It’s everyone’s fantasy to be an aristocrat living in a splendid country mansion, lord or lady of all the beautiful landscape as far as the eye can see, with an estate that provides home-grown produce and cut flowers and where there is space enough for laser clay pigeon shoots, 4-wheel driving and even for a private brewery to create a beer to suit one’s own taste.
Well, for me and my partner, Simon, this was not a fantasy but a reality for a whole weekend, when we were the guests of Lord and Lady Gerald at their ancestral home Carlton Towers.
This has been the family estate since the 11th Century, when Lord Gerald’s ancestors came over with William the Conqueror. During that time it has seen its highs and lows but it is now entering a period of new prosperity and is ready to welcome corporate and association groups, offering them the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of centuries of accumulated style, tradition and development.
The ambiance at Carlton Towers is not the same as that which one would expect in a country house hotel. It is still a family home and the atmosphere is very much that of being invited to a stay as friends of the family. And Lord Gerald, who is the younger brother of the 18th Duke of Norfolk, confesses that he ‘is always thrilled to see the look of amazement on the faces of the guests as they are shown round this superb Victorian country house and its 258 acres of parkland”.
There are 16 guestrooms in the house, all individually designed and furnished, plus three cottages close by that can accommodate incentive award winners or delegates to a meeting. However, the facilities for meetings and activities, indoors and within the extensive grounds, can cater for much larger events, with delegates accommodated in nearby hotels.
There are breathtakingly beautiful function rooms including the Venetian Drawing Room, Picture Gallery and Duchess’s Dining Room that hold from 200 for a conference to 16 for a board meeting.
Adding to the unique experience of our stay was a special feature of our room. There were glass panels in the floor through which we were able to look into an otherwise hidden chamber. During the persecution of the Catholic religion in England in the 16th Century, this was what was known as a Priest’s Hole, where the local Jesuit priest was hidden in an attempt to prevent his capture by the so-called official ‘priest hunters’. Unfortunately, the hideaway was only a temporary haven and the fugitive priest is recorded as being the last one to be caught and put to death.
Carlton Towers has recently planted a vineyard in a walled garden and looks forward to starting wine production in the future. Its Cooks – the Carlton School of Food and Wine offers a choice of team-building activities and groups can even compete in creating their own beers in its Little Black Dog Micro-Brewery.
An event at Carlton Towers would always be one that would lodge wonderful memories for delegates to look back on ever after.