A Feel of Permanence

Times Travel Editor

Renting a cottage in Britain gives vacationers the opportunity to enjoy a foreign land at their own pace, avoiding the hassle of the get-up-and-go organized tour. Just select a quiet country cottage for use as a base from which to explore the countryside or to laze in the rose garden with a good book.

This may come as a revelation, but the simple truth is that not all travelers enjoy traveling.

Figure that one out.

Not everyone, our survey indicates, is enchanted with the idea of awakening days on end in unfamiliar hotels in strange places from Sydney to Seville.

For these individuals, travel simply isn't a joy. Rather, they prefer to stay put; they find no pleasure dealing with strange languages, going through the routine of bags outside the door at dawn with another interminable day aboard a bus while anxiously awaiting the relief of nightfall before a repeat of the same scenario.

Granted, they delight in being on foreign turf; what they resent is the aggravation of moving from place to place.

It is for this reason that Elizabeth Livingstone, Lin Gauger, John Mace and Christine Campbell are building budding businesses by unlatching the doors to second homes in Britain to hordes of Americans.

They make it possible for the traveler to be away from home without being on the road regularly. By taking a cottage in Britain one may, should one choose, stay indoors and snooze, run off to the pub for a pint of ale or just laze in the rose garden and dig into a copy of Byron or Yeats.

They can, of course, pile into a rental car, explore the countryside by day and be home each evening (a car in most cases is part of the cottage package).

One should be warned early on, however, that such holidays can prove addictive.

There comes to mind one specific rental in the Cotswolds that reflects all those stereotyped images of the charming country cottage Britain is so famous for.

This particular property with its mullioned windows and honeysuckle clinging to ancient walls is hidden in a charming corner of the Cotswolds called Little Faringdon, and it's yours for as little as $390 a week.

But keep in mind that guests often find the leave-taking a bit frustrating, what with the enchantment of the house and the hamlet and the peacefulness of Little Faringdon's park-like setting.

Known as the Garden Cottage, this particular property sleeps four, features wood-burning fireplaces in the dining and drawing rooms, bundles of antiques and a river that flows only moments away.

The Garden Cottage is one of 300 rentals on the books of Elizabeth Livingstone, who represents Heart of England Cottages here in Orange County. Besides the Cotswolds, she lists others on the Isle of Wight and in Wales.

Livingstone speaks enthusiastically about an Elizabethan gatehouse in Shropshire with octagonal towers dating from the 16th Century, elegant tapestries, a stone fireplace and a medieval garden. With golf and fishing nearby, The Gatehouse is only a leisurely drive to Stratford-on-Avon and the Bard's neck of the woods. What's more, it sleeps five, with rates ranging from $245 in the low season to $410 during summertime.

Parsloes Cottage in the quiet village of West Kingston near Castle Combe is described by Livingstone as the perfect hideaway for couples seeking privacy. Sheep graze among verdant hills and there are woods to explore and a gentle river that meanders near this 300-year-old bungalow with its cheery fire. Depending on the season, Parsloes Cottage rents from $170 to $295 a week.

Only last Christmas a family of 19 tripped over from Arkansas to take up residence in the rambling Old Grange estate in Gloucestershire, plunking down $800 for an entire week. Besides shelter, they had the use of a tennis court and a heated swimming pool. Along with its wood-burning stoves, the Old Grange features central heating, a pine wood kitchen and a spiral staircase.

North of the Cotswolds, in the hamlet of Wood Bevington, the Marquess and Marchioness of Hertford have made available two cottages on their 6,000-acre estate for short-period lettings. Wood Bevington (circa 1331) dates from the reign of Edward III.

Livingstone describes Wood Bevington as having "enormous character, great charm, comfort, peace and seclusion," with a walled garden, a flagged entrance, a sizable drawing room and open fireplaces. Priced from $420 in the low season to $650 a week in the high season, Wood Bevington sleeps eight. Its neighbor cottage shelters as many as six occupants at rates ranging from $180 to $315 per week.

In the same general area as many as 10 guests are accommodated in a rural cottage with the fetching name of Cold Comfort Farm. Cold Comfort provides sitting and dining rooms along with an electric stove, a refrigerator, dishwasher and washing machine. The weekly rental figures out to a low-season rate of $420 and $650 in summer.

In Wales, Livingstone books guests into Llamgattock Coach House in the Valley of the Usk, which puts it within easy driving range of Ross-on-Wye, Monmouth and Abergavenny. Llamgattock sleeps two with rates pegged at $170/$295 a week.

On the Welsh border, Holly Cottage rises in an apple orchard not far from a trout stream and a strawberry patch, which guests are invited to raid. With oak beams and an open fireplace, Holly sleeps four and is up for bid at $195/$345 a week.

Near Her Horse

Livingstone tells of a Tennessee matron who rents a 17th-Century mansion in Gloucestershire each year ($545 a week) in order to be close to the prize race horse that she boards nearby. And there's the New Zealand couple who spent $500 a week over three months for a thatched cottage near Pangbourne and the River Thames, 35 miles outside London.

The most expensive property on Livingstone's chart is an 18th-Century estate, the Orangery, at Frampton-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. Here swans float by on a lake and trees are reflected in an ornamental Dutch canal flowing before this two-story estate. The Orangery accommodates as many as eight guests during the high season at $700 a week. Close to Bath, the area offers fishing, riding and a number of snug pubs.

Besides cottages, Livingstone also deals in budget air fares, London apartments, car rentals, British travel passes and a BritRail/Drive package that figures out to $149 a week for the rail/rental car combination. As a matter of fact, a rental car is a dire necessity when booking one of Britain's remote cottages.

In Los Angeles, Cameo Tours represents 1,200 self-catering cottages and apartments that are scattered throughout Britain--not only the Cotswolds and Wales.

Just $168 a Week

Cameo's Lin Gauger tells of a converted coach house in England's Northumberland region with three bedrooms, a huge lounge and dining area, central heating, a washer/dryer--the works--for as little as $168 a week per person. The rate is based on six guests, with either a rental car or a station wagon as part of the package.

Gauger, who registers budget, first-class and superior properties in England, Scotland and Wales points out that her British associates inspect every listing.

In North Devon, on the coast of Exmoor, Gauger represents a manor house that has been converted into apartments with views of the sea and cliffs that fall away to immense stretches of beach. High on the same list are cottages in Somerset that have been converted from stables, with mullioned windows and beamed ceilings where ancient farm implements dangle.

One particular cottage is set in an orchard with a view of the Mindip Hills. During spring and summer the land is carpeted with bouquets of daffodils and bluebells that reach to infinity. With two to a cottage, the weekly rate in winter comes to $200 per person or $293 in summer, including a car.

Other accommodations are offered by John Mace of Los Angeles' Destination Marketing. Mace turns up old weavers' cottages and other discoveries featuring thatched roofs "and loads of atmosphere." Rates with five persons to a cottage, including a car, start at $450 a week.

Cottages, Cars, Apartments

Mace puts together cottage/car deals with pickups in London and, like his competitors, lists apartment rentals in the city. In addition, British-born Mace does camper rentals, provides chauffeured limousines and sells both airline and rail tickets.

In Northern California, Christine Campbell represents 400 cottages and apartments under the banner of In the English Manner--everything from a $120-a-week cottage to stately homes with weekly rentals of $4,500.

In the village of Burford--this is Cotswolds country--Campbell gives high points to an ancient mill house that backs up to a river near an "adorable village with only one main street and one neat pub."

Campbell's flats in London are up for grabs at rates ranging from $395 to $2,300 a week.

Campbell worked out a tour for W. R. Lake Jr. of Northridge who told of "wonderful old homes and great dinners." Lake gave Campbell a rating of 10-plus.

You can hardly beat that.

Contact:

--Elizabeth Livingstone (Heart of England Cottages), 215 West 1st St., Suite 105-10, Tustin 92680. (714) 838-8430.

--Lin Gauger (Cameo Tours & Travel), 6290 Sunset Blvd., Suite 406, Los Angeles 90028. (213) 466-0396.

--John Mace (Destination Marketing), 5250 W. Century Blvd., Los Angeles 90045. (800) 358-9797 in Calif., (800) 858-1515 nationwide or (213) 670-6522 in Los Angeles.

--Christine Campbell (In the English Manner), P.O. Box 936, Alamo, Calif. 94507. (415) 935-7065.

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