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For jet-set travelers who want to experience what it’s like to live like the lord and lady of the manor, luxury travel concierge company Loyd & Townsend Rose (LTR) provides exclusive use of country houses, castles and stately homes around England, Scotland, and Ireland.
But LTR doesn’t just offer posh pads for a private stay. They augment amazing accommodations with once-in-a-lifetime adventures, which might range from creating a replica of the Loch Ness Monster to…wait for it…a meeting with the Pope. (Yes, that actually happened).
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“We know that you have to keep pushing the bounds,” explains Jonathan Townsend Rose, who founded the company with his business partner, Andrew Loyd, in 1999.
“Clients don’t expect things to go wrong, and you want to be sure that, God forbid, if something does go wrong, there is a Plan B in place, and that Plan B is even better than Plan A.”
Eager for a taste of the good life myself, I’ve signed up for whirlwind stays at three of the roughly 350 properties in LTRs portfolio—albeit minus the Pope and Nessie.
A Sweet Sleep in Somerset
The first is Newton Surmaville, a 400-year-old manor house in Somerset, about three hours west of central London.
Outwardly, the nine-bedroom mansion is exactly what you would expect—all golden stone and grandeur, set on 62 acres alongside the River Yeo amid gardens and grazing sheep. But beyond the threshold, I’m surprised by how modern it feels.
When the current owners bought the estate in 2019, they hired acclaimed New York-based designer Jeffrey Bilhuber—whose clients have included David Bowie and Michael Douglas—to introduce 21st Century style without jettisoning the past.
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Wood paneling, ornate plaster ceilings, stone mantels, and 17th-century tapestries remain, providing an elegant backdrop for chic, contemporary gathering spaces where sleekly tailored furnishings keep cozy company with heirloom antiques.
The owner’s suite encompasses a spacious bedroom with a Jacobean canopy bed, separate dressing room, and a bathroom with a clawfoot tub and free-standing glass-walled shower.
Meals, catered during my stay by the talented Chef Tim Ford, are served either at the George IV formal dining table or in the breakfast room beside a huge, roaring fireplace.
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Exploring these spaces, pulling ancient, faded tomes from the bookshelves, is pastime enough for me. But I am tempted away for a stroll along the river, as well as a foray to Brown and Forrest Smokery, renowned for their smoked fish, fowl, and fromage.
When in Somerset, one must also try the cider, and we enjoy a tour of Somerset Cider Brandy Company and Burrow Hill Cider with owner Julian Temperley—father of fashion designer Alice Temperley—and his border collies, Sally and Jax.
With mischievous blue eyes peering out from a mop of silver curls, Temperley is as keen to discuss politics and a visit from the sultry actress Joanna Lumley—whose life-sized cut-out watches over brass stills–as he is his award-winning libations.
A Cinematic Coastal Mansion
Two hours further southwest, in the exclusive seaside town of Salcombe, South Devon, lies my second stop—The Moult.
Built in the 1700s but extensively remodeled over the years, this 11-bedroom mansion perches high on a peninsula, overlooking the teal waters of Kingsbridge Estuary. The interior is light and airy, with a relaxed blue-and-white beach vibe.
Amenities include a heated 72-foot swimming pool, and a lush lawn featuring croquet, a trampoline, and a giant outdoor chess set. There’s also a cinema room, where you can watch “Peril at End House,” an episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot which was filmed at the home in the late 1980s.
The greatest peril guests face these days is gluttony, as the catering here is to die for. (Ahem). During my stay, we feast on meals from Wild Artichokes, run by Samantha Miller and cookbook author Jane Baxter, and Galley Girls, who prepare a mouth-watering repast of lobster and steak.
Salcombe, nestled in the green folds of South Devon’s “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” is a treat unto itself.
Its tidy streets are flanked by ice cream parlors and upscale boutiques like Crew, which sells exactly the sort of breezily sophisticated wardrobe I shall require for my yacht…should I ever acquire a yacht, that is.
In the meantime, I find myself kitted out like an Oompa Loompa, zipped into a pair of waterproof overalls for a RIB ride with Salcombe Sea-N-Shore.
As our little vessel whips along the coast, past graceful sailboats with sails unfurled, Ali Jones points out shipwrecks and the romantic 16th century ruins of Fort Charles.
It’s an exhilarating afternoon on the water, followed by yet another opportunity to sail three sheets to the wind—this time with a gin-making class at Salcombe Distilling Company.
Distillers Jason Nickels and Harry Wakeley walk us through the process of producing our own blend, from choosing the botanicals to bottling, labeling, and packaging it in a professional-looking wooden box.
I dub mine Jolly House Gin-X, in the hopes that the laughter will flow as liberally as the liquor.
A Courtly Stay in Kent
With a cheers and a cheerio to Salcombe, I’m off to my final stop—Knowlton Court in Kent, approximately 70 miles east of central London.
This 19-bedroom home, built in 1585 and set on a 1900-acre estate, offers everything you could wish for in a stately home–suits of armor, tapestries, crystal chandeliers, historic family portraits, even a chair from the coronation of George V.
Yet it’s also friendly and comfortable, thanks to a recent refresh overseen by Fenella Fox-Pitt, who worked as a fashion designer before settling into family life with her husband, Andrew Fox-Pitt, at Knowlton Court, his ancestral home.
The grounds are as spectacular as the house, with vast lawns bordered by fields of wheat, sun-dappled woodlands, and paddocks, where we encounter several racehorses—including the headline-grabbing Snow Leopardess—which Andrew’s mother, Marietta, breeds.
(A love of horses runs through the family. Andrew’s brother, William Fox-Pitt, is an Olympic medal-winning equestrian).
Although none of the Fox-Pitts inhabit Knowlton Court currently, Andrew and Fenella live elsewhere on the estate and are happy to greet guests personally.
They accompany my friends and I for a vineyard tour and tasting at Simpsons Wine nearby and join us for cocktails and an excellent dinner catered by Stella Grove at Knowlton Court.
It’s a bit like dining with Lord and Lady Grantham. Only the Fox-Pitts, with their ready laughter and insouciant style, are much more fun–and their passion for hospitality is evident.
“In an ideal world, I hope guests have such a special time that they want to come back,” Fenella says with a smile. “We don’t want it to feel like a trendy hotel, but to stay a family home.”
That, in essence, is what LTR holidays are really about—feeling at home, among the most spectacular properties in the world.
IF YOU GO
Loyd Townsend Rose, https://ltrcastles.com
Somerset Cider Brandy Company, https://www.somersetciderbrandy.com
Crew Clothing Company, https://www.crewclothing.co.uk
Salcombe Sea-N-Shore, https://sea-n-shore.com
Salcombe Distilling Company, https://www.salcombegin.com
Simpsons Wine Estate, https://simpsonswine.com
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Author Bio: As a UK-based writer, photographer, and self-confessed coward attempting to conquer her fears through her travel adventures, Amy Laughinghouse has paraglided in the Swiss Alps, walked with lions in Mauritius, swum with sharks in French Polynesia, and–her most terrifying challenge ever–taken ballroom dance lessons in London. Her articles have appeared in A Pink Suitcase: 22 Tales of Women’s Travel, Qantas’ in-flight magazine, the Irish Times, AAA Journey, and the Toronto Globe and Mail, among other publications.