The UK is awash with esoteric tradition. Hocktide in Hungerford features besuited “Tutti Men” parading around the town with staffs topped with flowers and a cloved orange; Charlton-on-Otmoor, Oxfordshire, celebrates May Day with garlanded children dancing around the maypole; while the annual cheese rolling race down Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire attracts spectators from around the world. That these age-old traditions continue to survive is testament to the tenacity of countryside-dwelling Brits, born of the conviction that these eccentric customs are a vital link to the past. It is this same determination that saw crumbling country houses and architectural oddities revivified in 1965, when MP and philanthropist Sir John Smith and his wife founded The Landmark Trust
. The Smiths reasoned, ingeniously, that the funds needed to preserve historic buildings around the British Isles could be raised by letting them for vacations, and since then the charitable organization has been coaxing urbanites out of the metropolis to stay in their fabulous variety of residences. We present five choice Landmark Trust destinations.
Built in the 18th century by Lord Auchinleck, father of Samuel Johnson’s biographer James Boswell, this impressive villa played host to the good doctor and his sidekick after their tour of the Hebrides in 1773. Overlooking the Isle of Arran, it has expansive grounds through which runs the Dippol Burn.
Prices from £958-£2701 for a three-night weekend or £1273-£3998 for a week’s stay.
Located on the Dart estuary in Devon and completed in 1502 as a coastal artillery tower, this small building was converted into a summer residence in 1855 after centuries of neglect. The ground floor of the tower, which sits right on the water’s edge, has been restored to its original beauty, while the ramparts are ideal for stargazers.
Prices from £696-£1921 for a three-night weekend or £931-£2842 for a week’s stay.
Situated near the Quantock Hills in Somerset, this manor house with its own oratory chapel mainly dates from the medieval times. Having been at some point ignominiously split into apartments, in 1984 the Landmark Trust came to the rescue. Highlights include a pentice (a covered passage), that traverses the courtyard from the old kitchen to the main building, while the garden backs onto the Cannington brook that flows into the River Parrett.
Prices from £1053-$2073 for a three-night weekend or £1262-£3069 for a week’s stay.
Monkton Old Hall
Built sometime before 1400 and saved by the scholar JR Cobb during the Victorian period, this old house in south Wales, although much-altered, has retained a great deal of its medieval character. A huge hall with vaulted ceilings dominates the building, while a long terraced garden offers wonderful views of Pembroke Castle.
Prices from £579-£1779 for a three-night weekend or £801-£2627 for a week’s stay.
A Georgian folly on the shore of the Solent in Eaglehurst, Southampton, the building has a rich history. Most locals agree it was built by Thomas Sandby, the first professor of architecture at the Royal Academy, for Temple Luttrell, an MP and reputed smuggler––a story supported by the existence of a tunnel that runs from the tower’s basement to the beach. After Luttrell’s death, his brother-in-law Lord Cavan, who commanded the British forces in Cairo at the beginning of the 19th century, acquired the edifice. Among the possessions he brought to the property was a plinth supporting two granite feet, thought to be from the base of a 19th-dynasty statue of Rameses II. Following Cavan’s death, the tower had various owners and uses––in 1912 it was the site of some of Guglielmo Marconi’s radio experiments––until it was acquired as one of the Landmark Trust in 1968.
Prices from £775-£1739 for a three-night weekend or £1038-£2576 for a week’s stay.