Five Best: Country Piles Made For Partying

Lucy Gillmore and Sophie Lam find the pads designed for festive fun


Berkeley House, Gloucestershire

Painted entirely in white, this restored Georgian town house provides a blank canvas for owner and photographer Lena Proudlock, whose work adorns the walls and rooms. The house is furnished with denim bean bags, oversized black sofas and shag-pile rugs as well as an Aga in the kitchen and all the amenities you would expect to find in a boutique hotel.

Berkeley House, Bay Tree Court, Tetbury, Gloucestershire (01666 500051; www.lenaproudlock.com). Three nights' rental from £1,800; sleeps 14.

Eilean Shona, Argyll

Owned by Richard Branson's sister, Vanessa, the island of Eilean Shona is just a short boat ride from the Ardnamurchan peninsula on the west coast of Scotland. Two and a half miles long by one and a half wide, there are no cars and no shops and there's no television, only white sandy beaches, heather-sprung hills and wooded glades. The sturdy grey stone house was built in the late 18th century; this is where JM Barrie wrote Peter Pan. Inside, the design is eclectic but cosy - one bed's made from driftwood.

Eilean Shona, Acharacle, Argyll (01967 431249; www.eileanshona.com). The cost for three nights' full-board is £3,500 including use of the boats but excluding alcohol; you can bring your own or place an order beforehand. Sleeps 19.

Cliff Barns, Norfolk

This quirky stone barn conversion was conceived by the set designer Russell Hall and is a mish-mash of luxury and kitsch. Named after the Dallas character, it features stag heads, a bed made of branches and a 1970s-inspired bedroom. Luxury comes in the form of free-standing roll-top baths, underfloor heating, Turkish rugs and a hot tub and sauna. Guests can relax in front of the huge log-burning fireplaces. The dining room can seat up to 70 guests and is situated in three acres of private grounds, so you can afford to turn up the volume.

Cliff Barns, Russell Hall, Narford Road, Narborough, Norfolk (01366 328342; www.cliffbarns.com). Three nights' rental from £2,550; sleeps 18.

Wortham, Manor Devon

Wortham Manor once belonged to the wealthy Tudor family of Dinham, who remodelled the building, which is thought to date back to the 15th century. Check out the decorative carving in the north porch and other original features such as Gothic wood-carving and flagstone flooring. Following restoration, little has changed aesthetically, but the house now features underfloor heating, modern kitchen facilities and plush bed-linen. Guests have the run of eight bedrooms, two living rooms and a large dining room.

Wortham Manor, Lifton, Devon (01628 825925; www.landmarktrust.org.uk). Three nights' rental from £1,660; sleeps 15.

The Samling, Cumbria

The gabled Samling is cradled by a 67-acre estate. This boutique hotel, with its wood-panelled drawing room, log fire and snooze-inducing sofas, can be taken over in its entirety. Each of its 11 rooms is named after the dialect counting of sheep - yan, tyan, tethera... Five are in the main house, the rest scattered among stone cottages. Fly-fishing lessons can be arranged, or you could just slip into the hot tub and soak up the lake views.

The Samling, Ambleside Road, Windermere, Cumbria (015394 31933; www.thesamling.com). Weekend rate £6,462.50 per night (minimum two nights) including tea, dinner, unlimited wine, champagne and full Cumbrian breakfast. Sleeps 22

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When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
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He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
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