Most Americans of a certain age travel to Europe for the history — of cathedrals, of museums, of their own families — but often end up staying in hotels that are probably younger than their kids. The more adventurous will stay in bed and breakfasts or rent an apartment. But what if, instead of merely observing history, you could surround yourself with it, immerse yourself in it?

That’s the promise — and the premise — of The Landmark Trust, a British-based charity that rescues and renovates historic properties in the UK, Italy and France. To save these old buildings for future generations, and to foster an appreciation of history and architecture among the present generation, the Trust rents its properties by the weekend or the week.

They range from cottages to castles, from a railway station to a converted fortress. Together, the settings cover almost every aspect of history: architectural, literary, military, religious, even royal.

The website ( includes a wealth of photographs, floor plans, historical information and maps, and offers online booking. But it is worth investing the handbook’s print version, which contains more delightful photography and some wonderfully understated and poetic descriptions of the lives lived, however briefly, in these historical jewels.