Travel:

The royal fam­ily's grand pri­vate es­tates in Wales, Eng­land and Scot­land in­clude hol­i­day cot­tages and lodges any­one can rent, dis­cov­ers Sandy Guy.

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hol­i­day cot­tages on Bri­tain’s royal es­tates

Bal­moral Estate, Scot­land

Bal­moral Estate is owned by the Queen, and Her Majesty is the land­lady when you rent one of seven hol­i­day houses across the estate, which are sit­u­ated near ma­jes­tic Bal­moral Castle or in se­cluded nooks a few kilo­me­tres away.

A 20,000ha estate cradled by the wild hills of Scot­land’s Royal Dee­side, Bal­moral was pur­chased for Queen Vic­to­ria by her beloved Prince Al­bert in 1852, and has been a favourite royal re­treat ever since.

The Queen and Prince Philip spend the sum­mer months at the estate, sit­u­ated in the heart of the Cairn­gorms Na­tional Park 12km west of the pic­turesque town of Bal­later, which ex­plains the many “By Royal Ap­point­ment” signs I see on lo­cal shops and busi­nesses.

Royal Dee­side is a cap­ti­vat­ing com­bi­na­tion of lochs, glens, forests and some of Scot­land’s renowned tower-houses in­clud­ing circa 1620 Brae­mar Castle, seat of the Clan Far­quhar­son.

At Bal­moral, cot­tages and lodges that were once the pre­serve of roy­als,

“The largest prop­erty avail­able for rent has a princely eight bed­rooms.”

courtiers and VIPs now give hol­i­day­mak­ers ac­cess to the place Queen Vic­to­ria de­scribed as “my dear par­adise in the High­lands”.

They in­clude three-bed­room Karim Cot­tage, built in 1890 for Queen Vic­to­ria’s In­dian pri­vate sec­re­tary Ab­dul Karim.

Colt Cot­tages are two semide­tached bun­ga­lows a few hun­dred me­tres from the castle, while three­bed­room Con­nachat Cot­tage sits be­side an estate road on the edge of Bal­lochbuie For­est, which sup­ports one of the largest re­main­ing ar­eas of na­tive Cale­do­nian for­est.

Rhe­breck Lodge has views to­wards Crathie Church and Bal­moral’s pri­vate golf course, while charm­ing Garbh Allt Shiel Lodge, where it’s said Queen Vic­to­ria some­times spent the night, is 8km west of the castle.

If you are hol­i­day­ing with a crowd, Allt­naguibh­saich Lodge, over­look­ing serene Loch Muick, is the largest prop­erty avail­able for rent – it has a princely eight bed­rooms, a draw­ing room and a sit­ting room.

At Bal­moral you can walk through stately gar­dens and wood­lands, tramp over grouse moors, fish for salmon in the River Dee, tour Royal Lochna­gar whisky dis­tillery, join a four-wheeldrive sa­fari across the estate, and dine on del­i­ca­cies such as grouse stuffed with hag­gis at lo­cal eater­ies.

Ll­wyny­w­er­mod, Wales

Did Prince William and Cather­ine spend their first week­end as a mar­ried cou­ple at Ll­wyny­w­er­mod, Prince Charles’ se­cluded Welsh farm in Car­marthen­shire, fol­low­ing their wed­ding at West­min­ster Abbey in 2011, as some tabloids sug­gested? “They might have,” a lo­cal tells me, with a wink.

Res­i­dents of this scenic cor­ner of south-west Wales are pro­tec­tive of their royal neigh­bours, who pur­chased their 77ha prop­erty in 2006. From the an­cient sheep drover’s town of Llandovery, a nar­row road winds 7km to the vil­lage of My­ddfai (pro­nounced muth-vey) amid ver­dant sheep-dot­ted hills and dales so idyl­lic you can eas­ily un­der­stand why the newly mar­ried Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge may have re­treated here.

My­ddfai is a pic­turesque col­lec­tion of stone cot­tages over­shad­owed by St Michael’s Church, dat­ing from 1285, which Prince Charles and the Duchess of Corn­wall at­tend when they stay at Ll­wyny­w­er­mod, their of­fi­cial Welsh res­i­dence.

Cen­tral to the cou­ple’s estate, which is just down the road, is a three­bed­room farm­house that was the coach house of a 14th-cen­tury man­sion, now in ru­ins, once owned by a rel­a­tive of Henry VIII’s ill-fated sec­ond wife Anne Bo­leyn.

You can sam­ple Ll­wyny­w­er­mod’s royal life at West Range and North Range, lux­ury two- and three­bed­room barn con­ver­sions form­ing part of the court­yard ad­ja­cent to the royal cou­ple’s mod­est abode. The com­fort­able, eco-friendly cot­tages have stone-flagged floors, open fire­places and stylish rooms de­signed by Camilla’s sis­ter, in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor Annabel El­liot, fea­tur­ing Welsh tex­tiles and fur­ni­ture.

Vis­i­tors to Ll­wyny­w­er­mod are free to wan­der the estate, where red kites wheel around tree­tops and the gar­dens are de­signed by Prince Charles.

Jeff Wadley, the estate man­ager, says all sea­sons of the year are spe­cial at Ll­wyny­w­er­mod. “Wild­flow­ers are ev­ery­where in sum­mer; au­tumn sees a multi-coloured land­scape; win­ter frosts and snow are mag­i­cal, and blue­bells car­pet the hills in spring.”

The estate is sit­u­ated on the fringes of the Bre­con Bea­cons, a 1350sq km na­tional park of stark moun­tains, grassy moor­lands, forests and en­chant­ing vil­lages, where you can dis­cover any­thing from Celtic stand­ing stones, Bronze Age relics and Ro­man ru­ins to Welsh cas­tles.

Din­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties abound at ven­er­a­ble pubs, in­clud­ing The Castle in Llandovery, which dates from the late 1600s, where we dined on Welsh lamb and wild mush­room lin­guine.>>

San­dring­ham, Nor­folk

It’s no se­cret that, in 2015, Prince William moved his fam­ily far from the spot­light to An­mer Hall, a Ge­or­gian manor lo­cated 3km from San­dring­ham, the Queen’s pri­vate Nor­folk estate.

The vil­lage of An­mer is sur­rounded by clus­ters of for­est, where trees are ablaze with golden-hued leaves in au­tumn. Wood pi­geons flut­ter across the road as we drive through town past a string of brick-and-flint cot­tages and an an­cient church.

Sit­u­ated near the West Nor­folk coast – pro­claimed an “Area of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty” – the 8000ha San­dring­ham Estate is bor­dered by The Wash, a vast es­tu­ary sys­tem that is a haven for birdlife. A royal home since 1862, San­dring­ham was pur­chased for 21-year-old Prince Ed­ward – later King Ed­ward VII – by his par­ents, Queen Vic­to­ria and Prince Al­bert.

San­dring­ham House is not for rent but you can feel like part of the fam­ily at Gar­den House, which over­looks or­na­men­tal gar­dens ad­ja­cent to the Queen’s sprawl­ing man­sion, or at The Gra­nary, which is a lux­ury barn con­ver­sion in the nearby vil­lage of Great Bir­cham.

“Un­like Buck­ing­ham Palace and Wind­sor Castle, which are both of­fi­cial res­i­dences of the monarch, San­dring­ham is pri­vately owned by the Queen; it’s her coun­try re­treat,” says He­len Walch, San­dring­ham Estate’s pub­lic enterprises man­ager.

For gar­den lovers, stay­ing at comfy, three-bed­room Gar­den House means you are in the midst of 20ha of wood­land walks, lakes, rare trees and bloom­ing gar­dens.

Vis­i­tors can tour San­dring­ham House, its rooms hous­ing 17th-cen­tury ta­pes­tries, trompe l’oeil ceil­ings and gilded fur­ni­ture, and the sta­bles, which store royal car­riages and cars, in­clud­ing a minia­ture As­ton Martin driven by Prince Charles as a child.

North Nor­folk is an al­lur­ing com­bi­na­tion of glo­ri­ous beaches, marsh­lands, quiet lanes and time­less vil­lages, and when you drive along twist­ing roads to beaches such as Holkham, it’s easy to see why gen­er­a­tions of roy­als have spent time here. From Holme-next-the-Sea, a 75km long beach stretches to the town of Cromer. Along the way are na­ture re­serves teem­ing with birdlife, and coastal and ru­ral foot­paths to ex­plore, in­clud­ing the Ped­dars Way, a 2000-year-old Ro­man route.

Nor­folk has earned a rep­u­ta­tion as a culi­nary des­ti­na­tion, boast­ing an ar­ray of “gas­tro-pubs” and sev­eral Miche­lin-starred es­tab­lish­ments.

Snet­tisham is fa­mous for pink­footed geese and the Rose and Crown Ho­tel, dat­ing from the 14th cen­tury, which was voted UK Pub of the Year in 2015. Here we dined on creamy fish pie and Bran­caster moules marinière.

The Feath­ers Ho­tel in Ders­ing­ham was named in hon­our of Al­bert Ed­ward, Prince of Wales, who once owned it (the feath­ers stem­ming from his heraldic badge). On the menu is game pie – com­bin­ing rab­bit, veni­son, pheas­ant and par­tridge – and tra­di­tional steak and kid­ney pud­ding. The nearby Dab­bling Duck, Kings Head and Gun­ton Arms are more de­li­cious rea­sons to join the roy­als at their Nor­folk sanc­tu­ary.

“San­dring­ham House is not for rent, but you can feel like part of the fam­ily at Gar­den House or The Gra­nary.”

Bal­moral Castle, where the royal fam­ily spends sum­mer hol­i­days, is set on a huge estate where guests can fish, walk on the moors or go on sa­fari.

The wild hills of Royal Dee­side. ABOVE RIGHT: The cosy sit­ting room at Garbh Allt Shiel.

ABOVE: West Range cot­tage at Prince Charles’ Welsh farm has two bed­rooms.

Gar­den House (right) at San­dring­ham (be­low) was once the head gar­dener’s abode.

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