Ask the experts: Birthday celebration rentals

Our panel gives advice on upmarket UK holiday rentals for a big 40th birthday celebration.

By Juliet Kinsman
Published 20 Jun 2014, 10:54 BST, Updated 1 Jul 2021, 11:41 BST

Q .  I'm planning a big 40th birthday celebration and would like to rent out a castle with around 20 friends for a long weekend — with the potential to have more people come for a party. Where would you recommend?

Juliet Kinsman, editor of Mr & Mrs Smith:

If you're looking for a stately pile, why not hire Felmington Hall, the art-filled Elizabethan manor house just north of the Norfolk Broads. As you might hope

from a property where the main hall dates from 1569, it has flagstone floors, a huge carved fireplace, 17th-century portraits, and a grand oak staircase leading to a Tudor-style sitting room and four-poster beds — so far, so castle-like. Add to this stylish soft furnishings, plenty of nooks and crannies for your courtiers to sip cocktails in and a little boutique-hotel soul.

It's all very well stepping back in time for your landmark celebration, but be assured that the owners can meet your 21st-century demands. This regal, exclusive-hire retreat can sleep 14, plus 10 in the neighbouring Longbarn and six in the Dovecote barns. The gardens are impressive too, and there's a heated pool from May to October. Main hall from £3,400; Longbarn, £1,400 and Dovecote, £800 for three nights, including a butler or housekeeper. 

Alternatively, why settle for a landlubbers' castle when you can have your own private-island retreat? Spitbank Fort (pictured) is bang in the middle of the Solent. Here you can commandeer your own 19th-century naval defence fort off the coast of Portsmouth. This island-of-sorts sleeps 16 in eight bedrooms for £5,000 a night, which includes Champagne reception, a three-course dinner and breakfast for guests, plus you can invite up to 40 more people to a full-on evening shindig. You'll be hard pushed to beat a group shot of you all in the supersized hot tub sipping Champagne.

Suited to even grander, larger-scale celebrations, AmaZing Venues is also offering No Man's Land Fort. Brand new from October, this 22-bedroom exclusive-use escape is located in the sea, one mile off the coast of the Isle of Wight, and is currently being renovated in cahoots with English Heritage.

Embellished with high-end extras (heated pool, sauna, steam and spa-treatment rooms, plus helicopter landing pad), its Officer's Mess and rooftop can host up to 200 for a party. And don't let the unpredictability of the British climate worry you — you'll barely notice what the weather is like from the inside. In fact it can be all the more dramatic looking out to a lashing sea. Prices are yet to be confirmed.

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Published in the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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