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The Independent Travel
You don't have to be a Lottery winner to hire out a castle for the weekend.

This is the opinion of the general manager of Castle Ashby, Northampton (01604 696696), a 16th-century stately home available for hire over Christmas. For pounds 45,000 (plus vat) you can live like a lord for three days as the price includes a private chapel service, traditional Christmas lunch, champagne buffet and gala dinner, Christmas presents for all the guests and the chance to indulge in numerous aristocratic pursuits such as carriage rides around the grounds.

With 26 bedrooms, you could split the bill between several friends and the cost per head would be no more than the price of staying in a top- notch hotel.

However, if this seems too glitzy, you could hire out a less pricey property through the YHA's "Rent a Hostel" scheme (01727 845047). A four-night Christmas break at Boscastle Youth Hostel, Cornwall, for example, will cost pounds 550 - the hostel sleeps 25, so this works out at just pounds 22 each.

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