Justine Halifax finds a family feel at a grand old venue.
I have been fortunate enough to stay in a variety of castles in the UK and Europe.
But I wasn’t used to staying in one where children are just as welcome as adults.
Imagine that you and your young brood are invited to make a castle your home... then welcome to the family friendly world of Augill Castle, nestled between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.
Owners Stephen and Wendy Bennett had the following to say about having small guests: “With two young children of our own, we know how difficult it is to find somewhere truly child friendly.
“Not just tolerating kids, but actively welcoming them. We welcome families into the whole castle. We have an open house mentality with a few tricks up our sleeves to cater for small guests.”
And they certainly do. Built in 1837, the castle is located in Kirkby Stephen. And while this beautiful, grand venue may have won five gold stars for its accommodation, it is very laid back and it has catering for families down to perfection.
After falling in love with the venue when they spotted it in the pages of Country Living Magazine in 1997, Simon and Wendy took a leap of faith and purchased the sadly neglected castle when it was “a wreck”.
But they have breathed new life into this magnificent venue, that ranks Queen Victoria as one of its former guests. And the couple have done so in grand fashion, for Augill already has an enviable string of accolades under its belt.
Yet it still prides itself on being a “real lived in family home” – we certainly had the feeling of staying with friends rather than strangers.
Simon, who had previously worked in international hotel management, proudly says: “What we’ve created is much more than simply the restoration of a Victorian gentleman’s fantasy.
“It is still our home, we still use it alongside our guests, and as one guide book says: ‘you can kick off your wellies by the front door without causing a scandal’.”
Our tyres had barely graced Augill’s long private drive when we were struck by numerous visual signs of just how much of a family friendly retreat this truly is.
For before we had even left the car, its extensive grounds unveiled a wooden tree house, a large pond with bridges to explore, a tennis court, lots of outdoor toys and a small playground.
The TV room boasted children’s DVDs, shelves of toys and board games and a rather ample chest full of dress up for boys and girls.
My two children were in their element running around the castle making friends with other young guests – and we didn’t need to worry about their jovial and excited antics upsetting anyone either. For this is what Augill is all about – five-star accommodation without the stuffy overtones that other highbrow venues fail to hide.
The family’s placid dog Holly was also a hit with my young brood as they explored the castle grounds with her in tow. The castle also runs a Little Cooks cookery school to keep youngsters entertained too.