Unusual Places to Stay Special: The Landed House Party

Written by  Edmund Cohen

In September last year I decided to get a group of friends together for a house party. Rather than stay in a hotel, bed and breakfast or tent, it seemed a good idea to rent somebody else’s house.

It had to be large enough to sleep eighteen and within a few hours’ drive/train of London. Additional criteria were the time of year – January to escape New Year blues – and preferably somewhere remote so that we didn’t have to worry about disturbing neighbours.

I set about finding a house to rent on the internet, a task easier said than done. 

The problems encountered were that were that (a) there aren’t that many large houses to rent , (b) there are even fewer close to London and (c) prices vary enormously. Many many hours later I found a house in Norfolk that fitted the bill perfectly; remote, excellent value and old fashioned.

Next off was assigning guests to cook meals and booking a Tesco delivery to make sure we were all suitably nourished. I considered catering, and might well take it up in the future, but at £15 per head per meal felt we should keep costs low and do it between us.

On the topic of activities there is something enjoyable about ‘doing lots’ in a short space of time... relaxing on a week’s holiday is all very well but over a weekend time can vanish quickly! So we all arrived on a Friday afternoon in early January and guests caught up with old friends and met a few new faces. Food and wine miraculously appeared and were cleared away by the ‘guests on duty’ for that meal. On Saturday morning, bright and early, we jumped into cars and went to a local wood. We were armed with laser-quest style weaponry and spent four hours staking each other out in teams. My initial fears that the more sensitive guests might be averse to the cold and rolling around in ditches were fortunately without foundation. Everyone had a great time and earned a hearty lunch back at the house.

On Saturday afternoon we went for a wander around the local village, Shelton, and saw some beautiful countryside. Dinner was a more formal affair and followed by after-dinner games. Sunday saw more of the same; a bit of relaxing, walking, lunch and the inevitable clear-up.

What made the weekend all the more special was that we had the run of a lovely house and could enjoy ourselves as a group. The heating was on when we arrived and a provided a wonderful venue to catch up with old friends. Compared to other options it also was also excellent value at £100 per head all in. That figures includes two nights’ accommodation, good food, wine and beer and laser quest!

If you are thinking of holding a similar event for your family and friends I have made the house-hunting bit a little easier. All the houses on Landed Houses sleep 18 people or more, are shown together on a map and have prices clearly displayed. You needn’t either pay any extra for using the site – it’s free! Good luck!

P.S. Here’s a quick guide for any potential organisers-

- First off, work out how many people are coming.

- Secondly, find a suitable house. Cost and availability are key!

- Thirdly, think about catering. Willing guests are cheapest, catering less hassle.

- Fourthly, work out what you can do locally. Villages, walks, museums, riding, go-karting, fishing etc.

- Finally confirm it all and book!

Comments by other travellers

Interesting story - I stumbled across Landed Houses while doing some marketing development work for the owners of an Arts and Crafts country house in Mid Wales that is available to let. If Landed Houses can focus on their core product and not diversify into smaller houses, winter holidays etc then they should be on to a winner. Good site - easy to navigate and I like the owner's blog - to the point - warts and all of his tour around the houses on the site - and making the observation that in these large and old houses you will not always get ensuite for every room - that's part of the charm of the country house experience!

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