Make it a Landmark holiday
Did you catch the Channel Four series Restoring Britain’s Landmarks at the end of last year? It followed the work of the Landmark Trust, a charity that for the last 50 years has saved historic, often unusual buildings and turned them into gorgeous places to stay.
I’ve been a fan for years, have stayed in a couple of Landmarks and have pored over the brochure so often the rest feel like old friends. John Fowles’s old house Belmont in Lyme Regis, which featured heavily in the series, is near where my parents live, so I was delighted when the charity took it on and I’ve peeked at its progress over the last few years.
We have four Landmarks right here in Sussex: Fox Hall, a former hunting lodge at Charlton which had its unique indoor weather vane restored in the TV series; Sackville House, a 16th century eight-sleeper at East Grinstead; Wilmington Priory, a six-sleeper that’s part of a monastic ruin near Eastbourne, and Laughton Place, a standalone tower with battlements that is all that remains of a 16 century house near Lewes.
I’ve actually stayed in Laughton Place, which was surrounded by mist and sheep at the time. I made a family birthday tea in the kitchen and climbed the epic (and frankly a little spooky) spiral staircase for my bedroom and the view from the battlements.
I’ve also played house in romantic little Robin Hood’s Hut, a folly on a hill in Somerset.
What I love about Landmarks is not only the buildings but also the attention to detail within them. The housekeepers leave a pot of flowers and a welcome note and there’s antique china on which to have your tea. The shelves are thoughtfully stocked with both fiction and non-fiction books connected to the area, and walking maps. There’s also a book packed with photos and information about the building’s restoration.
Best of all is the log book in which visitors record their experiences. I could spend hours reading the different voices from the chatty to the anally informative to childish enthusing with drawings. There’s always a fair smattering of proposals, significant birthdays and envious wildlife spots.
Of course all that restoration work and antique furnishing doesn’t come cheap but there are a couple of ways to keep down the cost of a stay. Some of the large landmarks that sleep a lot of people work out very reasonable if you can fill them – great fun for a house party with friends, or a holiday with extended family (kids will love the sense of adventure of staying in some of the quirkier buildings).
Unseasonable times of year can be cheap, especially if you’re prepared to brave a ‘hardy’ landmark without proper central heating, or with an outdoor bathroom. Laughton Place, for example, which had plug in fan heaters when I was there, costs from £319 for four nights and sleeps up to four.
Also look out for the week just after a bank holiday. If you can get away then you sometimes have the opportunity of a three-day midweek block, which is cheaper than a long weekend or having to commit to four days midweek. Both times I stayed in a Landmark I did the two nights after the first May bank holiday, which handily happens to always fall around my birthday. You’ll also find that four nights midweek can work out cheaper than three over a weekend, even in the school summer holidays.
You don’t even have to stay to get a look at a Landmark. There are a handful of open days at selected buildings every year. This September you can check out Wilmington Priory here in Sussex – I did on a previous open day and it’s well worth an explore.
You can see Belmont the same month if you happen to be down in the South West. There are also several open days coming up in Kent throughout this year. Check out landmarktrust.org.uk for more details.