You Can Actually Stay On These 4 British Country Estates

By Fleur Britten

3 weeks ago

Stately homes and manicured grounds for a Saltburn-esque holiday

A luxurious rewilded haven you can call your own for the weekend? Yes please, says Fleur Britten. These are four incredible British country estates you can stay on.

Read the C&TH Responsible Tourism Guide

Seeking Saltburn: These Are 4 Grand British Estates You Can Stay On

What is luxury these days? Somehow the thought of drinking rosé on the superyacht in the Med feels a bit passé now, a bit meaningless. Splashy luxury is out, quiet, conscious luxury is in, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that on Britain’s more progressive grand estates, the manicured formal gardens have given way to something altogether scruffier – because it’s better for the planet. As the rewilding revolution takes hold, and rare native species return to the land, so too have we, drawn to the health-giving properties of connecting with nature. It helps that the landed families have raised the game with more luxe, eco-minded self-catering holiday cottages, with Ai Weiwei on the walls and jeep safaris and wild swimming on the menu. ‘Before lockdown, the idea of swimming in a dark and very cold lake was not something that people associated with luxury,’ says Hugh Crossley, 4th Baron Somerleyton. ‘But now I think that’s changed. People aren’t so keen just to spend their way into luxury.’ Here, then, are four of the best grand country estates offering luxuriously sustainable self-catering holidays.

Broughton Sanctuary

Broughton Sanctuary, North Yorkshire

It says a lot about what ‘cool’ means these days that the 3,000-acre Broughton Sanctuary in the Yorkshire Dales features in National Geographic’s 2024 Cool Destinations List. For the last four years, the focus of this British country estate – under the custodianship of the Tempest family since 1097 – has been its return to nature. ‘We wanted to give nature a proper home,’ explains Roger Tempest. ‘The days of industrial agriculture should be over.’ The estate’s intensive sheep farming has been converted to regenerative agriculture or rewilded land: 400,000 native hardwood trees have been planted, increasing the estate’s tree cover from six percent to 20 percent. Fences have been removed and Belted Galloway cows have been introduced (beavers soon, Roger promises). Even guests can get involved, planting trees and tracking wildlife.

As well as being out in nature, guests can also attend to their ‘inner nature’, as Roger puts it. The wellness programme offers wild swimming, moonbathing, foraging and retreats hosted by Ruby Wax, among others. The 19 self-catering holiday homes, including barns, farmhouses, cottages and gate lodges, also offer the cool factor with interiors from The Conran Shop, Ercol and Andrew Martin. 

Book it: From £520 for three nights.

Fritton Lake

Fritton Lake, Suffolk

It would be easy enough to spend your entire stay at Fritton Lake, a 250-acre resort on the estate of Somerleyton Hall, luxuriating in its members’ club perks. There’s the outdoor pool that’s warm all year round, the French clay and grass tennis courts, a croquet lawn, the clubhouse that serves club classics such as fish pie, gourmet burgers and mac’n’cheese, a two-mile lake for paddleboarding and wild swimming, with a floating sauna and private beach, plus 35 self-catering cabins dotted around the lake, woods and meadows (for maximum luxury, check out the design-led, Japandi-style Koto cabins). But its eco credentials are also front and centre. That pool is mostly heated by a ground-source pump. The meat on the menu is mostly sourced from the estate’s ‘wildstock’ of free-roaming water buffalo, deer, cattle and sheep, introduced as part of Somerleyton’s rewilding programme, and of course there’s fruit and veg from its market garden and regenerative farm, which is pickled and preserved at harvest time to provide for winter’s ‘hungry gap’. For Baron Somerleyton, the driving force behind the rewilding, the greatest luxury is Fritton Lake’s expanse of unspoilt space: ‘Being at one with nature, being able to run a trail rather than on the treadmill, having a sauna after swimming in the lake, that’s the luxury people come for.’

Book it: From £200 a night.

Hawarden Estate

Hawarden Estate, Wales

‘You can tell by the look of the estate,’ explains Tara Gladstone, great-great-great-granddaughter of former 19th-century prime minister William Gladstone, and director of Hawarden Estate holidays, which are hosted at the family seat in North Wales. ‘It’s not highly manicured anymore, it’s quite wild – it creates a certain vibe.’ It’s one that communicates that nature reigns. The Gladstones have converted their own farming to organic, and most of the parkland to wildflower meadows. Guests of its three self-catering properties can pick their own organic berries, learn how to forage for mushrooms, and buy homegrown produce in Hawarden’s award-winning farm shop. Outdoorsy pursuits include guided tree walks, cookery workshops and children’s drawing classes. If that all sounds a bit earthy, the freshly renovated west wing of Hawarden Castle (pronounced ‘Harden’, by the way) amply caters for luxury appetites. This grandly proportioned five-bedroomed apartment boasts original art by Ai Weiwei, Damien Hirst and Julian Opie, in among the Old Masters: ‘It’s like being in an art gallery,’ says Tara. Its private garden offers outdoor dining, a wood-fired pizza oven, Green Egg barbecue, sauna and hot tub. A home from home, they say. We wish.

Book it: The West End at Hawarden, from £1,320 for a three-night weekend.

Knepp Estate bedroom

Knepp Estate, Sussex

Luxury, says Isabella Tree, the visionary behind Britain’s OG rewilded country estate, Knepp, is ‘staying somewhere where someone has thought very carefully about [the environment] for you so you don’t have to feel bad about it.’ Very little at Knepp Estate places a burden on the planet – for example, the flooring of the Bothy (one of two self-catering offerings – both repurposed cow sheds) is made with the wood of a 300-year-old cedar felled by the 1987 storm. Both properties have super-comfortable, natural-fibre mattresses and organic cotton bedlinen, and even the soap comes in greaseproof paper bags inviting you to take it home to minimise waste. What’s more, the ‘wild-range’ meat – from the free-roaming Old English Longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, and red and fallow deer – is about as sustainable as it’s possible to be. Other rare native species now populating the estate include nightingales, turtle doves, purple emperor butterflies, storks and kingfishers. 

Book it: £980 for a week’s stay at the Bothy or the Dairy.