Both books can be ordered direct from the publisher or pick up a signed copy at the castle.
When Wendy and I bought Augill Castle as an empty, near derelict shell in 1997 in a part of the country neither of us knew with the idea of living an idyllic rural life we could have had no idea what it would one day become. Today, the castle is an award winning hotel and wedding venue welcoming guests from every corner of the globe to one of England’s most unspoilt corners. Our guests are invited to enjoy a unique, authentic country house experience with the promise that Augill is unlike anywhere they will have ever stayed before.
It isn’t for everyone and we don’t intend it to be because the guests who get the most out of their time with us are the ones with a genuine interest in other people and there are far too many people in the world who don’t give a jot for anyone but themselves. They are not Augill people, although occasionally a couple will make it through the door and do their best to ruin things for everyone else rather than admit gracefully they have made a mistake, and since they can be the source of the best anecdotes they deserve my thanks; we are all, after all, part of the rich tapestry of life.
We don’t sell a slick, contrived version of luxury country house living; we seek to share the simple pleasures of country life in a big house. it is a quintessentially English experience – slightly chaotic and sometimes just plain bonkers.
Undressed For Dinner was the first book inspired by our life sharing the castle with other people and its success was testament to the fact that many people could relate to what we do and wanted to be part of the story long after they had stayed. The story is one of hope and disappointment, joy and heartbreak, triumph and disaster; but most of all it is a story with a sense of humour which, now committed to paper, reminds us that life should never be taken too seriously.
It was first published in December 2013 and was judged Lakeland Book of the Year in 2014. A revised edition has been published in 2016 to coincide with Stop For Breakfast which picks up where Undressed For Dinner finished.
Stop For Breakfast stands on its own as a story about our struggles with events outside our control threatening to tear down everything we built and our struggles raising teenagers, also entirely outside our control, but it is a sequel too, bringing closure to an unfinished story.
In his foreword Alastair Sawday, guru of independent travel and a hero of mine, says to run a hotel you need to be mad or brave but most importantly to have a sense of humour. The sense of humour has never been in doubt – sometimes it has been all there is – but the bravery and the madness have been interchangeable at best and probably, on reflection, totally replaced by naivety.
We are still here, doing what we have always done in a way that sets us apart from the crowd but as our children look out at the world and start to dream of their own for the future, new horizons are emerging from the haze for us too. We both learnt long ago that making plans is pointless, either there is a path already mapped out for us by another hand or life is such utter chaos that planning is futile, take your pick. The future is made of dreams and we have never been short of those.
Whether what happens next to us, to the castle or both will make another book remains to be seen but one thing is certain: for two decades we have lived an extraordinary life.