Sightseeing Route: Big Cotswold houses

Britain’s wealthiest 1% may own 50% of its land, but they don’t own the sky…

There aren’t many occasions when you can look down on the rich and powerful. High hedges and drystone walls might stop ramblers and paparazzi, but they do nothing to a nosey pilot.

My aerial playground (the Cotswolds) is littered with slabs of stone piled high into some rather lovely shapes. They’re all owned by high (and ultra-high) net-worth individuals (HNWI), aka billionaires and millionaires in construction, media, and politics. We’ve all got our own privileges in life and those of a pilot include the ability to have a good gander at property porn.

I’ve been a bit selective in this list. We all know about places like Badminton and Charlton Park, so I’ve picked some lesser-known estates with no aviation connections.

This route is merely a suggestion to take them all in and the waypoint files enable you save for when you might be passing by.

Download a zipped file of the full route and waypoints for SkyDemon here. On iOS:

  • download the zipped file,
  • open it in your downloads
  • unzip in something like Files or Document
  • click Share on the flightplan file and waypoints file
  • open in SkyDemon.

You can read about each one below.

1. Rory Sweet

We’re starting on the smaller end of the spectrum with Rory Sweet, who lives just north of the M4. He’s a software businessman and has dabbled in polar exploration. Interestingly he has a Soviet Kholod rocket on the grounds… try and spot it.

2. The vacuum salesman

Dodington Park is a 300-acre Georgian estate, right off the M4 at Junction 18 VRP. It was bought by Sir James Dyson in 2003 and he’s often in and out in his AW139 helicopter.

3. David McMurtry

This is a neat-looking futuristic property near Wotton-under-Edge. It was open to the public for tours for £30, but you can fly over it for free…

4. Princess Anne

If any wealthy person is likely to get a Restricted Area dropped around their estate, it’s this one. Gatcombe Park is sat against a valley and the estate is popular for horse events. There’s a strip nearby called Chavenage, run by a lovely chap. The King’s house is only a few miles to the south and, unsurprisingly, I’m not counting that in this list.

5. Pinbury Park

Yours to rent for just £20,000/month. The current/previous tenant flew a Hughes H500 and often had a Jet-A1 bowser sitting outside the house. Part of Lord and Lady Bathurst’s estate, it’s fairly large and I’ve included it purely down to the aviation connection. This is a 16th-century house with lots of more modern additions, and 20th-century gardens. It really is for rent, that wasn’t a joke.

6. The big hedge

Lord and Lady Bathurst themselves live in this big mixed-origin mansion in Cirencester. The estate parkland extends many miles west, covering 3,000 acres. The house is surrounded to the east by the world’s tallest yew hedge. The ‘broad ride’ is a great visual reference when doing aerobatics over the parkland.

7. iBought a big house

Jony Ive. Who? He drew a square and a circle inside a rectangle…

Then Steve Jobs called that combination of shapes the iPod.

Updated: Jony owns Ablington Manor in the village of Ablington, just inside the Brize CTR. It’s worth a go, if Brize will let you in. The surrounding estates and Coln valley are lovely in spring and summer.

8. The Exile

Prince Pavlos of Greece, and his wife Princess Marie Chantal, once erected the biggest marquee I have ever seen (photo below). It was for a birthday party that saw Diana Ross performing and, presumably, required its own postcode as it was bigger than the 18th-century Farmington Lodge it was attached to. Lots of partying goes on here, I’ve even seen Paris Hilton arrive in an S-76.

9. Elizabeth Murdoch

Surrounded by mature trees on all sides, it looks like Liz is trying to hide something. Perhaps she’s hiding her Sky dish from the neighbours. This big new build house, on the edge of Westwell, is an impressive feat and has been going on for literally years.

10. Lord Rotherwick

Robin Cayzer, 3rd Baron Rotherwick, is a landowner, peer, and builds his own aircraft. Yes, Lord Rotherwick has built, (to my knowledge), two Van’s RV-8s and a Glasair IIIRG. He owns the Charlbury Park estate and has a strip within woodland on the northern edge. The main house isn’t lived in, and he hosts Wilderness Festival on the grounds each year.

11. Transponders Beware

Yes, Diddlysquat Farm is a dangerous place for anyone squawking Mode-C or more. Transit at your peril, and make sure your aircraft is registered to an address other than your own house or his fans might send you hate mail. Jeremy poked the hornet’s nest of GA pilots a few times over the past years, and pilots have responded. Rumours of Shilkas and 40mm Bofors are unconfirmed.

Jezza’s farm spans a few hundred acres and is nicely positioned outside of the local Class D and nearby to Enstone and London Oxford Airport. It’s his fault for not checking SkyDemon and buying a farm in open airspace.

12. The digger salesman

Diggers are big business. Lord Anthony Bamford makes yellow ones and, apparently, that’s enough to buy you a Georgian country house and a fleet of Gulfstreams and S-76 helicopters. Anthony and Carole live not far from Jeremy Clarkson on this comprehensive estate called Daylesford, with farm shop due southwest. There are some top pads nearby, the one below is my favourite, located a few fields over to the southeast.

13. The show-off

I think Jamie Ritblat is hoping for a return of MTV Cribs because he’s built one hell of an ostentatious pad near Winchcombe. Apparently, planning was turned down due to the height of the chimneys so they removed them from the plans, built the house, and then applied (successfully) to build chimneys. Nothing gets in the way of a HNWI! This palatial house is a new build and occupies land on some high ground in a lovely corner of the Cotswolds. Again, no grass runway.

14. Julian Dunkerton

The fashion industry creates more CO2 than aviation, so don’t worry about flying over Julian Dunkerton’s Dowdeswell Court, just east of Cheltenham. Mind the ILS approach to runway 27 at Gloucester, or Dan will get very annoyed. Julian’s neo-Classical house is recently restored and looks pretty damn good.

St John’s House – TBC (to be constructed)

This will dwarf pretty much everything else on the list when it is completed. Palladian style and reached 68,000sq ft, it will be a monster. The site is about 2 miles south of Lord Rotherwick’s pad, in the village of Ramsden.

If you get up for a look around feel free to tag me on Twitter and or Instagram.

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