If formal gardens and wisteria-kissed Georgian mansions are on your radar, these five destinations will serve up old-school grandeur in spades
Tea with all of the Trappings? Cocktails and Croquet Amongst the Wisteria? Tap Into Your Bridgerton Fantasies at These 5 Properties
Round two of Bridgerton has descended, an embossed invitation for the masses to swan dive into the scrumptious pomp and scandal-laced circumstance surrounding “coming out” season in Regency-era England.
Once again, the ton flit from modiste to balls and then back to gilt-edged drawing rooms to craft marriage strategies. Love triangles materialize; verbal sparring captivates, alliances are formed and bosoms heave from bodices so tight that one aggressive hiccup could trigger a wardrobe malfunction.
The aristo-antics are terrific. But, the splendor of the nineteenth century is the star ingredient. It shines so brightly that Bridgerton-themed holidays are in demand. Travel advisor Sam Mcclure of Small World Travel is fielding requests for visits to frieze-filled country estates that offer experiences similar to those featured on the Netflix show. “Clients are looking for punting, falconry, and horse riding, even an afternoon at Royal Ascot. This is combined with time in London visiting the palaces and a fancy afternoon tea” If formal gardens and wisteria-kissed Georgian mansions are on your radar, these five properties will serve up old-school grandeur in spades. No corsets required.
The Newt in Somerset, Somerset
This Georgian limestone manor house is certainly classic; the country estate was built in 1687 and later expanded by the Hobhouse Family who spent centuries cultivating the 800-acre estate and woodlands. Reborn as the Newt in 2019, the gardens and 23 luxuriously pared-back rooms were an insta-hit with travelers who want to wander the grounds-a labyrinth of 460 apple trees, bathing ponds, Victorian glasshouse, and stunning landscaped lawns (one is tricked out with jumbo rattan “nests” by South African sculptor Porky Hefer) where native deer make frequent cameos- and then kick back in elegant but unfussy rooms. For a grand country estate, this one feels approachable. Cornices, moldings and original fireplaces are tempered by an up-to-date color palette and modern furnishings from Moroso, Ames, Tom Dixon and Moooi.
Workshops that explore the bounty of Britain’s West Country are another draw. Offerings include horticulture courses in the Edible Gardens, blossom pressing and mounting, bee safaris with resident beekeeper Paula Carnell, and cider making classes.
Heckfield Place, Hampshire
The red-brick facade set off by sinuous gravel paths could easily double as a location for Lady’Danbury’s high society happenings (fun fact: Harry and Meghan babymooned here in 2019). But, inside, the vibe is anything but hifalutin. Once home to the aristocrats and politicians Horace Walpole and Charles Shaw-Lefevre, this 47 room bolthole on 400 acres marries Georgian grandeur with farmhouse homeliness. The interiors are quietly luxurious and exceptionally British. To wit: floors are crafted from rich, English oak; basketry and matting have been woven with wild bulrush by artisan Felicity Irons; Bespoke textiles have been created by Lucy Bathurst; bedside lamps are cast and kiln fired in London. Sustainability is a core tenet of the property. Rooms are plastic-free. Biomass boilers use wood pellets to heat the water. Produce for the restaurants is grown at the property’s biodynamic farm. Of note, the Marle restaurant helmed by chef Skye Gyngell, was just awarded Michelin’s green star denoting sustainability.
Activities in and around the estate: badminton, croquet, boating, cycling, fishing, and guided nature walks that pass through walled gardens, lakes, and an arbor of rare trees planted by 19th-century horticulturist William Wildsmith
Mayfair, the posh neighborhood where the fictional Bridgerton family resides, is also home to London’s oldest hotel, a series of interconnected Georgian townhouses which opened to the public in 1837, the same year William IV died and Victoria ascended the throne. As one might expect from a hub catering to prime ministers, royals (from Queen Victoria and Elizabeth II to the late Duke of Edinburgh and HRH Prince Charles) and titans of culture (Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, Orson Welles) service is precise and the decor compelling. Original oak paneling, plasterwork, fireplaces, and mosaic tiling comingle with splashy, modern chandeliers, exuberant wallpaper (exuberant wisteria, soaring birds, palm fronds) and contemporary art from Kristjana Williams and Terence Donovan.
Wowed by Queen Charlotte’s tea time spread? In real life, Queen Victoria often took afternoon tea at Brown’s which is still served in the drawing-room, tiered silver trays laden with scones, clotted cream, homemade jams, crustless egg mayonnaise, and prawn cocktail sandwiches, and pastries including a sponge cake that crafted with a Victorian recipe.
Lucknam Park, Cotswolds
If the Jane Austen-era version of a country house is more to your liking, this Palladian estate on 500 acres of parkland is classic to its core. An avenue lined with four hundred lime and beech trees planted in 1827 sets the tone as visitors approach the property. Once inside, interiors veer maximalist: deep mahogany furniture, brocade wallpaper, swagged draperies, and portraits of the house’s elegantly attired forebearers. The forty-three bedrooms are ablaze in floral chintz and silk, many with four-poster beds and fireplaces. It is splendid, meaning you’ll want to dress up for dinner (perhaps not a top hat) at Restaurant Hywel Jones which holds a Michelin star. Interested in “country pursuits”? The property offers horse-riding (one tree-lined avenue channels the Bridgerton scene where Kate Sharma woos Anthony Bridgerton) along with lovely tennis courts and a croquet lawn. Though simply meandering about the rose and lavender-laced gardens is rewarding in itself.
The Point Lake Saranac, New York
Over on this side of the pond, travelers can dip their toes into Gilded Age grandeur at this estate built by William Avery Rockefeller II (John D. Rockefeller’s grand-nephew) in the woodlands of upstate New York. The family compound reflects the 1930s trend of rustic “Great Camps” built by wealthy families to escape the city.
There are just eleven luxe log cabin style rooms (ratio of staff to guest is 2:1), designed in a rustic Arts and Crafts style that mixes antiques, sumptuously upholstered seating, a wood-burning stone fireplace, and lots of antlers.
Dining here is an occasion. The property maintains the Rockefeller tradition of dressing for dinner each night. Formal attire (as in black tie) on Wednesdays and Saturdays; Cocktail attire on the other evenings. Communal seating (and the cocktail hour that precedes dinner) gives meals a house party atmosphere. As you feast upon butter-poached Maine lobster and Hudson Valley foie gras served on Bernardaud china in the taxidermy rich Great Hall, you’ll think you’ve drifted into haut monde heaven.
An abundance of outdoor activities make the absence of Wifi hardly noticeable. There is boating, fishing, tennis, waterskiing, croquet, badminton, swimming, wake surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and hiking. The property’s glass-enclosed electric boat can also ferry guests around the lake.
Note: The Point is undergoing its first-ever kitchen renovation and will reopen in June.