Cheapskate Britain turns nose up at £75,000 a night to hire castle

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The Independent Online

Some of Britain's finest stately homes have failed to attract the grand party-goers who were expected to pay thousands of pounds to celebrate the millennium.

Some of Britain's finest stately homes have failed to attract the grand party-goers who were expected to pay thousands of pounds to celebrate the millennium.

Apathy among the super-rich is the latest indication of millennium listlessness setting in. A survey of 1,000 people recently found that more than half planned to stay at home or go to a friend's house on New Year's Eve; only 12 per cent expected to go to a club or pub.

Among the upmarket venues, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, home of the Duke of Northumberland and the second-largest inhabited castle in the country, has not attracted a single inquiry for its millennium offer of the entire castle for £75,000 per night. The price includes the services of the duke's staff, dinner in the Italian Renaissance grandeur of the state dining room and plenty of pheasant shooting. Meanwhile, the duke's London home, Syon House,has yet to find 120 people ready to pay £56,000 for dinner, drinks and a band on millennium eve.

Both properties have been advertised by estate agents Knight Frank, which has a string of unoccupied mansions and castles on its books for New Year's Eve. "People are simply not prepared to pay," said a spokeswoman. "Nobody knows whether the electricity is going to be working, so I suppose they don't want to pay a fortune to find that out. We are beginning to wonder if there ever was a demand for such millennium celebration homes in the first place. The market is not there."

The most prestigious venue available - after a cancellation - is Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, where a party of 12 can hire the Eisenhower Apartments, once a retreat of the former American president, for £15,000 for five days.

The slow demand reflects over-pricing, said a spokesman for the National Trust, which has rented out all but one of the 16 properties it had available, including Mar Lodge in the Cairngorms, which costs £10,000 for five days. "We have leased most of our property because, with a couple of exceptions, we have usually been asking hundreds not thousands of pounds," said the spokesman.

Over-pricing has also killed off what was billed as "the night of a thousand years", Northern Ireland's biggest party. The entrepreneur David Lamrock was planning a £1,000-a-head gala in the King's Hall, Belfast. It would have included flights on Concorde and a prize for one party-goer of a new Ferrari. But only 50 tickets had been been sold by this week, and Mr Lamrock's company was wound up.

Meanwhile, the pop group M People has brought forward their New Year's Eve show at the Manchester Evening News Arena to 27 December. Fans had protested about the lack of transport, babysitting problems and the higher ticket prices for the original date.

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