acre island estate accessed by a charming wooden bridge. The estate’s Big House was built in 1884 at the height of the Scottish Baronial Style, but the interior decor is a blend of contemporary simplicity and Victorian embellishment. If overnight accommodations are unavailable, the castle’s Espa spa is available for day trippers. Rates range from about $440 to $650 per night.
Airbnb lists several castles on its website, including an affordable 16-bed, 8-bath castle in the Kirkby Stephen area in the lush countryside of England’s Eden Valley. Built in 1841, “as a Victorian gentleman’s folly,” the property can sleep 30 adults and 10 children for $146 a night, or $1,001 a week.
In the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, guests may rent the entire Château La Commanderie de Plaigne, an imposing 10-bedroom structure built on dense parkland for $1,059 per night.
The Talabgaon Castle in Rajasthan, about 90 minutes outside of Jaipur, is a 200-year-old fort restored into a 22-suite resort with air conditioning, a pool, Wi-Fi and elegant gardens. The Sawai Modphur Tiger Reserve is 90 minutes south. Rates begin at about $85 a night.
London Lodge at Highclere Castle
Fans of the hit PBS series “Downton Abbey” will recognize Highclere as the location of the fictional Lord Grantham’s Yorkshire country estate. Now home to the real-life Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, the castle and grounds have been open for public tours, but overnight guests were only recently allowed on the property. After a multi-year renovation, a 1793 gatehouse opened in February, offering accommodations for four guests in two separate lodges. The structure was built at the top of a mile-long driveway by the first Earl of Carnarvon. London Lodge is available for rent during the spring and summer when Highclere Castle is open for public tours. Rates begin at about $550 a night.