The London Magazine: Russell Simpson comment on the top summer escapes for Chelsea residents

  • By Adam Foster
  • 01 September 2015

“Hot town, summer in the city” may have been written with the streets of Manhattan in mind yet it could just as well describe London when the temperature starts to rise. As the pavements get dirty and gritty, London’s prime residents prepare to escape to different climes to recharge their overworked and overplayed bodies.

So where does London decamp to for the summer months? According to the latest Ultra Prime Barometer from agents Beauchamp Estates, the top address in Europe for billionaires to own a primary residence is London, yet these high net worth individuals are likely to have three other multi million pound properties in their portfolios to retreat to from the capital each summer. A trophy holiday home on the French Riviera perhaps, a cool hill-top estate in Tuscany and a lavish contemporary villa in the Greek islands are the must-have retreats.

For those Londoners living in the prime spots of Belgravia, Chelsea and Kensington, the summer break doesn’t always mean exchanging the city for the clear blue sea and sundowners. Traditionally, Belgravians enjoy “a bit of grouse shooting” in the Highlands says Hugo Headlam from John D Wood’s Belgravia office, noting that Provence, Monaco and Tuscany are also very popular as holiday and second home destinations with this elite group.

“The British who live here tend to have estates in Scotland or Ireland where they spend the holidays stalking, shooting and fishing,” says Matthew Harrop from John D Wood Kensington’s office and 20 years ago, he adds, it would have been a second home in Cornwall’s much revered Rock. Now South Africa and the Maldives are the go-to destinations. The local Russians prefer to rub shoulders with like-minded oligarchs in the exclusive Italian resort of Porto Cervo on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda, where Harrods chose to have its first pop-up store and super yachts vie for attention with Bugattis and Maseratis cruising the harbourside roads.

“The wives and kids go to St Tropez and Monaco for the summer,” says Bertie Russell of Chelsea’s Russell Simpson agents,  a view echoed by Mayfair’s Gary Hersham of Beauchamp Estates. “Add to that the chic Tuscan seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi and Mykonos, which is also popular  with our American clients,” says Hersham. “For Americans working for most of the year in London, holidaying in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard allows them to catch up with family, friends and business contacts.”

It’s a different story in South Kensington. Brigitte Bardot may have put Brazil’s Búzios on the map when she took a liking to it back in the 1960s but it’s since become a favourite holiday destination along with Florianópolis further down the coast for Londoners heading off for the summer from the elegant streets of SW7, according to Ben Rivera of Faron Sutaria.“Many also return year after year to France and Tuscany,” he says.

The French and Italians living in the area will be flying home to their respective holiday resorts, confirms Spencer Cushing from John D Wood in South Kensington. “The French Riviera’s favourite retreats take some beating so I’d say it’s more than a trickle of our European clients heading to St Tropez and Port Grimaud with the Italians opting for the celebrity enclave of Lake Como.” George Clooney put the tranquil Italian resort squarely in the spotlight when he bought a villa there in 2002, where he reportedly spends four months of the year – now with his glamorous wife, the top flight human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin.

“Some of our older British clients retain homes in the country here in the UK so they’ll split their holiday time between Britain and the Med, invariably Portugal, the Balearics or further east to Corfu and Crete,” says Cushing.

And nothing quite beats the eccentricity of the British. James Bailey, chief executive of Henry & James,  knows a wonderful elderly English couple who live in Bermuda and stop off at their home in Belgravia for a couple of weeks in the summer just to buy cheese –English Cheddar of course – while en route to their house in the south of France.

Richard Bernstone of Aston Chase reveals where the principal decamp location is for his Regent’s Park clientele: “It has to be the south of France where many have beautiful family homes or larger yachts or even both. The Greek islands, particularly Mykonos, which has developed a party atmosphere with many great  beach restaurants, are also one of  the top destinations.”

The Cotswolds are a favourite second home enclave for residents of Marylebone, who are the right side of the capital for a swift exit, according to Paul Sulkin from Kay & Co. “There’s a smattering who trek off to Cornwall too for at least part of the summer.” Charlie Parkin of Aylesford International on the King’s Road adds: “Many of our clients make a beeline for Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.” This is  borne out by the fact that Devon’s South Hams is affectionately  known as “Fulham on Sea”.

South of the River Thames in Battersea, many residents have second homes in Majorca and Cornwall. And in Clapham the young hipsters are still drawn to the heady party scene in Ibiza, while families and the increasingly income-rich empty nesters are committed Francophiles for the  gîte season.

Three hundred years ago wealthy Londoners chose Highgate as a fashionable country retreat from London due to its elevation and handsome views. Today, the notion of a summer retreat from the capital is a soupçon more global.


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