Although Great Britain's housing market has been in turmoil over the past few years due to the floundering regional and global economy, properties in the London area continue to rise in value, fueled in part by wealthy foreigners. As many as half of the properties sold in some areas of London, are bought by foreigners. Millionaire's Row isn't the only place to find gorgeous, luxurious homes. Here are 6 of the most beautiful (and, naturally the most pricey) estates in the U.K.
1. 19 Carlton House Terrace
Shrouded in secrecy, this estate is rumored to be owned by a reclusive Middle Eastern royal figure. No photos of the home's interior have been allowed since the 1980s, when the home transferred ownership. Now, British newspapers have reason to believe the estate is on sale on the highly secretive "gray market." Estimated asking price is £250 million, which would make it the most valuable property ever sold in the country.†
What do you get for the money? The 6-story home features 50,000 square feet of living space, and is one of the few residences on the street. Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and Buckingham Palace are all a short walk away. Some real estate writers have speculated that the home's location amidst a primarily business district might lessen its selling price. However, rumors of the potential sale are generating lots of buzz among London's ultra rich. Estate analysts predict the inevitable buyer will likely be another foreigner.
2. 18 & 19 Kensington Palace Gardens
These two addresses now make up a single private residence. Until recently, the two buildings served as the Egyptian and Russian embassies, respectively, but were combined into a single private dwelling. Once called "Millionaire Row," the area is now referred to as "Billionaire Row," and this property is worth an estimated £149 million, even as the average selling price for other residences on this street is just £18.2 million.
The district has long been attractive to Russian oligarchs. It once belonged to property developer David Khalilit, and then to businessman and Formula One racing executive Bernie Ecclestone. Now, the home belongs to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, who purchased the property in 2004 for £57 million.
3. Toprak Mansion
Billionaire Hourieh Peramaa bought this neo-classical-style mansion in 2008 for £50 million, then immediately added another £30 million worth of upgrades, including a retractable helipad. Located on the exclusive Bishop Avenue, it was originally built by the Turkish industrial giant and banker Halis Toprak.
Toprak features 12 bedrooms, 28,000 square feet of living space (plus generous apartments for guests and staff), an 80-foot grand salon, a Turkish bath, a dining room to accommodate 40 people, glass elevators, and a garage ample enough for parking 28 Rolls Royces. Though not currently for sale, the property is estimated to be worth £105 million after Peramaa's upgrades.
4. Castle Howard
Most notable for serving as the setting for the popular 1981 British television show Brideshead Revisited, and later as setting for the 2008 film adaptation of the show, Castle Howard has served as the Howard family residence for 300 years. Sitting just 15 miles north of York in North Yorkshire, the home is not technically a castle. "Castle" was the common term for all country houses built after the castle era of 1500 that weren't intended for military use.
The home was built between 1699 and 1712 for the Third Earl of Carlisle, and was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh. It is now listed as part of the Treasure Houses of England's heritage group. It features the rare English Baroque style, which wasn't employed very long in English construction.
5. Blenheim Palace
Steeped in controversy from the beginning, Blenheim Palace has most notably served as the birthplace of former Primer Minister Sir Winston Churchill. It was first constructed in 1705-1724 as a gift for the First Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, to honor him for his victories over the French and Bavarians during the Battle of Blenheim. However, before the gift wa given, political infighting led to the Duke's exile.
It stands as the only non-Episcopal country house to be honored with the title of castle, and is one of the largest estates in all of England. Though each generation of the Churchill family has made their own additions and changes, the structure stands today much as it did during the 1720's. It is also one of the rare English Baroque style homes, and narrowly escaped destruction in the late 19th century when its owner married a wealthy American.
In 1987, UNESCO recognized Blenheim Palace as a World Heritage Site. Interestingly, Blenheim Palace serves as a private family residence, mausoleum, and natural monument all at the same time. Tours of the home are available to the public. Though unlikely to go up for sale in the forseeable future, the property was valued at approximately £67 million as of 2007.
This Elizabethan country house is hailed as one of the finest examples of this architectural style in all of Britain. Owned by Alexander Thynn, the Seventh Marquess of Bath, it has been in the Thynn family since Sir John Thynne built it after the original property was destroyed in a fire in 1567. It took 12 years to construct the home, which was designed by Robert Smythson.
Longleat's primary claim to fame is being the first safari park built outside of Africa. The park was added in 1966, to complement the 8,000 acres of woods and farmlands, the maze, and a landscaped park by Capability Brown. It was also the first stately home opened to public tours. It is worth an estimated £178 million.
Overall, housing prices in Great Britain are stagnant, and experts expect them to remain so throughout 2013. The government is launching incentives in hopes of rekindling the housing market, as well as the overall economic situation. What other beautiful estates do you think should be on this list?†