A country house experience at New Year is like no other. Be surrounded by close friends and family in a beautiful property that you have exclusive use of – no crowds, no cramming and no last orders. If you are trying to book a country house for New Year, here are a few things to bear in mind and five recommended houses:
1. How many people?
It is best to be clear on numbers before making enquiries to houses, so that you have an idea of budget. Large groups will usually split the budget (unless of course it’s a New Year’s eve wedding) and may be shared individually or amongst families. When numbers start getting above 30 you will start seeing less choice, simply because there are fewer houses for really large groups. If you are prepared for some people to stay away from the house then you can be more flexible, although some houses may be unwilling for you to have people on site that are not staying. The easy way to check this is to see whether the house does weddings; if it does you will probably be able to negotiate the additional numbers. A word of warning – don’t try to have extra people without asking for permission; most houses have someone local (either the owner or a friend) to keep an eye out.
If you are looking for somewhere large, have a look at North Cadbury Court. It is a grand house that sleeps 50 people – plenty large enough for most New Year groups!
Generally speaking, the further away from London the cheaper properties are (assuming everything else remains the same). If you have guests coming from all over the country, then the Midlands can be a good choice. Have a look at Stretton House in Derbyshire, which sleeps 32 and is perfectly situated for a New Year’s Day walk in the Peak District. The more flexible the group are the more choice you’ll get – particularly if Devon is an option because it has an abundance of large houses that are available to rent. For those who need to be close to London, Landed Houses has page with all houses within two-and-a-half hours’ drive.
Most groups will try to entertain themselves by eating, drinking, going for countryside walks and sitting around a log fire. The time of year means searching high and low for a house that has a croquet lawn, tennis court and outdoor pool is probably not worthwhile (unless you’re really hardy), however there are a few houses that offer indoor pools. Knowle Manor is one large house that has an indoor pool. Otherwise an increasing number of properties have a cinema in a converted cellar and an example of this is the one at Sparkford Hall.
4. When to book?
The sooner the better. Definitely. Most properties get booked up a year or so ahead for New Year and by about June you will lucky find one in three available. The idea of finding a last-minute bargain is probably optimistic; houses know there isn’t much choice for New Year and will hold firm. Our advice is book as early as you can when you will have most choice. It shouldn’t put you off hunting around in, say, October, but once you have found a suitable property be efficient and get the deposit paid before someone else sneaks in there.