I first saw Peel nearly 30 years ago on the way to a holiday in Scotland with my parents. I was navigating so we ventured down nearly every rough track between the Midlands and Oban until they reached ‘tower house fatigue’ and took the map off me. However I had been hooked, and who would not be? It was nestled in a valley within a parkland settling; a castle with parts over 750 years old and the main tower having been built by one of the last Knights Templar.
Grand Designs – From Ruin to Castle – Francis’ Story
Secret tunnels, a previous owner executed for high treason - what more could a young boy want? The trouble is, most of us grow up - but I didn’t. I still kept the castle fixation so many years later, when I learned the building was available, I came up to see it again. Although the walls had crumbled away even more the place was still magical. Fortunately my wife, Karen, fell in love with the house too. The key problem with restoring a house is you can usually see the complete article in your head. This is the same with restoring classic cars; that pile of scrap really is an Aston Martin and you can imagine yourself driving along (always in the sunshine). This was the case with the ruin.
I brought my friendly stonemasons along to look at the place. We drove up from Nottinghamshire with two and a half hours of “it’s not really our thing.” and; "isn’t there anyone else who can do it?” When we pulled up in front of the “keep out” signs they were like rats down a drain pipe. At this point ‘Jason the mason’ said “can you get us on Grand Designs?”“I’ll have a go”, I thought. So I sent an email off to Channel 4: “Restoring a castle in the dales, total ruin, previous owner hung, drawn and quartered. Are you interested?” To my surprise they were... You have probably now seen the epic programme. It was a shock to hear that it has now become a 11/2 hour special. It charts our ups and downs during a two year process, but now we have a fantastic family home.