Queen Mother's house to host more luxury weekends

Falling visitor numbers hit profits

Updated: 
The Castle of Mey.

The general public is to be given less access to the Queen Mother's former summer home, in an attempt to bring in more cash from the super-rich.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the Castle of Mey in Caithness is to keep its doors closed to visitors during Easter and the first half of May from next year.

Instead, it will be available for more 'Mey Occasions' - weekends costing £50,000 for up to a dozen people. Guests are treated to stalking and salmon fishing, with butler service and top chefs thrown in.

The Queen Mother's own bedroom is out of bounds, but guests can stay in any of the others, including Princess Margaret's.

The change is aimed at making up for steadily dropping visitor numbers - down from over 27,500 in 2008 to just 18,768 last year. As a result, the castle is believed to be making a loss of between £50,000 and £150,000 a year.

"We are no longer opening over Easter, as these days rarely made a contribution, and we have made a similar decision with regards to the first half of May when, looking at several years worth of data, we decided that these weeks too were marginal contributors to the bottom line," chairman of the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust Ashe Windham explains.

"We are now able to offer our Mey Occasions weekenders the first half of May, which has proved popular."

But, he insists, "We are certainly not giving up on our public opening activities - far from it."

For those that can't afford the Mey Occasions price tag, there is an alternative on the Mey estate, in the form of the Captain's House - a favourite picnicking spot for the Queen Mother. With two double bedrooms and one single, it's available on a self-catering basis - no butlers here - for between £425 and £800 a week.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of other royal places to stay that shouldn't break the bank. It's possible, for example, to stay in the Georgian House at Hampton Court Palace - originally the palace kitchen, but none the less grand for all that. Sleeping up to eight people, it costs from around £1,000 for four nights.

And the Landmark Trust has another 18 castles and fortresses available to rent, from Fort Clonque in the Channel Islands to Rosslyn Castle near Edinburgh, costing from just £172 for four nights.

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