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A castle that was the Queen Mother’s beloved Highland hideaway is being rented out to guests – at the price of £50 000 (R910 000) for a long weekend. It is the first time a royal residence has been let out.
The Castle of Mey was the only residence directly owned by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Over the decades, she filled her holiday home with distinctive knick-knacks and personal flourishes.
Now, 12 years after her death, the castle is being let out to guests. According to reports, for £50 000 up to a dozen people can spend a long weekend in the 16th-century building where Prince Charles is still a regular visitor.
Guests can eat at the same table used by the Queen Mother and sit in her favourite chair. On the dining room walls are landscapes painted by Prince Philip. The drawing room has a carpet that was given to the Queen Mother by her daughter the queen as a 90th birthday present.
The castle’s managing director, Shirley Farquhar, said: “As soon as you walk in, you can feel the Queen Mother’s presence as it was her home.”
The one part of the castle that is off limits is the Queen Mother’s bedroom.
The weekends have been introduced as a fund-raising venture by the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust – of which Prince Charles is the resident – which owns the castle and runs it in memory of the Queen Mother.
The Mey Occasions (as the weekends are called) are not advertised. Instead, invitations are extended to a small circle of wealthy business-people and philanthropists.
The trust plans just “two or three” weekends a year. A trial weekend was run last October in which selected guests stayed for free. Last month, the first paying guests were the family and friends of a foreign businessman, who re-booked for next year. The next guests – in October – are American.
Numbers are limited to no more than 12 guests, served by a staff of 20, some flown up from London.
The breaks are designed by royal party planner Lady Elizabeth Anson. She organised a dinner for 40 members of the royal family on the eve of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding. Inside, the castle has had a £25 000 makeover.
Ashe Windham, who served as the Queen Mother’s equerry at the castle – and is chairman of the Mey Trust – said the venture would help the castle meet its running costs and was a fitting honour to the late Queen Mother.
The Queen Mother first saw what was then Barrogill Castle in 1952, while mourning her husband, King George VI. She bought the most northerly castle on the British mainland and restored it.
HUNT THE MASCOT
AMID the royal grandeur of the Castle of Mey, a curious selection of tacky knick knacks are testament to the late Queen Mother’s sense of fun and mischief. Her delight in such novelties was well known and her private secretary, Sir Martin Gilliat, would encourage guests, especially the young royals, to bring back unusual souvenirs for their hostess.
In the drawing room above a 16th-century Flemish tapestry, is a small Loch Ness monster cuddly toy in a tartan dress, while on the mantlepiece lies a porcelain figure of a drunken Scotswoman clinging to a lamp-post. Elsewhere, there is a ceramic bagpiper, a wooden axe-wielding clansman and toy versions of a sheep, a Highland cow and a haggis. – Mail On Sunday