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ON A BUDGET

How to Get British Lodgings for $12 a Day

February 25, 2001|ARTHUR FROMMER

Imagine spending a fortnight in a private British cottage, tucked away in the hills of Northern Ireland or nestled among picture-book houses in sleepy Cornwall villages. Or how about passing your days rambling through lush gardens, trekking on mountain paths or strolling along rocky cliffs overlooking the sea? For as little as $12 per person per day, you can enjoy such a two-week (or longer) holiday in some of the most attractive areas of the British Isles.

The National Trust of Great Britain, a nonprofit conservation organization, rents more than 280 cottages, houses and apartments throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Cottage rates are least expensive in the winter and steadily climb as summer approaches, peaking during July and August, when the Brits themselves take their holidays. More than 100 properties can be rented for less than $370 per week in low season and for $750 per week in high summer season. And for those rates, you get a whole cottage--private, fully furnished and with sleeping space for four to six people--and the run of adjoining National Trust grounds and gardens.

Obviously, the more rustic the accommodations, the more affordable the cottage. One inexpensive countryside bungalow is Bird How, high in northwestern England's Lake District, where hiking in the hills and fishing in a nearby river are popular pastimes. The one-floor, two-bedroom cottage has a basement bath and a wood-burning fireplace and costs about $280 a week during winter and $448 in summer. It has room for four, which means you're paying about $10 to $16 per person per day, depending on when you go.

In Northern Ireland, the Murlough Cottages overlook the waters of Dundrum Inner Bay in County Down and have easy access to wide, sandy beaches and mountain parks. Each sleeps four and runs about $294 a week in the winter and about $500 a week in the summer--between $11 and $18 per person, per day.

If you're looking for a more typical vacation spot that's closer to the main population centers of Britain, you'll want to know that a great many traditional thatched cottages are found in Devon, while seaside and port-side cottages spot the coast throughout Cornwall, and brick homes line the cobblestone streets of York.

The National Trust, together with its U.S. counterpart, the Royal Oak Foundation, has been preserving threatened traditional buildings for more than 100 years. All profits from holiday rentals go to the trust to ensure ongoing preservation.

The trust's homes are booked through May, and the summer is filling up quickly. If you must have a cottage this summer, call soon. Or plan for next year; reservations for a week or more are accepted up to a year in advance. For rentals of less than a week, reservations can only be made a few weeks ahead of time, and pickings are slim during the peak months, when vacationers with longer stays have priority.

The National Trust will send you its full-color brochure, featuring interior and exterior photos of rental properties and their environs. Although it will send the 217-page catalog for free, an $8 donation for handling packaging and overseas postage would be appreciated. The brochure also provides detailed information about year-round pricing and cottage amenities.

For information: National Trust Holiday Booking Office, P.O. Box 536, Melksham, Wiltshire SN12 8SX; telephone 011-44-122-579-1133 for a brochure or 011-44-870-458-4422 for booking; fax 011-44-1225-792267; Internet http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cottages.

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