By Emily Gray
When lockdown is over what we really want to do is get all our friends and family together and head off for a weekend, (preferably a whole week!) and get out of London. We want to spend time having dinner parties, sleeping in, soaking in deep baths, lounging around outside, dancing in sitting rooms and exploring the countryside all without worrying about whether our flight is going to be cancelled or if we have to quarantine when we get back. Which is why we are adding all these outstanding properties to our list of places to visit this summer.
Farleigh Wallop, Hampshire
If you want the 5* hotel experience without the timings, the keys and the other guests, then let us introduce you to Farleigh Wallop. Owned by the same family since the 15th Century, the exclusive house is set on a private 4000 acre estate in the Hampshire countryside, just over an hour outside of London. Sleeping 21, the house consists of eleven elegant suites and bedrooms, six reception rooms, a cinema room, billiard room and wine cellar. You've got plenty of space to host long, lazy lunches, ultimate film nights and boozy dinner parties. With 10 acres of garden you can while away the hours boating on the lake, walking in the rose garden, playing tennis or throwing a pool party. With the in-house team on hand to organise everything you can relax knowing your family holiday, house party or shooting weekend is completely taken care of.
The Lost Slipper, Cornwall
Think of lazy, hazy English summer days, scones with clotted cream and strawberries on the terrace, lawn games, playing tennis, a raucous feast, dancing to the antique gramophone, setting the world to rights in the snug library with a nightcap followed by a bracing swim in the sea the next day. That is what The Lost Slipper has to offer. Set in the Cornish countryside but not too far from the sea, the Georgian property sleeps 16 (although you can book further properties on the site to take the numbers to 30) is a dreamy property that has quintessential summer stay written all over it.
Castle Balbegno, Aberdeenshire
Once home to the famous Gladstone family, Castle Balbegno is a magnificent property made up of an 18th Century house and 15th Century castle that sleeps 13 across six bedrooms. Adorned with grand antiques, imposing antlers and luxury furnishings it’s a beautiful base for exploring the surrounding countryside or if you just want to hole up for the weekend having drinks at the bar in the underground games room which was once a dungeon. Hosting a banquet? There’s a grand hall for that with striking high ceilings and original oak flooring and you can hire out a private chef and butler for the occasion.
Eilean Shona, Argyll
If you’re like us, then food will always be a big part of any celebration or holiday, luckily food, wine and whisky are important parts of the Eilean Shona experience. The house comes fully catered and the team will match your party with the right chef so that if nothing else your guests will leave talking about just how delicious every meal was. Sitting on an island, Eilean Shona house was designed by the celebrated architect Robert Lorimer and the classic Scottish facade gives way to a cosy abode that sleeps 16 which is more quirky in it’s charm than formal. Spend your days eating, drinking, exploring the island (an island guide comes with the house too), taking in the magnificent setting, breathing in the fresh airs and admiring the views of the loch. Absolute pure escapism.
Inglethorpe Hall, Norfolk
Once lockdown is over, we want nothing more than to get all our friends together and head out of London for the ultimate party and we have our eyes set on Inglethorpe Hall in North Norfolk. The Grade II property lies on the boundary of the Royal Estate at Sandringham and was built in 1745. The location makes it perfect to explore the Royal Estate, Norfolk beaches and the golf course. Once a private estate and residence the country house has now been elegantly restored - think bedrooms with four poster beds, and claw foot baths and fireplaces in the room. For those visiting during the summer you'll find 30 acres of grounds to explore with plenty of space for hosting barbecues and outdoor parties.
Ardington House, Oxfordshire
Ardington House may be the height of stately sophistication, with it’s grand rare imperial staircase (It starts as two flights and twists into one suspended flight) and Baroque style, but it’s very much a house to take over and make your own, there’s going to be no formality here. Unless of course you want that - it is whatever you want it to be. Sleeping up to 25, you can spend the time playing tennis, swimming in the heated pool, picnicking by the trout river, fly fishing, watching films on the projector screen or cosying up by the fire. If you don't want to go further afield then just 30 minutes away you can explore Oxford and the local market towns of Hungerford, Newbury, Wantage and Abingdon .For celebratory meals, James Benson, a former Claridge’s and Lygon Arms chefs can be prepare a three course meal using fresh Cotswold produce and there is, of course, a helicopter landing site.