For family gatherings, business meetings and more, hiring a castle offers luxury and privacy. Angela Youngman has some ramparted recommendations.
Offering a memorable location and privacy, hiring a castle for exclusive use is becoming increasingly popular. Throughout Europe there are countless castles that can be hired for special events, anniversary celebrations, business conferences, board of directors’ meetings and more.
Privacy is guaranteed. During the period of hire, your party has exclusive use of the building and the surrounding grounds. The only other people likely to be on site are the owners and their staff.
The choice of castles for hire is extensive. Castle owners generally work with specialist agencies to promote their premises. The most popular include The Country Castle Company, One-Off Places, Castle Rentals, Host Unusual, Avenue Property and Oliver’s Travels. Each listing provides full details of the property, together with possible options that can be added, such as gourmet dining, clay pigeon shooting and off-road explorations. Many castles are ideally located for country sports and visits to top golf courses.
Prices vary depending on the size of the property, the size of your group, location and the facilities you wish to include. Some owners prefer to negotiate directly with a prospective client, while others leave it to the agency. Bespoke packages can be arranged on request.
Castle accommodation is luxurious and often includes antique furniture and furnishings. A castle may look medieval, with turrets and ramparts, but interiors reflect modern-day standards. Michelin-grade chefs are frequently in attendance and various special experiences can be arranged to make a bespoke package. At Walton Castle in Somerset, activities can include tailored wine tasting, falconry, archery and sword fighting. Test teamwork with a murder mystery requiring participants to find their way out of a locked tower, or for golf aficionados the extensive grounds include access to Clevedon Golf Club – the setting for the Ryder Cup team in 2010.
Partially destroyed in the Civil War, Walton Castle is a classic English castle. It was even listed in the Domesday Book. A tall stone keep stands at the centre of the property, surrounded by stone walls complete with ramparts. Housing just 16 guests, it is one of the smaller castle properties that can be hired. Every room imparts an atmosphere of historic elegance, together with the utmost comfort and luxury. In-castle catering can be arranged, or guests can opt for self-catering.
Castles are often situated near small, regional airports accessible by private jet. In addition, many castles have helipads for added convenience and privacy. Chateau Villermaux in Provence is well served by Toulon, Marseille and Nice airports, as well as a helipad on site providing quick, easy and private access.
Chateau Villermaux is one of the best French turreted castles available for exclusive hire. It contains many original period features that have been renovated to the highest standards of luxury. Many rooms possess Versailles-style marble floors and crystal chandeliers. The ballroom and elegant Orangerie are ideal for celebrating special anniversaries. The chateau is surrounded by 200 hectares of vineyards and ancient olive groves. The world-famous Chez Bruno truffle restaurant is a short drive away in nearby Lorgues, as is a stunning truffle market. Chateau Villermaux costs £23,309 – £25,899 per week.
Outdoor activities are a big feature of Aldourie Castle in Scotland. This is the only habitable castle on Loch Ness, with grounds stretching down to the shoreline. Set within 500 acres of private grounds, Aldourie makes a striking backdrop to any corporate or social event, and is frequently booked by groups seeking privacy and relaxation. It has its own pier and marina and is ideally situated for golfing, stalking or shooting holidays and family house parties. It costs £40,000 for seven nights’ rental of the entire castle.
Sporting activities also feature strongly at Castle Trinity in West Yorkshire. Close to the Peak District and surrounded by breath-taking scenery, this is a home away from home on a grand scale, perfect for notable gatherings. Sweeping staircases, a stunning dining room, a grand piano and opulent décor make this a castle of gleaming grandeur. The 12-acre grounds include gardens, lawns, a lake with rowing boat and a working watermill. Golf, riding, tennis and clay pigeon shooting can be arranged. Prices start from £2,535.
Across the sea in Ireland, Glin Castle, which overlooks the Shannon Estuary, has been in the same family for over 700 years. It has 15 sumptuous en suite bedrooms, a grand dining room, sitting room, drawing room and library. There are beautiful gardens and over 350 acres of private land. It is a perfect location for anyone keen on golf, as there are four major golf courses within easy reach. A week’s rental costs €45,000, including housekeeping and catering. Butler service can be provided at an additional cost.
The wooded Cumbrian hills are the setting for Augill Castle, which is an ideal entertainment venue. Opulent while a little eccentric and quirky, Augill offers accommodation for up to 30 guests, plus extra beds for up to 10 children, and can host 46 for a seated banquet. Augill Castle provides its guests with a fully catered, totally exclusive facility including a bespoke menu and the innovative Great British Bar – a bar stocked solely by independent, artisan British producers. Prices start at £6,700 for one night’s exclusive use.
Another smaller property is the Fortezza di Spinola in Umbria, Italy. This is a magnificently restored medieval fortress with a tower that has watched over the area for almost 1,000 years. Relaxing on the tower’s private terrace offers superb views. Despite its medieval appearance, the castle is a byword for luxury, with under-floor heating, baroque furnishings carved from thick oak and walnut, together with original terracotta tiling and a private swimming pool. Special experiences including wine tasting, stalking and fishing can be arranged.
Art and culture play an important role at Castello Granduca in Tuscany. Built during the flowering of Renaissance art, when the work of Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael were prominent, this castello was the home of many Tuscan Grand Dukes. It is now one of the most important, and architecturally striking, buildings in the region. The entrance is impressive, with a long cypress-lined driveway leading to a majestic, ivy covered castle complete with watchtower. The Renaissance ethos continues into the accommodation with furnishings and décor in a late 16th century noble Tuscan style. Horse riding, tennis, visits to wineries and olive mills, and boat trips to Elba can be arranged. With its own private chapel, Castello Granduca can host exclusive, private weddings and anniversary events. Catering for up to 26 people, prices start at €15,000 per week.
Whatever the function you are planning, from a family anniversary to a special event or business meeting, castles are an ideal choice. Sporting and country pursuits, art, culture, gourmet food and wine can all be enjoyed in luxurious comfort and total privacy.
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