Image: Louise Atack
Who: Simon Hunt, 35, works as a creative director and Stef Burgon, 38, is a radio presenter on a travel show. The couple are based in Dubai and hope to move to the castle permanently in the future.
What: Kilmartin Castle was built in the 16th century and renovated in the 1990s.
Where: Argyll and Bute.
The first time we ever saw the castle was on a newspaper website that compared buying a parking space in London with a castle in Scotland. As soon as we saw it we had to have it. When we bought the castle it was via a bid and we were worried it wasn’t enough, so we called back and raised it, then a bird pooped on Simon which we saw as a sign of good luck!
Although the castle was built in the 1560s it’s only ever had four owners, including us. It was built for John Carswell who was the first person to translate the bible into Gaelic. He was made ‘Bishop of the Isle’ and he was supposedly over seven foot tall. The doorways are really small so I don’t know how he used to fit through them!
In the past Clan Campbell owned the castle and a homeless lady lived in it with no power! It then lay empty for 200 years until it was renovated in the 1990s by the people we bought it from. We decided we wanted to do Airbnb because no one has had the chance to enjoy it and access has been so limited.
The castle is near to Kilmartin Glen, where there are standing stones and burial cairns which blows my mind. They say it’s got the most amount of archaeological sights within a 10-mile radius in the whole of Europe.
The castle needed lots of work because no one had lived there for years. One of the most important things when we got it was to open the doors and windows to circulate air and put the heating on to avoid damp. The roof needed work because it was leaking and so was the chimney, it would rain down the back of the fire and into the wall. For a long time the fireplace in the grand hall would blow wind back into the room and eventually after investigations we worked out the chimney stack wasn’t high enough! We’ve had problems you would never think of.
I think my best interior buy is from this little second hand shop in Arisaig called the Clock Tower, it’s our favourite place, we always go when we are passing. This one day they had an amazing vintage chest that the shop owner had just sold, we were devastated. A month or so later it was still there and the shop owner hadn’t been able to get in touch with the people who had bought it. She tried emailing and calling them to no avail. By law she couldn’t re-sell it for seven years but it was taking up space in her shop so she asked if we would like to take it on the condition that if the buyers got in touch we would return it. That was two years ago and every time I look at it I think ‘we might have to give you back sometime, but you were free!’
Our most expensive buy was our vintage sofa we found on Drew Pritchard from the programme Salvage Hunter’s website. We needed a really big sofa and this one has lasted 50 years so I’m sure it can last a few more.
We got married here last year and the day before the wedding the septic tank burst. We had noticed a funny smell and it kept getting worse, so we had some guys come and take a look at it and they said they were going to have to go to Glasgow for a tanker to empty and fix it which would be £4,000! We didn’t have a choice, we had to fix it. It was such a shock, it cost more than our wedding band!
My husband Simon’s favourite time of the year is when it’s really cold, he loves being in front of the fire playing records and eating biscuits. I love September, the midges are not there and you still get a surprising warm day and the nights are still quite light.
I don’t think the castle is haunted. I am quite creeped out normally but I’ve never felt it in there. It’s weird, because considering how old it is I think it’s got a lovely feeling, it’s as though the walls are soaking up all of the happy experiences. I don’t feel like anything bad has ever happened here.
Simon’s ancestors are actually from the area even though he is Australian! Last year when his grandma came over from Australia, she had been looking into her family tree and eight generations ago there was a couple who married and then lived in Tighnabruaich which is less than five miles from here, it’s no wonder it feels like home.
Photos by Eve Conroy, words by Robyn Lang-Shankland, twitter @rlsinteriors.