CASTLE NOT FOR SALE, BUT QUIRKY AND GOTHIC:
The castle was up for sale during 2011, as I had planned to move to Sussex, however it has now been withdrawn from sale.
This is in part because no one else really wants to take it on – not in the current economic climate at any rate. Business-minded people worry about the continuing capital expenditure required. It probably needs another £3m to finish the restoration. Anyone with the ability to take on such a project, soon realises it is not something they would get a return on. Commercially they would be better off spending their money on a completed building closer to decent population centres, not somewhere remote and rural with lots that needs doing.
Wiser heads steer clear; there are better things they can do with their money.
I still wish to relocate to West Sussex so my son can be near his grandmother. The oldest is now four, and he is registered at a school in Sussex near where my mother lives. He is due to board weekdays from age 6 or 7 and it will be good for him to grow up knowing his grandmother, who is also a good disciplinarian. I'd felt this would not be possible if we remain in Wales and further, the climate in Sussex is better!
Craig y Nos does not lend itself to being a private house. It is too large, and too near the road, and for someone with £1.5m to spend on a private house, they wouldn’t choose to live in a huge and expensive-to-run place like a castle (even a mock gothic one) with over 100 rooms and an opera house. Someone looking for a commercial proposition would probably find more favourable opportunities. Ideally the castle needs someone with deep pockets who just fancies giving it a go. There are not many that fit this profile. What I did find was a lot of people expressing an interest in buying it who were incredibly naive about what they might be taking on. But then, so was I when I started. The difference was I had another income stream. Few of the potential buyers I met would have been prepared to accept no return for several years. One more intelligent chap who could have afforded it, worked out it needed £3m further capital expenditure, and declined. He was the only one with the means to do it.
Craig y Nos is virtually a village, employing up to 40 staff when it is busy, much as it would have done in Adelina Patti's day (only she was earning the equivalent of £11m a year in today's money). It is a substantial employer in this part of the world. I reckon it will always be a commercial building rather than a private house and like the neighbouring show caves, it will remain a draw for tourism and events.
Our emphasis will be on keeping it on as a going concern. The priority right now is to make the most of the investment we have already put in, by trading at break-even or a small surplus. If Craig y Nos is to receive further substantial renovation investment, it needs to continue to generate a viable level of income, to fund its ongoing costs and to become self-sustainable.
There are not very many people around who are prepared to take the castle on, as it is a daunting prospect. Even though we have done a substantial amount of work to it, we are only about half way to getting it into the condition we would like it to be in. It is a shame there are no Government grants available as if the building was in the state sector, substantial funds would no doubt be made available.
As things stand, the castle may remain in its half-restored state for many years, a bit tatty around the edges, yet impressive in large parts. It is half grand, half derelict, a curious mix of smart wedding venue with all the finery topped by derelict rooms suitable only for ghost hunts and our history tours.
Craig y Nos is informal, friendly and more of a family place, rather than posh and smart and formal. Inside it is an unpretentious 3 star guest house but with great presence and some grand rooms. Outside it looks imposing and 'wow'. It looks as if it perhaps should be a five star hotel, but it is not, at least not yet. It may one day become what perhaps it ought to be, or it may 'choose' to stay as it is for a few decades yet. Quirky and gothic, and individual, stubbornly so, in an era where modernisation standardises everywhere into square boxy rooms in modern buildings.
It also has a strong and loyal, enthusiastic team who are succeeding in gaining good feedback from customers, which all helps to increase our trade and safeguard the building's long term future.