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6 British Castles Where You Can Stay for as Little as $230 a Night


When King Charles III is crowned on May 6, the world will witness, for the first time since his mother’s coronation in 1953, a ceremony that packs more than 1,000 years of British pomp and pageantry into a single day. But for some people, one day might not be enough.

Britain teems with castles that offer travelers a chance to walk the same halls and sleep in the same quarters as monarchs of days gone by. Those who revel in the grand spectacle unfolding in Westminster Abbey may also want to soak in the noble lore in the old stone walls of some of those castles.

“The sheer drama of the past thousand years of royal history in Great Britain is like a long-running soap opera,” said Tracy Borman, a London-based royal historian and the author of “Crown & Sceptre,” a history of the British monarchy from William the Conqueror to Charles III. “You’ve got the king who marries six times, the virgin queen, the crown changing hands numerous times on the battlefield, abdication, usurpations, scandal. It’s basically the best drama you could ever hope for.”

Sleeping in a castle can feel like playing a bit part in that sweeping tale. “When people stay in a castle they never forget it,” said Roger Masterson (a.k.a. the Castle Man), founder of Celtic Castles, a travel company and booking platform that works with more than 100 castles across the United Kingdom.

In the past year, Mr. Masterson said he had noticed an increase in Scottish castle bookings in particular, which he attributed to the coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and the royal family’s journey back to London from Balmoral Castle, where the queen often spent her vacations. “It really showed off Scotland at its best,” he said.

These six British castles may not be Balmoral, but they still give travelers a chance to steep themselves in history and get a taste of living, if not like royalty, at least like nobility.

But it’s the castle’s storied history as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII, that makes it a popular day trip from London. “Anne decided to marry Henry when she was living here in 1526, which ultimately led to her own coronation via the break with the Catholic Church in Rome — a decision that changed the face of Europe and the course of history,” said Owen Emmerson, Hever Castle’s historian.

Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.Credit…Hever Castle and Gardens

Visitors overnighting at the 27-room bed-and-breakfast or the four-bedroom cottage nestled within the estate’s 125-acre grounds receive complimentary access to relic-filled exhibition rooms and a four-acre Italianate garden. The castle’s oak-and-walnut-paneled rooms house artifacts including a prayer book belonging to Boleyn that bears her inscriptions and signature. On exhibit through November are coronation robes worn by Cate Blanchett in the 1998 film “Elizabeth.”

Rooms from 185 pounds ($230) on weekdays, £210 on weekends; day passes to the castle and gardens cost £23.10, including tax.

The Gothic edifice, which dates to the 12th century and functioned as the seat of the Scottish Parliament for centuries, has been the established residence of a long line of earls from the Murray family (which still owns the castle today). Travelers can rent the private wing, which sleeps 16 guests in eight bedrooms. An atmosphere of nobility reigns in the dining room, drawing room and long gallery, which are filled with regal furnishings, including ivory, porcelain, royal portraits and silk brocade wall coverings. Outside, the estate’s 100 acres charm visitors with flowering gardens, 250-year-old Douglas fir trees, and a star-shaped maze of green and copper beech hedges designed to evoke the Earl of Mansfield’s family tartan.

A star-shaped beech maze on the 100-acre grounds of Scone Palace is designed to evoke the Earl of Mansfield’s family tartan.Credit…Scone Palace

On guided tours, visitors can see a replica of the Stone of Scone, a sacred throne that was used during the coronation ceremonies of Scottish kings. “In 1296, it was taken by King Edward I of England and brought to Westminster Abbey,” said Stephen Brannigan, the head of Scone Palace.

Perhaps the most famous visit to the palace came in 1842 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed on their way to the Highlands (at considerable expense to the Fourth Earl, who expressed in a letter the inconvenience of the visit, but also knew that declining was not an option). Prices start at £4,500 per night (two-night minimum) for 10 people, including breakfast and tax; each additional guest is £450 per night.

Originally an 11th-century manor house built for a Saxon lord in the Bristol countryside, Thornbury Castle was converted into a fortified castle by Edward Stafford, the third Duke of Buckingham, in 1510 with the permission of King Henry VIII.

Guests overnighting at the castle, a 27-room Relais & Châteaux property, are met with an impressive stone facade studded with medieval-style battlements and gunports, oriel windows, and manicured Tudor gardens within the 15-acre grounds. Opulent interiors include period décor, four-poster beds and silk wall hangings. Outdoors, guests can partake in traditional country pastimes like archery and hatchet throwing, and even enjoy a falconry display.

Manicured Tudor gardens complement medieval-style battlements and gunports, along with opulent interiors, at Thornbury Castle.Credit…Lee Searle

“The Buckingham story is a microcosm of the Tudor era — politics, religion and beheadings,” said Tony Cherry, a local historian and author who leads guided tours of the castle, recounting its rich history, royal links and architectural details. “Stafford, a potential successor to the throne, conspicuously flaunted his wealth and royal blood, which made him a threat to the king, who had him tried for treason and beheaded in 1521.” Subsequently, Henry VIII became the owner of the castle for 33 years and visited in 1535 with his second wife, Anne Boleyn, who lost her own head the next year; guests can book a lavish suite named in Henry’s honor. Rooms, with breakfast, from £280, including tax.

Traditional country pursuits like trout fishing and pheasant shooting are some of the more than 70 experiences Glenapp offers. Guests can also concoct a personal scent from 21 botanicals with a master perfumer and explore the Hebrides islands on an overnight trip in the castle’s private boat with a personal chef and a butler. Low season rates from £323 per night for a garden-view suite, including a full Scottish breakfast and tax.

Inside Forter Castle, rustic elements like wrought-iron chandeliers and antler candelabras share space with family portraits and heirlooms.Credit…Forter Castle

Goatskin chairs, antler candelabras, wrought-iron chandeliers and tartan rugs share space with Pooley family photographs and heirlooms. Five of the six bedrooms are named for her father and the four siblings with designs that reflect their respective personalities. Furnishings include antiques and four-poster beds with Ralph Lauren linens. Ms. Pooley also commissioned a hand-painted mural depicting the history of the castle on the Great Hall’s ceiling. A large Pooley sword hangs above the Great Hall’s fireplace — a tribute to the family’s history of producing high-quality swords that the royal family uses during some ceremonial events.

The tightknit vibe is a draw for other families, too. “Many of our guests are multigenerational families with some sort of ancestral link to Scotland,” said Maryln McInnes, the castle’s manager.

In one intriguing transformation, a former dungeon has become a designer kitchen stocked with Le Creuset cookware where guests can prepare their own meals, or book a private chef.

Other extras include a private bagpipe performance, traditional ceilidh dancing and Highland pastimes like archery, air-rifle practice and ax throwing. Low-season long-weekend rates for up to 12 people start at £3,812 (three-night minimum) on an exclusive-use basis, including tax.


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