How to Live Like Landed Gentry for the Holidays

With the final season of “The Crown” premiering on November 16, you might already be fantasizing about living the life of English aristocrats, or even the Royal Family, as portrayed in the popular Netflix series. Dreams can become reality—and in time for the holidays—thanks to Loyd & Townsend Rose, a luxury travel service company that specializes in private experiences at country estates, manor houses and castles in the U.K. and Ireland. Founded in 1999, the service represents historical properties in more than 150 locations. We caught up with co-owner Jonathan Townsend, to see what properties are trending for the holidays and beyond.

Before we get into what properties are trending, you offer a bespoke service where you match guests to a short list of properties. How do you do that?

We have been matching guests to properties since 1999, so we know how to talk to guests about their expectations and requirements for a trip. We are proud to have many repeat guests who we get to know well over time. Then we consider the age and energy level of each member of the entourage to plan activities and every detail. We also know the properties inside and out and their locations to make sure the size and sensibility of the estate, manor house or castle works well for the guests. From the gardens of Kent to the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and countryside of Ireland, we have properties to suggest. We are savvy matchmakers.

Who is your typical guest?

Just as no two trips are alike, so do the guests vary, even within the same entourage. We specialize in multi-generational family gatherings and celebrations, such as landmark birthdays and anniversaries. They all have in common the quest for an experiential, memory-building trip with much for everyone to enjoy. The logistics can be very complex and they need to be seamless.

Your company then proceeds to take care of every detail from hiring chefs and arranging food outings with local artisan producers to arranging shooting, fishing or horseback riding. What are popular outings at the moment?

At the moment, we are sorting lots of holiday plans. We arrange every detail from gorgeous decorations, spirited carols, visits to local Christmas markets, multi-course dinners, possibly even a traditional Scottish celebration called a ceilidh can be added to the holiday agenda.

Now is also a good time to reserve for spring and summer. The newest property in our collection is Rodel House on the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. It has been completely renovated and is perfect for a family or small group of up to 10 people. It is open all year, but we expect it to be busiest in spring and summer when the weather is conducive to outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and swimming. There are even programs to connect with local treasures such as Harris Tweed and the Isle of Harris Distillery.

For those still looking for holiday plans, what possibilities are still available for Christmas bookings?

Loyd & Townsend Rose co-founder Jonathan Townsend
Jonathan Townsend (Photo by Loyd & Townsend Rose)

Knowlton Court, with its tree-lined, sweeping drive, is situated in the heart of Kent, known as “The Garden of England.” The estate oozes history and was first recorded in the Domesday Book when it belonged to William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Bishop Odoof Bayeux. Built in 1585 by Sir Thomas Peyton, Knowlton Court is surrounded by gardens in the heart of a large working farm under the stewardship of the Fox-Pitt family, one of Britain’s best known equestrian families with a passion for agriculture, the environment, conservation and preservation.

Details: Nineteen luxury bedrooms with private bathrooms for up to 38 people and further accommodation on the Estate for a total of 80 guests.

Holiday to-do list: Shopping at the Canterbury Christmas Market, the Canterbury Cathedral Carol Service, a visit with Father Christmas at elaborately decorated Hever Castle.

Newton Surmaville in Somerset has emerged from a restoration under the direction of New York-based interior designer Jeffrey Bilhuber. A Grade I-listed Jacobean manor house surrounded by 62 acres of parkland, Newton Surmaville was built in the early 1600s. The current redesign is a mix of the traditional with contemporary flair.

Details: Nine bedrooms and eight baths, accommodating up to 20 people with period features, including fine oak paneling, open stone fireplaces, flagstone flooring and high ceiling heights.

Holiday to-do list: The elaborate Christmas display at Brinsmore Gardens and the traditional pantomimes at the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil, ice skating at Clark’s Village in Street, the Winter Lights Train Journey on the West Somerset Railway at Bishops Lydeard.

The Moult in Salcombe, South Devon, produces its own gin made from botanicals grown right on the estate, perfect for a holiday cocktail. The Moult is one of the finest private houses on the coast, positioned on its own peninsula and surrounded by acres of gardens with a cool décor and Victorian architecture filled with holiday atmosphere.

Built in the 1700s, it was once owned by the Earl of Devon and was the location for the filming of an Agatha Christie drama. The house is full of history with sea views, a gazebo, an Italian garden with an orangery, a fire pit and a kitchen garden. Steps lead down to the sea and beaches on either side.

Details: Eleven bedrooms with private bathrooms for up to 24 people, as well as a 72-foot heated outdoor swimming pool, a cinema, game room, gym, croquet court and trampoline on the property with water sports, golf, boat trips, fishing, crabbing and lobster potting in the area.

Holiday to do list: The harborside Christmas tree and fireworks on New Year’s Eve in Salcombe, the Christmas lights at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, the Christmas market at Exeter Cathedral.

How do you have access to these homes and why would the owners want to rent them?

We have been cultivating relationships with property owners since we started Loyd & Townsend Rose and have built trust. The reality is that the upkeep of these massive country homes is immense and owners, particularly if they own several properties, cannot use them as much as they would like themselves. This opens the door (literally) to wonderful experiences for our guests.

Tip: For a consultation or more information, travel advisors may contact Jonathan Townsend Rose at [email protected] or Andrew Loyd at [email protected]. Travel Advisors receive a 15 percent commission for all bookings.

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