Whether it’s with luxury accommodations or a spa package, plenty of hotels advertise that they will make you feel like royalty. But, the reality is, no fancy facial or thread count can substitute for the grand grounds of Balmoral, the monarch’s Scottish castle. So not why just go stay there instead?
Anyone—well, as long as your plans don’t interfere with the royal family’s schedule—can summer at the same place as the King of England. And at plenty of other real-life palaces, too. Whether you’re a royalist, a history buff, or just looking for a taste of aristocratic life, here’s a handful of royal residences that any commoner can stay in, even if just for the night.
Balmoral Castle, Scotland
Every summer during her reign, Queen Elizabeth and other members of the royal family would decamp to Balmoral, her estate in the Scottish Highlands. King Charles, on the other hand, prefers his own house on the estate, Birkhall, which he inherited from the Queen Mother in 2002. While the castle is certainly the main attraction, there are roughly 150 buildings on the grounds—a handful of which are cottages available to rent on a weekly basis. One of them, the regal-rustic Rhebreck Lodge, overlooks a scenic valley and has a lounge with a log burning stove. All of the properties come with the option to arrange the services of a local chef or home-cooked meals.
Sandringham Estate, England
Like Balmoral, Sandringham Estate is one of the royal estates personally owned by the monarch. During Queen Elizabeth’s time, it was best known as the place where the royal family spent the holidays every year, and King Charles looks set to continue the tradition, having spent Christmas there in 2022. Although an invitation to Christmas lunch may be hard to come by, what was formerly the head gardener’s house is available to rent year-round. Called the Garden House, it overlooks the ornamental garden that abuts the main building. Also on the grounds is Princess Diana’s childhood home of Park House, which was turned into a hotel for travelers with disabilities and their guests.
Restormel Manor, England
Restormel Manor has been the Cornish home of King Charles for some years now, a 15th-century house with cottages on the estate. Such is the house’s place at the heart of the community that, when King Charles and the Queen are not in residence, the manor—which has both an indoor pool and a tennis court in its grounds—is available to rent as part of the Duchy Estate. The clever part is that the nine-bedroom manor, which sleeps 18 people, encompasses three separate wings and can therefore be divided into three parts, each with its own kitchen and entrance. The central part of the building is the most formal, with an airy sitting room and a large, elegant pale-blue dining room. The two outer wings have smaller sitting rooms. It allows the house to be transformed in a number of ways depending on what is required by each set of occupants.
Up until her death in 2002, the Castle of Mey was a beloved home of the Queen Mother. Now, the trust that operates it opens it regularly to the public—and turned one of its cottages, the Captain’s House, into a rentable property. It includes a 20-foot conservatory which overlooks an enclosed garden and offers expansive sea views. The estate is also home to the Granary Lodge, a ten-bedroom B&B, situated between the castle and the shore, with wonderfully traditional interiors.