The many stories of Wendy and Simon’s casual castle in Cumbria
How do you bottle up the essence of two decades of work, the amended dreams of a couple, the childhoods of two people, the experiences of hundreds of guests and the history of a Cumbrian castle, then spill it out into the online world in a one-page package? It simply can’t be done. But I’m still going to try.
Castle life for everyone
“The castle has been our family home for twenty years and we seek to recreate a slice of our life here for you. We aren’t trying to be a luxury hotel which strives to create order out of chaos, rather to celebrate with like-minded people the fact that life is chaotic and we’re all in it together.”
I spent two nights in Augill Castle with my husband, Wendy and Simon (owners and power couple) and three other couples I didn’t know at the time, but now think of fondly. Through the medium of a comfy, cozy castle and a come-as-you-are attitude, our hosts set the stage for a real experience. You won’t find an “employees only” sign on any door in the castle, not even in the kitchen. Everyone is invited to make themselves at home. I made full use of the tea station in the British-themed bar morning, noon and night. I also discovered the homemade breakfast granola was available in the dining room at all times. I now crave it and am, unfortunately, on the other side of the ocean counting the days until I can return.
My first taste of haggis
I had my first taste of the Scottish specialty haggis during the castle’s Burns Night party on the second night of my stay. The tongue-in-cheek poetry of the Scotsman Robert Burns quoted and sung under the dining room’s celestial ceiling with toasts and laughter made the perfect companion to some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. Simon began this journey in a London restaurant and it shows. His cooking is exemplary and I enjoyed my haggis, neeps and tatties as well as the shortbread dessert very much.
Although the details and path have been fluid, Wendy and Simon seem to have always had a crystal clear idea of what their castle life would never be. They have no love for stiff formality or exclusivity. Their own children are grown, helpful and talented (Emily sings beautifully) so there is no longer an ever-present child energy like I’m sure there once was, but children are welcome here and I hear are never told to keep off the couch. My preferred way of curling up on a sofa is in socks and no shoes. I felt comfortable doing exactly that in the lounge by the fire.
Ah, the stories!
Best of all, you will find stories here. I did. I heard Simon tell his story, some of Wendy’s story and he spoke for the neglected, but hearty castle they adopted and transformed. I loved the story of the unexpectedly nude dinner party from Simon’s book Undressed for Dinner and wondered at the crazy step his mother took when Wendy discovered the castle. I heard about a shockingly successful night in Vegas from another overnight guest and received a pages-long handwritten idea list for an Edinburgh adventure from a party guest. There was a TV in the room, but we never used it. There was no need at all.
The word “authentic” has nearly lost its meaning due to inappropriate use in the hospitality industry (ironically, so has the word “hospitality”), so I won’t use it even though it fits. At Augill Castle, you’ll have a genuine English country experience, even if you decide to just walk the grounds, eat until it hurts, meet the sheep and listen to people.
Stay two nights or more — you’ll need an entire day at the very least. It is worth every minute of the 4- or 5-hour drive from London. If there is a party at the castle planned, you’ll regret it deeply if you miss it. Rooms can be booked online and each is unique. Keep in mind that the fantastically delicious breakfast is included when you book on Augill Castle’s official website.
Many thanks to Wendy for arranging my stay. It was my favorite story yet.