Fit for a King
Karen Fong discovers how travellers looking to discover the glory of a bygone era can now do so in renovated castles, chateaus and villas that are opening their doors to guests for a truly lavish experience.
Consider it the Kate Middleton effect, but the allure of aristocracy and the desire to experience it has never been stronger. For ardent travellers looking to live like royals during their luxury getaways, grand castles and rustic chateaus that have been transformed into resor ts make this possible.
Joanne Tang, Managing Director of Infinite Luxury, a sales and marketing company that represents luxury and unique hospitality clients, says: “We often find that these properties date back many years. In addition to the many stories that come with these places, the history also contributes to the property’s uniqueness and charm.”
Castles or chateaus also tend to be smaller-run operations, and the warm, familial service provided adds to their old-world appeal, says Clive Cummings, whose family owns the Abbaye de la Bussière in France.
Here are some of the most renowned retreats around the world where one can travel to for a true taste of grandeur and royalty.
Medieval: Ashford Castle, Ireland First built in 1228, this castle in Mayo was the principal stronghold of the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family, who defeated the native O’Connors of Connaught. After changing hands a number of times, the castle came under the ownership of Lord and Lady Ardilaun in the 19th century. It was bought by Noel Huggard in 1939, when it began its transformation into a luxury hotel.
Beautifully restored, the castle today features masterfully crafted Rococo gilt mirrors and Waterford chandeliers. It still retains its intimate and cosy corners, which provide ample private spaces for guests. Lady Ardilaun’s Woodland Walk gardens have also been rejuvenated with over a hundred majestic oak, beech and chestnut trees.
Famous personalities who have graced the castle grounds include Princess Grace of Monaco, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair, and celebrities like Russell Crowe and Barbara Streisand.
Catherine Kenny, Room Divisions Manager at Ashford, believes the overall atmosphere of the castle is the secret to its appeal. She says: “One may have travelled the world, but the setting of the castle and the beauty of the lake is absolutely breathtaking. Guests enjoy being outdoors in the fresh air.The estate is very large, and falconry, clay pigeon shooting and archery are some of the favourite guest activities.”
Mayo is also known for its excellent fishing waters, scenic hikes, as well as some of the most interesting archaeological and historical sites in Ireland.
Classically British: Goodwood Estate, England Its story goes back to 1697, when the first Duke of Richmond (son of King Charles II) and his French mistress, Louise de Keroualle, bought Goodwood House to be their hunting lodge away from London.The third Duke of Richmond later extended Goodwood House, with an extensive plan to create an octagon-shaped residence, but he ran out of funds and never completed the project. He did, however, commission the outstanding orangery, stables, as well as The Kennels, which originally housed the duke’s hounds. Today, Goodwood Estate is home to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars’ manufacturing plant and global headquarters, as well as a number of sporting clubs.
In the heart of the estate is the Goodwood Hotel, which features a historic 18th century section where guests can experience the Character rooms, decorated with a blend of British
modernity and heritage, complete with four-poster beds and elegant furnishings.The estate also offers two excellent golf courses, a historic motoring circuit, and one of the world’s most beautiful racecourses. Strolling the grounds, guests can visit Goodwood House, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Richmond and Gordon that has had its original regency and splendour revived. It houses an excellent art collection, including sporting scenes by George Stubbs and 18th century London cityscapes by Canaletto.
Personal touch: Abbaye de La Bussière, France Set in six hectares of elegant parkland, it was first founded in 1131 by an Englishman, Stephen Harding, who was the third Abbot of Cîteaux.
The name “La Bussière” comes from the Latin word Buxeria, which means “a place covered in box trees”. The monks of the Cistercian Order, who previously inhabited the abbey, infused it with a deep tradition of humility, tranquillity, peace and hospitality – ideals that still remain today. The abbey is currently owned by Joy and Martin Cummings, and managed by their son, Clive, and his wife.
The Abbaye is located in the Valley Ouche by the canal de Bourgogne, just 30 minutes from Dijon. It features nine buildings, including a 15th century wine press and cellar, and a consecrated crypt. Inside, it has a traditionally French decor, and each room offers stunning views of the park and lake. Antique furniture hold pride of place, and all fabrics are selected to match the authentic finishings and design. “We have a careful balance of maintaining the history, spirit and ambience, while creating a comfortable luxury hotel. We have many more years of renovation, maintenance and projects to keep us occupied,” says Cummings.
Fashionable glamour: Villa le Rose, Italy This place boasts a glamorous factor to it, as it was furnished by Leonardo and Beatrice Ferragamo of the famed Italian fashion brand. It was initially a Medici Villa commissioned by the Marchese Niccolò Antinori in the 15th century, and remained in the family’s possession until it was bought by the Ferragamos in the 1980s. Originally a labour of love, the restoration was done with the intention to transform the villa into a family home. However, the private estate was eventually turned into a modern aristocratic guest house.
“Guests can expect the glamour, craftsmanship and top-notch quality that the fashion house is known for. Apart from that, there are also more personal elements and details,” says Infinite Luxury’s Tang, whose company handles the property.
Situated in the hills of Firenze Cer tosa, the area is the entrance to the Chianti region and sits at the end of a great driveway of ancient cypress trees in the village of Tavarnuzze.The villa gives guests the opportunity to live like a 16th century aristocrat, while modern comforts such as chef and butler services, and a limousine chauffeur accentuate the luxury experience.
The villa can be rented out for exclusive use and can accommodate up to 12 adults and two children. Outside the manor, guests can visit the Cedar Garden, a sweeping lawn with tall hedges and ancient trees, including a 300-year-old Lebanon cedar from which the garden takes its name.
01 The majestic aura of the Ashford Castle will make for an unforgettable luxury holiday experience. 02 The interiors of the Ville le Rose are a perfect blend of luxury, modernity and elegance. 03 The Regency Ballroom in the Goodwood Estate offers travellers a cosy candlelit dinner experience.