HOME Master Article Index/Index by County Links Contact Us
Ancient Britain Castles Churches/Cathedrals Houses/Manors Museums Towns Countryside London History & Folklore Travel Tips

Test daily news

Visit the Stone Pages


An Englishman's Holiday Home Is His Castle!

by Simon Whaley

"An Englishman's home is his castle " is a figure of speech still in use today. However, many English people now let out additional properties as self-catering accommodation, to those visiting their area of historic Britain. So if you're travelling to a part of England to absorb its history, why not stay in a historic building too? An Englishman's holiday home can quite literally be a castle. Or a lighthouse. Or a medieval gatehouse. The choice is up to you.

Finding a historic holiday home in England is not as difficult as you might think. Whilst there are several hundred self-catering holiday home agencies, there are only a few that specialise in historic or unusual properties. In particular there are two charities that focus on this.

The first is the Landmark Trust, whose aim is to rescue worthwhile buildings from neglect and then promote their enjoyment by letting them out as holiday accommodation. The other is the National Trust, an organisation respected for protecting historic buildings and important landscapes for all to enjoy. These activities cost the National Trust an immense sum of money each year, so letting out some of the properties on the large estates that they now manage, help to generate much needed income. Staying in an unusual holiday home is not just exciting, but benevolent as well.

The Landmark Trust

The Landmark Trust was founded in 1965 and since then has helped to saved over 200 properties, 178 of which are available for renting as holiday accommodation. These include ancient Gatehouses once the entrances to large estates, disused railway stations, castles and old water towers. The Landmark Trust also run Lundy Island, which sits in the Bristol Channel sandwiched between England and Wales. Three miles long with 400-foot cliffs, on a clear day it has spectacular views of England, Wales and the Atlantic coast. It is also a wonderful wildlife haven with seals, goats and seabirds using it as their home. Properties available to rent include the Castle, the Admiralty Lookout, the old Radio Room, the old School and one of three Lighthouses. A holiday on Lundy is an experience from start to finish particularly as some properties are reliant on solid fuel for all their power and cooking.

Turning properties into holiday homes is not easy, as the main aim is to preserve the historic fabric of the building. This however, adds to the quirkiness of the accommodation. Whilst you will find the properties served by water and gas or electricity, you won't find a single telephone or television. All properties have heating of some kind, and some have open fires. The location of some of the properties also means that if you arrive by car, the final few yards may have to be by foot. That's the problem with motorised vehicles being a late 19th Century invention!

Beamsley Hospital

Beamsley Hospital

Beamsley Hospital in North Yorkshire is one such building, but you wouldn't want to spoil the view by parking a car in front of it. Founded in 1593, it now sleeps 5 comfortably in three bedrooms. The Chapel in the centre of the building leads to all the rooms.

Tixali Gatehouse

Tixall Gatehouse

Tixall Gatehouse in Staffordshire was built in 1580 as a gatehouse to a much larger property, which today no longer survives. The Gatehouse though, is pure magic. Sleeping 6, it has two large ensuite bedrooms, two tower bedrooms and plenty of history. Sleeping under this roof will have you dreaming of how Mary, Queen of Scots felt when she was imprisoned here for two weeks in 1586.

Warden Abbey

Warden Abbey

Warden Abbey in Bedfordshire is unusual because the abbey and the large house that once existed are no longer there. All that remains is what can only be described as a "puzzling fragment". Whilst repairing the property, the Trust found a 14th Century tile pavement, which is now housed in the local museum. The top two floors form a bedroom each, joined together by a steep spiral staircase.

The National Trust

Most of the National Trust's holiday cottages are over 100 years old, although they've been renovated and furnished to a high standard. Many of the properties form part of larger estates, which means that as a holidaymaker staying in one of these cottages you may have access to the estate grounds at times when the general public are not. It becomes so much easier to imagine yourself as Lord of the Manor! Arrangements will vary from cottage to cottage, so always be aware of any restrictions.

Felbrigg Hall Mustard Pot

The Mustard Pot

The British have always been an eccentric bunch, and this is sometimes shown in our buildings. The Mustard Pot in the grounds of Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk is one such example. The sitting room and an upstairs bedroom have been accommodated in the octagonal shaped part of the property. It's very cosy though with gas central heating.

Trelissick Water Tower

The Water Tower

The Water Tower on the Trelissick Estate in South Cornwall demonstrates how these huge country properties were self-sufficient. It provided all the water for the main House, and in its tower was a bell, rung to mark the beginning and end of the working day for estate workers. This cosy building offers an idyllic retreat for 2 fit people capable of climbing the 50 steps on the spiral staircase!

Berrington Hall Triumphal Arch

The Triumphal Arch

The Triumphal Arch at Berrington Hall in Herefordshire has had several uses, including a residence for the Coachman of the Estate, and also acting as the shooting lodge. It overlooks the Capability Brown designed parkland, and you can sleep safe in your bed knowing that the estate gates are locked every night. It's an impressive property for four people looking to escape the crowds.

Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage

The Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage

If you've always wanted a dramatic journey to your holiday destination, then the Lighthouse Keepers' Cottage in Devon is the property to aim for. Reached via a tight single-track road that descends steeply down some hairpin bends, this cottage sleeps 10 with breathtaking views over the Bristol Channel. It sits on the most northerly point of the Devon coastline and perches quite literally on the cliff face. Anyone scared of heights should probably look for somewhere else to stay!

Looking for an unusual cottage to stay in when holidaying in historic England isn't as difficult as you may think, but actually living in one will certainly be an experience. The important point to remember is that these buildings were originally built several hundred years ago with another use in mind. They've been carefully restored, but will have quirks because of their construction. When walls are several feet thick, the only place to put the bathroom may be in the attic at the top of a spiral staircase. That's what makes this holiday accommodation so uniquely English!

Further Information

The Landmark Trust
Shottesbrooke, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 3SW, United Kingdom

The National Trust (Enterprises) Ltd
Holiday Booking Office, PO Box 536, Melksham, Wiltshire SN12 8SX, UK

The Vivat Trust
Offers 12 historic properties, ranging from tiny romantic follies sleeping just two people to a defensive tower sleeping 7 and a Georgian manse sleeping 8.
English Heritage
NOTE: English Heritage is listed in Country Living magazine as offering historic property accommodations, but I have been unable to locate any information on their website at:

Simon Whaley is full time writer whose work has appeared in a variety of national British magazines including Holiday Cottages Magazine, Take A Break, People's Friend, Hotel, Walking Wales, In Britain, Heritage and Dogs Monthly. He is a regular contributor to Country Walking and Country & Border Life magazines, as well as being the bestselling author of Hodder & Stoughton's <i>100 Ways For A Dog To Train Its Humani> and <i>100 Muddy Paws For Thoughti>. Simon regularly takes self-catering holidays in Britain throughout the year, and also organises an annual self-catering retreat for his friends.
Article © 2005 Simon Whaley
Photos: Beamsley Hospital, Tixall Gatehouse, Warden Abbey courtesy of Landmark Trust; Mustard Pot Cottage, Lighthouse Keeper's Cottage, Water Tower, Triumphal Arch courtesy of National Trust.


 Site Copyright © 2017 Moira Allen. All rights reserved.
For information on reprinting articles or photos on this site, please contact Moira Allen, Editor