A Cumbrian castle owner has published his story of an ordinary family in an extraordinary place.
Former journalist Simon Bennett and his wife Wendy turned their back on London when they bought the near derelict Augill Castle.
At the foot of the Cumbria fells, today the castle is known around the world as a quirky, slightly eccentric, very family-friendly place to stay. Simon’s first book, Undressed For Dinner recounts the trials of bringing up a young family in public while trying to turn a historic building into a commercially viable business on a shoestring.
There are hilarious encounters and antics with neighbours, guests and various animals in the story which is funny, sometimes sad and often reflective.
Simon worked for a number of large international hotel companies before switching careers to become a newspaper journalist.
Fate took him back into hospitality as his own boss when he bought into a restaurant partnership in London’s West End.
He and Wendy found Augill Castle advertised for sale in 1997 at the same price as a two-bedroom West London terrace house on which they had just made an offer.
Wendy thought it a ‘no brainer’, Simon thought the idea plain nuts.
One hundred and thirty seven burst pipes, several thousand pounds of dry rot treatment, hundreds of metres of new wiring and plumbing later, their first three bedrooms opened for business in June 1998.
Since then Augill has been a labour of love for the couple and their two children, Oliver and Emily.
The castle has evolved beautifully over the years going from strength to strength and winning many awards.
Today, as well as being the Bennett family home, it provides an exceptional place to escape for thousands of guests over the course of each year. Undressed for Dinner is out now published by Hayloft, price £15.