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Regal Rentals

Whether It's a Mansion on Mustique or a Castle in Cork, Renting A Luxurious Vacation Home May Cost Less Than You Think
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Danny DeVito, Winter 96

(continued from page 1)

Luxury homes can be found in every Caribbean country. Another unique attraction this area offers is private island rentals, where an entire island can be taken by a single party. Providing an unusual level of privacy, these properties are often rented by celebrities. The intimate Little St. James is a 72-acre island in the U.S. Virgin Islands that comfortably accommodates two or three couples, while the better known Necker Island off Virgin Gorda sleeps 24 people.

Breathtaking Caribbean properties rent from $1,000 to $2,000 per night in the low season and $2,000 to $3,000 in the high season, although fine homes are available for much less. Unique properties like Necker Island can exceed $10,000 daily. Some of the more expensive staffed villas include food and liquor in the rental price.

Home rentals in Europe are a much different matter. The market is far more diverse, with many types and sizes of homes available. The reason, according to Tracey Vaughan of Hideaways International, a travel club that specializes in villa rentals, is that the market has been around much longer, and as a result, rentals are widely available in all price ranges. "Villa vacationing is much more prevalent in Europe, and Americans have been the last to catch on," says Vaughan. "In 1979, when we started Hideaways, there were no American companies offering these services."

In general, European homes have less staff, are older and are often shared. Unlike tropical villas, which are almost all second homes, many European properties are primary residences. While entire homes can be rented, many accommodations take the form of apartments or homes split into individual suites.

Even the most impressive estates are often divided into areas for rent and areas reserved for the owners. In many cases these properties are owned by landed gentry, fourth- or fifth-generation nobility who no longer have the means to support their ancestral homes. They rent out most of the house while living in a private wing or guest house on the property.

While this may not be as private as an island villa, it can be a much better way to experience local culture. Since many of the owners are, in fact, titled nobility, they often have privileges that can be extended to their guests, and estates that surpass even the finest private homes. Guests might sit down to a private dinner in an enormous banquet hall with a baron and baroness.

In the English Manner is one firm that books such rentals. Spokesperson Joyce Fredo says, "These homes are priceless. You couldn't find them on the market even if you had all the money in the world. It's like walking into a museum." In many cases, these properties have been in the family for several centuries.

Charleton, for instance, is one of Scotland's most spectacular private homes, where your hosts, a young baron and baroness, offer you a warm welcome and a golf experience without equal--Charleton features its own private 18-hole course. In addition to his own course, the baron is a member of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St. Andrews, just 15 minutes away. When you can tear yourself away from golf, Charleton's 1,000-acre estate offers excellent hiking and is renowned as a first-rate riding center.

Another large Scottish home, Ayton Castle, is billed by In the English Manner as "the sportsman's dream." You can fish for salmon and trout on the Tweed River--which runs through the 6,000-acre estate--partake in game and clay pigeon shooting, hone your swing at a nearby golf course or take part in one of Ayton's polo clinics. Twelve bedrooms (and 12 bathrooms) offer a comfortable night's rest. The $300 nightly rate (per couple) only includes breakfast, but don't pass up a chance to eat dinner with your hosts; the meal--and the open bar--can last up to six hours.

Equally impressive is Mallow Castle, a sixteenth century home in southwest Ireland that also puts golfers within easy reach of several golf courses, including world-famous Ballybunion. Like Charleton and Ayton, there are plenty of other diversions. The white fallow deer, which roam freely on a 20-acre preserve, are a sight to behold, as is the nearby Blarney Stone, while those seeking more heady thrills can ride with the "Dashing Duhallows" on Ireland's oldest hunt or fish for salmon on the estate's River Blackwater. Inside the castle, a special treat awaits cigar lovers. Share a smoke with castle owner Michael McGinn, whose collection of 4,000-plus cigars includes more than 30 brands of Havanas.

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