|Belcourt Castle, Newport, R.I. (photo by Eric)|
Once "summer cottages" to the rich and famous from the Gilded Age (beginning in the mid-19th century), many of the Newport mansions remain in great shape and available for tours. The Preservation Society of Newport County offers the majority of house tours, including The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Marble House and Rosecliff. The tours can take up to 90 minutes, given the size, details and nuances of each home. My recommendation would be to see no more than two homes a day, as the experience can eventually become overkill. By purchasing a multi-house ticket, you can spread out the visits on different days. Speaking of tickets, you can order online or on site at any participating house. Log onto the Preservation Society of Newport County web site for full details.
You can also take private tours of Newport mansions not owned by the Preservation Society of Newport County, most notably the Belcourt Castle. The Belcourt is actually my favorite Newport mansion with its combination of old-world, French-style charm and Norman, Elizabethan English and country German design. The home showcases Gilded Age "King" and "Queen" chairs and Russian crystal chandelier with 13,000 prisms in the main room, stained glass, carved oak wainscoting, grand staircases and a replication of a coronation coach. Wow! You can request a tour through the Belcourt Castle web site.
Enjoy the tours, it's a definite highlight of New England travel!