When landowner Walter Barton May’s wife left him for a neighbor, he took extreme measures. Built in the mid-18th century, the 175-foot Gothic-style Hadlow Tower was May’s perch to keep an eye on the couple, at least according to local folklore in Kent, England.
Hadlow Tower is a prime example of a folly, an extravagant, unnecessary feature added to a property. Hedgerow mazes, grottos, Greek-style temples…that sort of thing. As you can imagine, this was the province of the wealthy, and the practice was concentrated in the large estates of the British Isles. Most properties with follies today are quite pricey. Hadlow Tower, which has a top-floor bedroom, and the attached four-bedroom home was recently listed for $2.6 million.
But there are plenty of more reasonable options out there, if you want a home with a quirky, defining feature.
Pérez Zeledón’s Jungle Waterfalls
Inland from Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast, the jungle-covered Talamanca Mountains rise forcefully, quickly changing the climate from hot and humid on the beach to a cooler and more comfortable feel. In some places, you can even get a fire going at night.
The local economy is focused on agriculture, with coffee as the main crop. Many expats have started organic farms. A DIY, back-to-nature vibe typifies the region, known as Pérez Zeledón. Another benefit is that you’re only about an hour-and-a-half from some of the best beaches and beach towns in Costa Rica.
That’s definitely the case at this 10.77-acre property with a two-bedroom home and private 50-foot waterfall with a swimming hole at the bottom. It’s being sold fully-furnished and also features a grove of citrus trees, bananas, blackberries, and more. List price: $229,000. Another two-bedroom home nearby, on five acres, has 0.6 miles of riverfront and gentle, tiered waterfalls ideal for lounging. See: Costaricarealestate.com.
England’s North—Gothic Grandeur
The northern part of England remains distinct from London and the south in culture, cuisine, and accents, which can vary greatly even in the region. Major cities like Manchester (a hub of the Industrial Revolution) and Liverpool (a once-thriving port city and birthplace of The Beatles) are where the population is mostly concentrated. But you’ll also find vast national parks and natural areas.
The Yorkshire Dales are known for their rolling green landscapes. The Lake District has plenty of those too, as well as moor-covered hills, rocky peaks, and glacial valleys. It’s a very popular location with artists and trekkers, and has been since the poet William Wordsworth tramped the paths here in the 18th century.
A pair of homes in small towns are ideally located to access everything this area has to offer. But you might not like the neighbors. A four-bedroom, restored cemetery keeper’s cottage in Atherton is built on the site of a historic cemetery. It’s listed at $434,515. A two-bedroom Gothic style cemetery lodge turned family home in Ince, built in 1855, is listed at $259,405. See: Rightmove.co.uk.
Yucatán, Mexico—Portals to the Gods
The ancient Mayans built large cities, most lost to the jungle today, across the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. And their descendants live there to this day, preserving their language and customs. Cenotes are a common natural feature where limestone has eroded, revealing clear, turquoise underground pools, part of a vast subterranean water system. They make for a great swimming hole and some are suitable for cave diving. But the Mayans revered them as a source of fresh water and as a place they could connect to the gods. Offerings of jewelry and pottery have been found in some.
Cenotes dot the peninsula, and you can have one all to yourself. A four-bedroom home in the colonial city of Merida has a small cenote set in the garden. It’s on sale for $218,000. A 74-acre ranch, ideal for livestock, with two-bedroom home is available for $170,000. It features a cave cenote. See: Tierrayucatan.com.
Aquitaine, France—Your Own Chapel
As the largest region in France, Nouvelle- Aquitaine, in the southwest, enjoys a variety of landscapes. The wine regions of Bordeaux and Cognac are here. You have surfing on the Atlantic coast. Medieval villages. Vast forests. And the peaks of the Pyrenees. A seven-bedroom 18th-century, restored country house near a small village is available for $541,798. It has its own chapel, swimming pool, and woodlands. A three-bedroom home, again with a chapel, has a large private garden. See: Aplaceinthesun.com and My-french-house.com.