Sleeping Around in The UK, Part I; Self-Catering Amid History

In my six weeks in the United Kingdom, I laid my head down to sleep in no less than fifteen separate and distinct abodes. As writing a bit about each place in one go would strain the limits of anyone’s attention span, including my own, I’ve decided to break it up into slightly more manageable chunks, although they will still be roughly chronological.

This post focuses on my self-catering experience with The Landmark Trust. First of all, although friends in the UK know exactly what the term “self-catering” means, I never heard it until I started doing research for the trip, so a little explanation is in order. “Self-catering” accommodations are just that- you cook for yourself in a furnished flat (apartment) with a kitchen. Yes, you must buy your own food, including (in my experience) condiments, but everything else is provided, although again, self-catering schemes may differ, so don’t take my word for it. The flats I rented were not, however, your run of the mill digs, but let from The Landmark Trust, a non-profit that specializes in refurbishing historic homes, apartments, and even follies, and renting them out to holiday-makers in search of a unique experience.

The Trust has accommodations as small as one room all the way up to entire houses, and everything in between, all over the UK. Many are located in rural areas, but some are right in the middle of the action. The flats I stayed in are in very historic buildings, and although equipped with most modern amenities, neither one has TV or wi-fi, so entertainment is restricted to books (they provide a shelf of local-interest reading) or whatever is on your hard drive. (Electricity is plentiful of course!) I knew all of this going in so arrived prepared to entertain myself off-line. Posting on wordpress and instagram was a tad difficult, but I picked up wi-fi while out and about so the time at the flat was rather relaxing, truth be told.

One of the nice things about self-catering is of course all the money one can save by cooking for oneself, but although I did make breakfast and one or two dinners, the cooking aspect is more suited to a crowd of family or friends. I did rattle around a bit in both of the flats, but that was ok by me! I don’t let the fact that I am traveling alone stop me from doing much of anything.

So where are these Landmark Trust self-catering flats?

The first is quite an extravagance for one person, as it is a four bedroom flat, but I just could not pass up the chance to stay on the grounds at Hampton Court! As my mother is an Anglophile with a keen interest in Henry VIII’s wives and the Tudor period, this is the time in English history I knew the most about before any research. To stay there; to turn the key and walk up my stairs while tourists strolled below, and to walk the courtyards at night after they were long gone-well that was a necessary indulgence!

The flat is located in Fish Court, which is a part of the Tudor kitchens, in fact the Tudor kitchen exhibit is directly below the flat. The living and dining rooms, kitchen, two bedrooms and two baths are located on the first floor (second floor in the US) and the master bedroom, with views out onto the working section of the palace and gardens beyond, on the the second floor.


View from my door on the ground floor onto Fish Court. Behind you is the door, and behind that the steps up to the flat


Tourists (including me) entering the Tudor Kitchen area. See the window with the sticker on it directly above their heads? That’s my kitchen window!

You may ask why there is a flat in this part of the palace at all. After it fell out of royal favor as a residence after George II’s time, Hampton Court was used by successive monarchs for what they called “grace and favour” flats, so much of the palace open to the public now was once given over to private residences. For more about the history please see the link.

Hampton Court is a magical place, and my stay was even more magical than most as I had the opportunity to wander the courtyards at night. I don’t have any pictures as I deliberately did not take a camera on my sojourns in the dark; out of respect to the ghosts, maybe; but no ghosts bothered me.

Unfortunately it is no longer possible to stay in Fish Court. The Trust has removed bookings from the website, so for now no more visitors will stay in those rooms. But if you are interested in staying on the grounds and have family and friends with you, I suggest the Trust’s other property, The Georgian House, which is on the grounds and offers the same behind-the-scenes access as the Fish Court flat.

My next Landmark Trust experience followed closely on the heels of the first. I left Hampton Court after three nights, and after a stop at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, proceeded to another flat amid history in the cathedral close at Salisbury in Wiltshire. The Wardrobe consists of two bedrooms, a bath, galley kitchen and large sitting area with an amazing view of Salisbury Cathedral. The flat is located up a number of steps on the second floor (that’s third in the US) of the home of the Infantry Regiments of Berkshire and Wiltshire, which uses the ground and first floors for a very interesting museum, offices and meeting space.

This flat has neither TV or wi-fi, and bathtub only (as at Fish Court) but is centrally located with amazing views of the cathedral and the red roofs of Salisbury. I stayed here for a week and used it as a base for travels around the area. Although I originally intended to do a day trip each day of my stay here, the flat, and Salisbury, were both so enchanting that I spent three of the days just hanging around town; taking walks across the water meadows and beside the Avon, exploring the centre and the farmer’s markets, climbing the tower of the cathedral, and generally enjoying myself. Salisbury is a good spot for a headquarters for the area, as the railway station is conveniently located and trains there to take one just about anywhere. I highly recommend this charming city as a base for your adventures, and the Wardrobe as the spot to stay. (However, one must be ready and able to climb steps. In fact, my whole trip involved plenty of steps everywhere I went!)


The Cathedral Close from up the tower


Night time view from sitting room window. I arrived at 10:30 PM just in time to see this!




The Cathedral from the water meadows


Those windows all the way up in the middle? My sitting room


View from the bedroom window over the roofs of Salisbury centre

Both of these properties are well looked after by local caretakers, and well-stocked with kitchen utensils, books and other reading material, sheets, blankets, and towels, and all the accoutrement, including a beautiful teapot and tea set. The caretakers in Salisbury even left some beautiful yellow roses around the flat for me to enjoy!

If you are interested in history and looking for someplace different to stay, I highly recommend the Landmark Trust. Have a look at their website, which is searchable by region, for available properties in the area you wish to visit. I promise you won’t be disappointed. If you are the kind that needs the telly and high speed internet all the time however, this is probably not for you.

Here’s a link to another property I perused and seriously considered but decided some frugality would be in order. Rosslyn Castle! Overlooking the River Esk, within walking distance of Rosslyn Chapel and a short drive to Edinbugh. I hope to stay there one day.

Other properties I considered last year include The Pineapple in Dunmore, central Scotland, and Beckworth’s Tower outside of Bath, England.

Another property smack in the center of Bath will be my home for three nights next June, when I go back to spend a leisurely month in Cornwall and the southwest.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed my Landmark Trust tales. More pictures are on the Instagram feed here. You will have to scroll back a bit.

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