Some people want to get married on a beach while others hanker after the romance of tradition – and there’s no better place to find pomp and ceremony than the United Kingdom. Suzanne Locke draws back the curtain on four under-the-radar venues for a UK wedding.
London-based wedding venue consultant Kelly Mortimer knows a thing or two about up-and-coming British bridal backdrops. She has two decades of experiences working with some of the biggest hotel names, such as Claridge’s and the Mandarin Oriental, and previously worked as group wedding sales director for a portfolio of 45 hotels across the UK. Here she gives her opinion on four of the best new places to get hitched – including two castles.
“A lot of brides are in the market for something a little bit different and there are a lot of new venues here, like farms and vineyards,” she says. “People are now going for country houses, barns and castles – and the hotel industry is having to pull its socks up.”
The Beech Hill Hotel Country House, Derry, Northern Ireland
“This is a 400-year-old country house and, for me, the key thing is its colourful past,” says Kelly. “Over the years all sorts of world leaders and A-listers stay there yet somehow this is not a big name like Claridge’s or Rosewood. When I was there I stayed in the same room as Bill and Hillary Clinton had done. Despite its age, The Beech Hill has recently been taken over by a young and vibrant company called the House Collection so it has traditional facilities but not a traditional feel. It has all the qualifications for a great venue without being one lots of people have heard of.”
Get married in a rustic forest setting, a twinkling pavilion that will take 300 guests or even in a gazebo by the lake and an old-fashioned water wheel.
Farnham Castle, Surrey, England
“This castle should be more well-known; it has such great grounds and facilities and it is not far from London. You can hire the whole castle exclusively, making it in the realms of reality for most people to have their own castle. It is independently owned by two couples and has two beautiful chapel options for religious ceremonies – today it can be quite difficult to get the religious element right on site. It’s on top of the hill with views right across the market town of Farnham and has a gatehouse where brides can get ready.”
Close to London Gatwick airport, Farnham Castle offers the Bishop’s Chapel and Norman Chapel as well as the Great Hall for a reception, with a gallery bar. This writer stayed in a sweet turret bedroom and partied till the wee hours in the Great Hall when attending a winter wedding here a couple of years ago.
The Granary at Fawsley, Northamptonshire, England
“The Granary is understated but perfectly formed. You drive down a dirt track through farmland – then it suddenly appears. It’s a collection of Grade 2 listed (preserved) buildings, with 10 modern bedrooms, a wedding barn, a chef on site and adjacent fields full of sheep. You really do feel like you’re in the middle of a farm. You can bring 35-200 guests and it’s just a lovely place to get away from it all.”
Choose the Fawsley suite or the wedding barn at this contemporary country hotel sited within the 700-year-old Fawsley estate.
Borthwick Castle, Scotland
Visiting the 600-year-old Borthwick Castle, near Edinburgh, is like stepping out of a period drama. It was one of the homes of Mary, Queen of Scots, and is popular with Americans, with its four-poster beds and old-school castle feel – like going back in time.
Licensed for all ceremonies, pick the Garrison for cocktails or the great hall for a banquet – and the gatehouse as a bridal suite, with its replica of Henry VII’s 1486 marital bed.
Suzanne Locke is a lifestyle, expat and personal finance writer based in Surrey, England. A former journalist at Sky News and editor-in-chief for Yahoo, her work has appeared in various publications including Red Bull, The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, Expatra.com and the Women’s Institute Life magazine. She runs her own digital content consultancy, Locke Digital.