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We Live in a Spanish Castle – Meet the Couple who Rent this 10th Century Property

After living in Barcelona for many years, with its hectic pace of life and high property prices, big city living had taken its toll on Marc and Ginny so they made the decision to escape to the countryside.  Despite initially setting out with a youth hostel business in mind, they happened to find (and instantly fall in love with) Castell de Llaés in Catalonia, Spain.
 
This is their story of how they came to be living in a 10th century, mountaintop castle after negotiating an unorthodox rental/custodian agreement with the owners.
 
How long did it take you to find your castle? Please describe it for us.
 
Approximately one year.    Castell de Llaés is a 10th century castle, a ‘Bien de Interés Cultural’ (a monument of National Interest) and a Protected Historical Heritage Property, renovated as a Rural House. The castle is an ongoing reform and improvement project.
 
The fortress preserves the appearance of the castle with its tower, courtyard, religious centre with landscaped area, small cemetery and the Sant Bartomeu church, built in a Romanesque style.
 
It can be rented for 16 people (and up to 21 people with extra beds), or by apartments:
 
– The Tower apartment for 10 people (and up to 12 people with extra beds)
 
– The School apartment for 6 people (and up to 7 people with an extra bed)
 
How many castles did you view?
 
Only Castell de Llaes.
 
Are you originally from Spain or do you have links to it?
 
Yes we are (mostly) – Ginny is from Holland but came to Spain when she was 7 years old.  We definitely wanted to stay in Catalonia. 
 
Did you view other types of properties too or were you only interested in castles and chateaus?
 
In the beginning we were searching for more of a youth hostel type property but we came across the castle and fell in love at first sight.
 
Did the castle require renovation/refurbishment and if so, please provide extra detail?
 
The owners started working on the castle in the 90s and it took them nearly 20 years to carry out the renovations. Once it was complete, they furnished it and tried to rent it out for a while. When we took over in 2013, our agreement with the owner was to take care of the castle, repairing and renovating when necessary, to maintain this cultural asset and ensure it remains in a good state of repair. There is always work to be done in a castle which is over 1100 years old!
 
Did you encounter any significant problems when you moved in to the castle? 
 
Gaining approval to utilise the castle for rural tourism was very, very difficult – we had so many inspections and restrictions that it took over a year to resolve everything!
Castell de Llaes Spain 3

How many bedrooms/rooms are there in your castle?

The Castle has 8 double bedrooms (5 with double beds, and 3 with two single beds each), 4 full bathrooms, 2 living rooms, a fully equipped kitchen, a terrace and a garden.

How many sq ft/m of interior space?

The castle has approximately 600m2 (approx 6,500 sq ft) of interior space.

How much land is with the castle (acres/hectares) and type of land eg forestry, vines, etc?

Apart from the garden, the castle only has a small parcel of forested land – just in front of the castle, leading up to the main road. 

What year does the castle originally date back to?

The first document referencing the castle dates from the year 919, so over 1100 years ago!

Was the castle income-producing when you bought it? 

No. The castle was not income-generating when we took over in 2013. We had to start from zero and have built up the business over the intervening years.

Is the castle income-producing now? Is this your primary source of income?

Yes the castle does generate revenue through rental to tourists. It is our primary income, although Ginny has an extra job as well.

 

Did your castle come furnished? If you furnished it yourself, did you find it difficult finding the appropriate pieces of furniture? 

Mostly furnished. We love old markets where you can find many interesting things that can really fit into the castle style.

Do you employ any staff to help you look after the castle? Is the maintenance and running of a large, historic property a financial burden?

We try to do it all by ourselves, otherwise it can create financial pressures, however for some types of jobs we need specialized people to help.

How much of an impact has living in a castle had on your life and what does it mean to you? Have you met people because of the castle who you otherwise might not have? 

With the castle we feel that we’ve found our place in the world. It might sound very ‘romantic’, but this is how we feel. We might not be able to travel too much anymore for example, but we travel with the stories that our guests tell us about themselves. We learn a lot from each group of people that stay here, and we hope they take with them a little part of the history of the castle as well.

Have you become part of your local community? Is the castle in/near a village or town?

We are located 15km from the city of Ripoll, and 10km from the nearest town (Sant Maria de Besora). We definitely feel we are part of the local community.

Was the process of negotiating the rental agreement difficult? Did you still need to raise finance in order to take the project on?

In order to be able to rent the castle, we needed to borrow some money from the bank, and we had to visit many of them in order to find one that believed in this project.

What’s the best thing about living in a castle?

We feel we are being part of the castle’s history and we are helping to keep the history moving forward. We would so love to own it! 

Would you ever leave the castle to live elsewhere?

We hope we can stay here forever, it is the way of life we have chosen.

Castell de Llaés is located in Catalonia, Spain.  To find out more about staying there, click the link below;

Castell de Llaés Website

 

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