Monday, December 14, 2009
Sleep in a Bath House, Chapel, Medieval Tower or Hospital
The Landmark Trust UK organization gives you a lot of options if you're craving a unique lodging experience. Founded as a building preservation charity by Sir John Smith and Lady Smith, the trust states that, “All landmarks are remarkable in some way for their architecture, history or setting.”
They aren't kidding. Beamsley Hospital in North Yorkshire, England, is Elizabethan architecture at its finest, but you can also experience modern architecture in the Anderton House built by Peter Aldington in 1969. If you rent a former inn called Collegehill House in Scotland, you can gaze over the garden wall at the Rosslyn Chapel which was featured in The Da Vinci Code book and film. If the inn isn't close enough, you can make reservations at the Rosslyn Castle itself. For solitude and communing with nature, try the three-mile long Lundy (Puffin Island) preserve in the Bristol Channel which is a pristine island with sweeping sea views and endless birding possibilities. There's a tiny village with a tavern and a shop or two, but most visitors are there for the natural beauty. You can only reach Lundy one way--by boat or by helicopter in the winter--but your twenty or so varied lodging choices, once you get there, range from a castle to camping.
My favorite choices, though, are the literary offerings. Imagine spending a few nights in the Piazza S. Felice in Florence, Italy, which was the home of Robert and Elizabeth Browning. In Rome, the flat in the Keats-Shelley house flanking the Spanish Steps would be sufficient inspiration to have me pulling out my manuscript. And is there a wordsmith who could resist the inspiration to be found at the bucolic Tivoli retreat in Italy believed to have been owned by the poet Horace?
While the UK Landmark Trust has, by far, the greatest number of properties offering 180 accommodations in the Channel Islands, England, Italy, Scotland and Wales, other organizations offer choices in other countries.
If you'd prefer to explore Ireland's historical architecture, there are nineteen properties, ranging from lighthouses and cottages to castles. Even the United States has four accommodations, all in Vermont, to choose from. My favorite is the house in Dummerston where Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book.
Of course, none of the properties offered by the organizations fits within the typical tightwad traveler's budget, but they're not as expensive as you might expect. The Keats-Shelley house, in one of the most ideal locations in Rome, sleeps three for three nights in mid-April for $2,293 (1 pound equals 61 cents US) while the Ancient House in Clare, Suffolk, England, sleeps two for three nights at the same time in April for $477. Prices vary, of course, depending on the time of year. Still, some of the choices accommodate eight to twelve people, so those properties might be an excellent choice for several families wanting to share costs along with their cultural experience. But even without someone to share expenses, a tightwad can splurge every once in a while, and I cannot imagine a better way to do it than by spending a few nights sleeping in the arms of history.
The Landmark Trust UK organization provides an overview of each property along with two to three photos, floor plans, guest book comments (called a logbook), map, and price and availability at their website. You can book on-line.
Ireland's organization is much more generous with their photos, supplying nine or more for every property. They also provide information about local attractions. You can book on-line.
The United States site also provides lots of photos—ten or more—as well as floor plans and guest book comments. At this moment, you must call to reserve, but, according to a spokeswoman, their on-line booking service will be operative in a week or so.