Castles for fairytales: the stately piles celebs love to marry in

Hiring out one's stately pile can provide a financial lifeline nowadays - especially if 'Hello!' foots the bill. Ed Caesar surveys the marriage venues of the famous
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The Independent Online

Owned until very recently by Peter de Savary, but he grew tired of life amongst the midges and traded in this highland treasure for the more downbeat Bovey Castle. At the turn of the century, the world's richest man, Andrew Carnegie, made Skibo his home, although he too was a relative newcomer - the first owner of Skibo was Bishop Gilbert in 1235.

Best celebrity moment

The marriage of Madonna and Guy Ritchie, natch. Ashley Judd and racing driver Dario Franchitti quickly followed suit.

Fairytale or cautionary tale?

Like all good castles, it's pretty easy to defend. Not one unauthorised picture emerged of Madonna's wedding, so high was the level of security. The castle is set in 7,500 acres, and for those wishing to impress their friends with their grasp of olde-worlde pursuits, falconry and archery are both on offer.

For richer - or poorer?

All wedding parties at Skibo are obliged to stay overnight at the castle, so the costs can mount up. Ask Madonna, whose bank account took a £120,000 hit when she booked the 47 rooms for her guests.

Castle Leslie, Glaslough, Ireland

The Leslies are an endearingly dotty bunch of Irish aristos who claim to be able to trace their ancestry "back to Attila the Hun". The most recent baronet, John Leslie, who is in his 80s, was famously nonplussed by Sir Paul McCartney's lavish wedding - he told a shopkeeper in the local village of Glaslough: "Oh, I think it must be one of those Beatles."

Best celebrity moment

Paul McCartney and Heather Mills held their wedding at Castle Leslie, which featured a vegetarian banquet, £1,000 worth of cake icing, and Ringo Starr.

Fairytale or cautionary tale?

The eccentric owner comes as part of the package, and will happily take guests on a tree walk, or for a fishing excursion in his pike lake.

For richer - or poorer?

Total exclusivity costs in the region of £11,500 for the night.

Highclere Castle, Berkshire

Highclere, owned by the earls of Carnarvon, has a rich history. The fifth earl was a notable Egyptologist, who reputedly fell victim to the curse of the pharoahs: he was responsible in part for discovering the tomb of Tutankhamun. The current earl is said to be strapped for cash, hence his willingness to throw his doors open to minor celebs.

Best celebrity moment

Jordan and Peter André are planning the most extravagant celebrity wedding ever at Highclere in September. The footballer Thierry Henry also held his wedding at this Berkshire stately home.

Fairytale or cautionary tale?

Heathrow is nearby, and Highclere has a VIP transport service, so the international glitterati who will be attending the Katie Price/André nuptials can arrive in style. The drive to the front door is a mile and a half, which is just as well - the bride says she wants a wedding train longer than Diana, Princess of Wales's. Outside, there are plenty of groves and follies in which the ITV documentary team, who have exclusive TV rights, can relax.

For richer - or poorer?

It can cost £10,000 just to hire the castle, although this sum will be the tip of the iceberg. Throw in celebrity performers such as Charlotte Church, designer goodie bags for all the guests plus the obligatory champagne and the happy couple may beat the £500,000 spent by Posh and Becks.

Hopetoun House,

West Lothian

Set on the banks of the river Forth, just north of Edinburgh, Hopetoun House is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture anywhere. Built in 1699, the house has been home to the Earls of Hopetoun (now the Marquesses of Linlithgow) ever since. The management of the house has been passed to a charitable trust in order to fund the continual renovation which is needed, but the present Marquess and his family still live there.

Best celebrity moment

Rumour has it that Liam Gallagher and Nicole Appleton are scoping out the joint for their forthcoming wedding.

Fairytale or cautionary tale?

Hopetoun expects to hold no more than six weddings a year, making it exclusive. Set in 150 acres, complete with deer park and views over the Forth, it is the perfect setting for an sundown swig of champagne. But the real treasures lie inside. The ballroom, hung with huge crystal chandeliers, warmed by a log fire, and featuring Aubusson tapestries, is just about the grandest place on earth to hold a knees-up.

For richer - or poorer?

Hopetoun House are currently unwilling to disclose costs for weddings, as "every wedding at Hopetoun is unique". In other words, if you're asking how much, it's probably not for you.

Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute

The Stuarts of Bute came to Scotland in the 11th century but the neo-Gothic house dates from the 19th century. It's the home of the current Marquess of Bute, better known as the racing driver Johnny Dumfries.

Best celebrity moment

Stella McCartney married Alasdhair Willis here in 2003 in a large wedding to which Kate Moss, Liv Tyler, Madonna and Stella's dad were invited.

Fairytale or cautionary tale?

Being married at Mount Stuart is like possessing an entire island for the weekend: the ultimate in regal decadence. Three hundred acres of land include the Wee Gardens, which, at five acres, are anything but. There is nothing attractive, though, about a bride who's bitten to death by midges.

For richer - or poorer?

Being a close friend of the family helps (and may earn a discount). Prices for Joe Public weddings are currently not available.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

In 1704, John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, won a decisive battle against the French at Blenheim, on the Danube, whereupon Queen Anne, suitably grateful, promised to build him Blenheim Palace. Now considered an English Baroque treasure, it has been the seat of the dukes of Marlborough ever since. The Marlboroughs are still indisputably near the top of the aristocratic pile, but palaces like Blenheim do not pay for themselves.

Best celebrity moment

Blenheim has increasingly become the choice of London meeja couples when it comes to getting hitched. PR notable Matthew Freud and the NewsCorp brat Elizabeth Murdoch are one high-profile example.

Fairytale or cautionary tale?

It is the eye-popping grandeur which will impress wedding guests. The Long Library alone measures 55 metres, contains 10,000 books, and can seat 320 for dinner.

For richer - or poorer?

Do we dine in the massive, haunting chasm of the Great Hall, or opt for the intimacy of the Malborough Room? Should we use the stunning Orangery for the service itself? The high-end affairs start at £9,000.

Luttrellstown, Castleknock, Ireland

Luttrellstown, a gorgeous neo-Gothic pile just outside Dublin, dates back to 1453. It has been owned variously by the Luttrell family, the Guinness family, and the bookseller Luke White. Each owner has added his own style, making the grounds a hotchpotch of individual features. And the tradition of regular makeovers is continuing - Luttrellstown is currently out of service for refurbishment until early 2006.

Best celebrity moment

Posh and Becks, who, after a typically understated wedding ceremony, threw a £500,000 reception in the grounds involving tiaras, thrones and Elton John.

Fairytale or cautionary tale?

The 20ft surrounding wall is a must for those wishing to protect their privacy. The five-star standard staff are thrown in with the price of hiring the castle. There are 560 acres to play in, including an 18-hole golf course. But, given its location, there is a serious danger Bono might invite himself.

For richer - or poorer?

The castle itself, with its 14 rooms, will cost a discerning customer £8,500 to hire for the night, before one even starts to contemplate the cost of the reception.

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