Mike Yardley is in the UK sharing his tips on a royal residence open to the public for sleeping.
The eyes of the world were on Britain as we said goodbye to Queen Elizabeth II. The British monarchy appears destined to remain a huge catalyst for tourism to the UK, and Visit Britain predicts a surge in royal-inspired travel. There is a surprising amount of royal accommodation in the UK, littered with royal jewelry and rich history. Best of all, they don’t have to break the bank.
Many hotels promise to treat you like royalty with their five-star frills. But the fact remains that not even the fanciest of facials or triple-digit cotton thread count can compare to the prospect of sleeping in a real royal residence like the grand grounds of Balmoral, where Queen Elizabeth II spent her final days. So why not just stay there? Whether you’re a royalist or a history buff, here’s a handful of royal residences where any citizen can book a stay. It’s like the royal version of Bookabach.
Perched high in Sutherland, Scotland, the most northerly castle in mainland Britain is the 16th-century Castle of Mey. The bloody history of this ancient bunch was brought to life when the Queen Mother bought the castle after the death of her husband, King George VI. After a 50-year restoration of the building and the sprawling 30-acre property from head to toe, she spent several weeks here every August and October until her death. The castle became the first royal residence to open to paying guests, who can now stay at the Captain’s House Cottage, which was the late Queen Mother’s favorite spot for an indoor picnic. how you do It sleeps six and has a 20 foot sunroom overlooking an enclosed yard and expansive views of the ocean. In 2019, the then Prince Charles opened the Granary Lodge to guests. www.castleofmey.org.uk
Henry VIII was possibly the Hugh Hefner of the Tudor period, with Hampton Court Palace being the 16th-century equivalent of the Playboy Mansion. A pleasure palace that set the stage for seriously lavish parties. Located on the banks of the River Thames south west of London, the infamous King’s Pad is available for stays, which also boasts pleasure gardens, a tennis court and even a bowling alley. Get your own taste of royal splendor by renting the onsite 18th Century Georgian house, complete with a private walled garden, situated in the lane leading to Henry VIII’s Real Tennis Court. The Georgian House sleeps up to eight people and costs around NZ$500 per night. www.landmarktrust.org.uk
Just off the mainland, the Isle of Wight offers a delightful island getaway. Also here is Osbourne House, loved by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a family holiday home. The formal entrance to Osborne House, Sovereign’s Gate has received A to Z of European aristocracy from Napoleon and Tsar Nicholas II. It was also where Victoria finally left in 1901 and died at her favorite seaside retreat. You can visit the bedroom where she died. Today the grand entrance has been converted into one of two holiday homes housed in this striking building. www.english-heritage.org.uk
Synonymous with royal Christmas style, Sandringham in Norfolk was purchased by Queen Victoria as a marital home for her son Edward VII. Sandringham remains a firm favorite with the royal family. Queen Elizabeth II spent her first Christmas at the estate when she was eight months old, and since then the entire Windsor tribe has gathered at their Norfolk hideout every December. But when the monarch isn’t home, cottages are available for rent to house the traveling staff on the 8,000-acre estate. So if that Christmas dinner invitation never gets in the mail, this is the next best thing. The head gardener’s former house can be rented all year round. Called the Garden House, it overlooks the ornamental garden that adjoins the main building. www.norfolkhideaways.co.uk
The biggest of them all? Balmoral Castle. The royal family’s retreat in the Scottish Highlands was one of the Queen’s favorite residences. Flanked by more than 20,000 hectares of forest, lakes and valleys; It is the summer vacation paradise for the royal family. Like the cottages at Sandringham, they serve as staff quarters when the monarch is visiting. Shortly before her death, the Queen decided to open all eight cottages to the public for holiday bookings after being closed for so long during the pandemic. The Colt Cottages are in close proximity to the Castle, close to the Estates Office and Stables. Bookings run from Saturday to Saturday and can accommodate up to five people. It is available to rent between 7th January and 31st March whilst Rhebreck Cottage is available all year round except when the Royal Family are home. Weekly rates start at NZ$1000 per week. www.balmoralcastle.com
Finally, when it comes to being “neighbors” with The Firm, London’s The Rubens at the Palace enjoys that unique distinction. Overlooking the rear of Buckingham Palace, the centuries-old hotel has long been the glorified accommodation wing for palace guests. Through the windows you can watch the Guardsmen in the Royal Mews cleaning the rollers and watch the monarch’s horses in their stables.In the aptly named Palace Lounge hosts one of London’s most popular afternoon teas, packed with royalty. From coronation chicken sandwiches (designed intentionally for Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation dinner in 1953) to the Queen’s beloved ‘jam pennies’ and bite-sized portions from William and Harry’s favorite chocolate treat – every bite has a story.
Mike Yardley is our traveling correspondent at Jack Tame Saturday Morning.