How to vacation like an aristocrat
LONDON — Ever wanted to live like royalty … or at least like a British Lord?
Visitors can seek out the royal treatment with a vacation on the 35,000-acre estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who have opened up their land and their home to the public.
The estate, located about 150 miles north of London, attracts tourists from around the world seeking a stroll through history. And starting this week, the newly renovated Gardener’s Cottage can be rented to visitors for £1,197 to £2,391 per week ($2,035 to $4,065), depending on the season.
The cottage, built in the early 19th century, is consid
ered the most luxurious on the estate and will officially open to guests on Thursday. It sleeps six and offers a four-poster bed, two free-standing clawfoot bathtubs and antique furniture.
The estate itself includes the 500-year-old Chatsworth House, where the Duke and Duchess reside. The historic home draws in over 700,000 tourists annually who come to marvel at the dozens of rooms that are open to the public.
While Chatsworth House is not available to rent, visitors may opt to stay in the Gardener’s Cottage — the closest cottage to the stately Chatsworth House — or one of the estate’s 23 other vacation cottages that are dotted along the property and designed to provide a taste of historic England. Many cottages date back to the 17th century.
American history buffs are also drawn to the estate because the late president John F. Kennedy’s sister is buried there. Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy married into the Duke’s family during World War II, and her grave site sits next to that of the Duke’s father.
Also catering to visitors on the estate are pubs, a hotel, a brewery, a pool, a golf course and a farm shop. The rest of the estate includes farms, quarry interests and 500 cottages that are leased by local villagers.
The Gardener’s Cottage was designed and decorated by the Duchess herself, with much of the furniture taken from the attic in her own home. She said the interior design was inspired by the English novelist Jane Austen.
“We really want people to relax and enjoy themselves,” said the Duchess of Devonshire, noting that she wants people to kick back and have a cup of tea.
The estate is run as both a for-profit business under the name of the Devonshire Group, and a not-for-profit charity called the Chatsworth House Trust.
The not-for-profit side, which encompasses the stately Chatsworth House and manicured gardens, brings in over £10 million ($17 million) per year through paying tourists who come to take in the sights. The money is used to pay staff and keep the property in good condition.
The Devonshire Group controls the remaining parts of the estate. The company would not reveal information about its revenue and profit, though it’s worth noting that the farm shop alone can make well over £6 million ($10.2 million) a year.
“It is our home, but it is also our business,” said the Duke. “We employ over 600 people here. We’re expanding steadily away with new projects, businesses and new ideas …. It’s not just a game. But it is great fun and when the sun shines [on the property] there’s nothing like it.”
Branding is also taken seriously on the estate — all the cottages and fences are painted with the same vibrant Chatsworth blue color.