25 August 2014

Vacationing With Charles and Camilla

 

 If you have ever wanted to vacation where Prince Charles and his bride Camilla live – there actually are several options to do so when choosing your next holiday.

 

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Prince Charles at Birkhall, his Scottish estate

Besides his official residence at Clarence House and his country house at Highgrove, England’s Prince of Wales has several other houses where he lives out his royal life.   One is his grandmother’s former summer vacation house – Birkhall – which is on the Queen’s Balmoral estate in Scotland.    And the other is his most unique residence, the recently restored, unassuming former carriage house in Wales called Llwynywermod.

 

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Prince Charles’ Official Residence in London – Clarence House, his grandmother’s former house.

 

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And his country estate, Highgrove, which Charles purchased before his marriage to Diana.  

 

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The newest addition to his residences, Llwynywermod, is located in Wales – where the red arrow is, above.  It’s the first residence that a member of the royal family has had in Wales in centuries.   As the Prince of Wales, Charles had wanted a permanent home here and had been searching for a suitable one for several years.

 

 

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Prince Charles and William on his Duchy of Cornwall estate.

 

Prince Charles is head of what is known as The Duchy of Cornwall.   The Duchy  was established in 1337, and is the primary income producer for the eldest son of the monarch – who is now of course, Charles.  When Charles becomes King, Prince William will become head of the Duchy of Cornwall.  The Duchy is worth 1.2 billion pounds and has an annual income of 32 million.  It was the Duchy that bought the new Wales estate  for Charles in 2006.  

It took a year to restore the house which was once the carriage house to a much larger 13 bedroom estate whose ruins are still standing. 

 

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A drawing of the Llwynywermod complex of houses and cottages.

Prince Charles’ estate of Llwynywermod comprises 192 acres which includes 40 woodland acres.    The renovation was completed by skilled Welsh craftsmen who used materials sourced from the area wherever they could.   Much of the stone and slate in the house was found on the estate.  Inside, the designers used Welsh products and textiles such as flannels, blankets and quilts, rugs and even pottery.   A Welsh dresser given to Queen Elizabeth on her wedding day by neighbors is now in the house – as is an 18th century dresser.  Of course the renovation was done utilizing the latest green methods, overseen by the environmentally conscious Prince. 

Llwynywermod, pronounced Clanwormwood (I know – Welsh is a very strange language!) is set in a square, surrounding a center courtyard.  Besides Prince Charles’ house, there are two rental cottages and when the Prince and the Duchess are in Wales, these cottages are available to rent.  This is probably the only time that any commoner is able to sleep in the Prince’s estate.  The Royal connection is a strong lure for many visitors and the cottage rental business has been very successful for the Duchy. 

Besides the cottages at Llwynywermod, the Duchy of Cornwall has also restored other cottages that are open to vacationers.  Most of the Duchy vacation cottages are located in the southern tip of  England and on the Isles of Scilly.   The largest vacation house is actually located on the Duchy estate itself.

 

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and sister Annabel Elliot

Camilla and Annabel

As with most things involving Charles and Camilla – these vacation cottages are not without some controversy.   The Duchy hired  Annabel Elliot to oversee the decoration and interior design of all its numerous holiday cottages.  Annabel just happens to be the younger sister of Camilla.  When it was announced that over an 8 year period, Annabel had received almost $1.2 million POUNDS from the Duchy for her design services – the English were not exactly thrilled – citing claims of nepotism.   But since the Duchy is privately owned, Charles was not obligated to take bids for the design work. 

  Still, considering the limited number of tiny cottages that the Duchy owns – the fee does seem a tad large, especially when you figure in the conversion rate of dollar to pounds.    Before she had the Prince as a client, Annabel’s company was in debt – while today it reports record profits.  

Further fueling her unpopularity, Annabel and her husband had opened their country house to Camilla and her then lover Charles for trysts while he was still married to Diana.  In fact, it was at Annabel’s 40th birthday party where Diana famously confronted Camilla, accusing her of being Charles’ lover – claiming there were three people in her marriage.  Annabel and her husband even joined Charles and Camilla on their honeymoon at Balmoral.  For all her loyalty, Charles has awarded Annabel as the Duchy’s No. 1 interior designer – a job almost every decorator in England would probably kill for!!  

Annabel Elliot’s designs for the cottages owned by the Duchy are typically English.  They are mostly done in shades of cream with touches of terracotta and Robin’s Egg Blue, Camilla’s favorite color.  The cottages are not fancy, but are cozy and charming. 

 

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 The rolling hills of the Wales countryside, on the way to the Prince’s house at Llwynywermod.  Such beautiful landscape – like a painting!

 

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The ruins of the original manor house at Llwynywermod, seen on the left.

 

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Close up of the ruins of the original 13 bedroom house.

 

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The complex of farm buildings that make up Llwynywermod.

 

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The estate is over 192 acres.  I love how you can see the smoke coming out of the chimney.

If you are renting one of the cottages, you quickly realize that security is paramount, even when the Prince is not there.

To find the estate is no easy feat.  There is an unmarked entrance disguised as farm gate – but it doesn’t open.   There is a hidden panel of buttons and an intercom which renters much use to alert security that they are there – using a secret code sent to them earlier.   Once approved and only then will the gate open.   Next, you drive down a gravel road and two police cars follow you until you reach the cottage – and unpack your car, while the police sit in theirs, watching you.  After all, this is the private house of the Prince of Wales – the future King of England.  Of course, there are no renters allowed when Charles and Camilla are actually staying there!

 

 

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40 acres are woodlands. 

 

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The restored farmbuildings, cottages and the Prince’s house are on the left, the ruins of the original house are to the very right.

 

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The complex of cottages and farm buildings.   The houses are built around a square courtyard.  Notice the rolling hills in the background. 

 

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The leaded window is found in the two story dining hall.  Today, all the buildings in the courtyard are painted creamy white with Robin’s Egg Blue wood trim.  The blue is the Duchess’ choice – it is her favorite color.

 

 

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Googlemap view:   The estate is made up of cottages that are built around a courtyard or quadrangle.  The Prince has his own two story house at the right.  Next to it is the large, two story dining/meeting hall, which connects to a living room and then the North Range cottage.  On the left side of the North Range, is the West Range cottage, which abuts the large barn.  The Prince hosts social events in the barn, putting rugs down and bringing in fancy chairs and tables for guests.    At the middle of the courtyard is the square fountain, which was a birthday gift to the Prince. 

The cottages all connect and open to each other.  When the Royals are here, they keep the doors to the neighboring cottages flung open.  But, when there are renters, all the doors are locked shut, of course.  Besides the North Range and West Range cottages for rent, there are also accommodations for the guest housekeeper and gameskeeper, who have their own small cottages.               

 

 

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Through the entrance gates to the guest houses.   At the very left is the large dining hall which connects to Charles’ house on the left and to the North Range rental cottage on the right – where the table and chairs are set up at the door.

 

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Looking at the same view as above.   The other side of this guest house faces the interior courtyard.   This apartment is called the North Range and is one of the two available for rent.  The gate has a rather rustic and humorous Prince of Wales Feathers design.   These trees were used to decorate Westminster Abbey during Prince William and Kate’s wedding and were brought here afterwards to be planted on the estate.

 

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Looking back towards the entry gate.  The North Range Cottage is to the right.   William and Kate’s wedding trees line the gravel road.

 

 

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Entrance to the North Range Cottage.  A table and chairs is set outside for guests.  Besides the North Range Cottage, there is the West Range Cottage, also available to rent.   Charming door and lanterns are so inviting!

 

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Inside the courtyard.  The two story house is the Prince’s private house.  This is not available to rent.   The property was quite derelict when the Duchy bought it in 2006.  I’m fascinated with all the changes he has made here – just like what he accomplished with Highgrove, his country home.  Here, the Prince has turned a pile of bricks into something quite special – inside and out.  The gardens, the Prince’s special love, inside the courtyard are so beautiful.   The flowers beds are lined with reed – just like the kind that Charlotte Moss added to her Hampton’s garden HERE.

 

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The Prince’s house. 

 

 

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Charles and Camilla pose outside their front door.   I love how the windows upstairs are open to the fresh air. 

 

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The Prince’s gardens in spring.  Notice the woven reed that lines the beds.

 

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Charming doors and gates that let cars through. 

 

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In front of Charles’ house is the square fountain – that sits smack in the middle of the square courtyard.

 

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Looking from the Prince’s house to the West Range Cottage.  To the very left is the barn.

 

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This shows the outside of the square estate.  To the very right is the barn and straight ahead is the West  Range, the second cottage.  You enter the West Range from the outside of the courtyard.

 

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And here is the view of the North Range Cottage from inside the courtyard.

 

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This shows the barn – inside the courtyard – with its large doors open.  To the right is the West Range cottage and to the left is the Prince’s house. 

 

 

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Inside the barn.  The Prince holds events here when he is in Wales.  This event was honoring the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.  He places elegant chairs and rugs on the ground to make it a bit dressier for the events.  Notice the stone walls and the vaulted ceiling.  And the harpist!

 

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And at the event, you can see the rug and the large barn door open to the courtyard.

 

Let’s look at how the property has evolved:

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The restoration is said to have cost over a million pounds.  The quality of the work is evident at a glance.  Though not fancy – the elements are first rate: the buildings have stone mullioned windows, stone flagged floors, and slate roofs.  Outside, the Prince has spent a small fortune on the landscaping – turning the courtyard from a gravel square into a lush garden.   He added 15 year old trees so that the landscaping doesn’t look brand new.   Charles has plans to reinstate a lake on the estate.

 

 

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The Prince’s original house.  How his house looked before it was restored and painted.

 

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At the left of the original house – in the corner you can see where the dining hall was created.  There are no pictures of the Prince’s interiors – just of the guest houses.  And here you can see the courtyard was once just a gravel wasteland.  Love the dog!!

 

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This shows the outside of the courtyard – the Prince’s house is at the left.  At the corner is the dining hall and the right is the North Range cottage.  The large leaded glass window in the dining hall was apparently added in the renovation.

 

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This view shows the outside of the courtyard – with the Prince’s house at the center.  To the left is the large barn.

 

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And, inside the courtyard, the North Range cottage.  I think!!!

 

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Under renovation.  Facing the front is the North Range cottage, with the dining hall at the left.  To the left of the courtyard is the Prince’s house.  At the back is the large barn and to the right of the barn is the West Range cottage.  There is also a farm building at the very right.

 

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And here is the Prince’s House – all renovated, but before the garden was installed.  It looks so different without the garden!!! 

If ever there is a case to be made for gardens, this is it.  The difference between then and now is astounding!!

 

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 The house and the barn.  Before the gardening.  Sad! 

 

 

 

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BEFORE:  Another view before the landscaping was installed.  This shows the back of the Prince’s house on the left.  The dining hall with the large window at the corner – and to the right, the North Range cottage. 

 

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Another huge difference!  The North Range cottage before the landscaping was installed.  Just to remind you of what it looks like today – see below:

 

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The same view, today, with the landscaping.  Amazing difference.

 

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And the North Range cottage from the other side, inside the courtyard.

 

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 The leaded window of the dining hall/meeting hall.  The window is new, but the large door was there – glass was added to make it a window.

 

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Inside the two story dining hall with the large leaded glass window that overlooks the countryside.

 

 

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Closeup of the beautiful window.

 

 

 

 

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Above the fireplace in the dining hall is the Prince of Wales Feathers – one of the few signs that tells you who owns the property.

 

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The Welsh dresser is antique.  The Welsh rug is the same as the one in the North Range cottage.  The pottery is also Welsh, as are the quilts.

 

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Past the fireplace in the dining hall is this small living room.  It connects on the right to the North Range cottage.

 

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The North Range cottage sleeps six three bedrooms.

 

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Here the door is open to the living room of the dining hall.  The fires are aromatic – they are burned with an assortment of fragrant woods.

 

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Stone floors – the dining room is behind the living room.

 

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The dining area.

 

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Thomas Rathmell’s large painting of the 1969 Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon dominates one wall.

 

 

 Prince Charles – becoming the Prince of Wales in 1969.   The painting really captures the scene.

 

 

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The kitchen overlooking the dining room.  The cottages have fully furnished kitchens which is needed because the nearest restaurants are a mile away.

Apparently all the light switches are old fashioned brass ones, and retro styled Roberts radios are at each bed.  Books and DVDs were handpicked by the Royals and are mostly by either friends, family, or English who’s-who.   The bathrooms are stocked with gingerlily bath oil.  And although the setting is pure country and quite rustic, the WiFi is very fast, the TVs are flat screens, and the HVAC system is very high tech green.

 

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The Prince loaned Houston’s (yes!) Museum of Natural Science one of the original four copies of the Magna Carta.   Wow!  To celebrate the event, a cadre of Houstonians came to Llwynywermod to celebrate.  The event was held in the dining hall and in the North Range cottage – whose doors were flung open to the adjoining living room and dining hall.

 

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The Prince’s resident Harpist played at the event.  The Houstonians did not stay at the estate, rather they stayed at the manor of  another family.

 

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The second cottage for rent- West Range.

 

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The cottages are simply furnished – using Welsh textiles and fabrics.

 

 

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One of the bedrooms at Llwynywermod.

 

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Prince William and Kate’s wedding.  The trees were brought back to the estate.

 

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Besides the Welsh property,  Llwynywermod, the Duchy of Cornwall owns several other cottages and properties for let.   They are adding to their selection each year – and today there are over 21 cottages you can rent. 

 

Restormel Manor: 

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Restormel Manor is one of the more exclusive properties available for let.  There are several apartments in the main house, along with cottages in a neighboring farmbuilding.   Restormel Manor is located on the Duchy’s estate.  Kate and William and her family actually rented this property one Christmas.

 

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This apartment in the main house of Restormel Manor is more dressy than some of the other cottages.  I love the way Annabel Elliot designed this one.  So English.

 

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The dining room with its marble fireplace and wallpaper is so pretty.

 

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The kitchen offers a more informal place to eat.

 

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One of the bedrooms at Restmorel Manor.

 

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Another apartment for let on Restormel is equally as pretty.

 

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A bedroom.

 

 

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Several cottages are available in the restored courtyard/farmbuilding located on the Duchy estate. 

 

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One of the cottage living rooms with its vaulted ceiling.

 

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The kitchen sits at the other end of the living room.  So charming!

 

 

 

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The views outside the courtyard cottages.

 

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And there is the Restormel Cottage also in Cornwell.

 

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Beautiful arched stone windows in the living room.

 

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And in the dining room – the same arched stone windows that overlook the countryside.

 

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The same charming windows are upstairs in the bedrooms, with the red and white bedspreads.

 

 

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One of the most popular cottages offered by the Duchy is The Gatehouse Cottage at St. Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly. 

 

 

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The cottage overlooks the sea – behind 17th century Garrison walls.

 

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Inside it is warm and cozy with a large stone fireplace.

 

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Fully furnished English kitchen.

 

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Darling sea inspired blue and white bedroom.

 

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And there is also the Guardhouse at St. Mary’s.

 

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I love the wood paneled ceiling and stone fireplace.

 

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Across from the living room is the kitchen and staircase.

 

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One of the upstairs bedroom.

 

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The guest room.  Darling headboards!

 

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Another popular property is No 1 and No 2 Gustivean Cottages, in Newquay on Duchy land, near the sea.

 

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Slipcovered furniture in the living room.

 

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Slate floors and farm sink in the kitchen.

 

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Red and white cotton bedspreads with slipped headboards.

 

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Gustivean Cottage #2

 

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Darling wood planked door and stone fireplace.

 

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Large windows that overlook the outside fields.

 

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Charming windows and door in an upstairs bedroom.

 

There are many other properties owned by the Duchy of Cornwall that are available to rent.  To see the Duchy’s web site, go HERE – to view even more cottages.

One interesting fact – if you live nearby, two well behaved dogs are allowed in most properties.  I love that!!!  It would be nice if more places in the United States allowed dogs.

To order a book about the Prince Charles new house in Wales –  click on the image below!