King of the hill

Walton Castle was bought 25 years ago for a pound. Now, after being rebuilt stone by stone, the amazing home has a £3 million price tag

If a child were to build a sandcastle at the seaside, it would look just like Walton Castle. Its squat, round turrets in a castellated wall with a keep in the centre are picture-book perfect. And, while the real castle is under no threat from an incoming tide, it does have spectacular views over the Bristol Channel.

If a child were to build a sandcastle at the seaside, it would look just like Walton Castle. Its squat, round turrets in a castellated wall with a keep in the centre are picture-book perfect. And, while the real castle is under no threat from an incoming tide, it does have spectacular views over the Bristol Channel.

It's not the only view. From its hilltop position in the Somerset countryside you can see over six counties. "It's extraordinary," says Margarita Hamilton, who fell under the castle's spell 20 years ago and bought it as a weekend place. "Light falls everywhere you look and for a castle of this period that is really unusual. Every room has the most fantastic view."

Now that Walton Castle is completely restored - barring a few final touches - the immaculate stonework and manicured lawned gardens give little clue to how close it had come to collapse. "It was virtually a ruin until five years before we bought it," says Hamilton. "It had been sold to the previous owners for one pound, so that gives you an idea of the state it was in. Some essential repairs had been done but in effect we started from scratch."

The site of Walton Castle, to the west of Bristol and above the seaside town of Clevedon, can be traced back to its use as a hill fort in the Iron Age. It is also referred to in the Domesday Book. But it was during the early 17th century that the present building took shape, only to fall victim to the vicissitudes of the Civil War. By 1791 the castle was derelict, the roof and floors had fallen in and part of the building was used as a dairy by a farmer. Nevertheless the structure remained and Pevsner described it in 1957 as "remarkable as a piece of ornamental planning".

That it has taken almost 200 years for its decline to be reversed was an indication of the scale of the task. "It was a labour of love," recalls Hamilton. "The greatest difficulty was hunting down the stone. Every bit had to come from the right quarry and then if that closed we would have to start all over again. The cobbles are mostly from a village in the north of England and took a year to lay. It was a mammoth undertaking." And one that she now feels has come to an end. She is selling in order to move to the south of France and the castle is for sale at a guide price of £3million.

The main octagonal folly sits in the middle of a large sheltered courtyard with a cobbled area at the entrance continuing in the form of a pathway around the entire courtyard below the high, octagonal, castellated stone walls with turrets. The castle is surrounded by gardens bordered by Clevedon golf club. "My ex-husband was very keen on walls and gardens, whereas I wanted to make it a comfortable home. Outside it's a lovely old castle; inside it has the feel of a modern Italian house."

When Hamilton moved into it permanently a few years ago, she made further changes. She kept her main home in the keep while putting each of the turrets to a specific purpose. There is a utility turret, a games turret, a dining turret, turrets with en-suite bedrooms and one with a large garage-cum-workshop.There is even one with the potential for use as a recording studio or conference centre.

"You can have 16 people staying here and not really notice them. They can come and go within the walls rather as they might have done in a medieval village. I can play the piano in peace while children can go to the games area to play pool and bang the drums to their hearts' content. The turrets have an intimate feel and they also have the advantage of being economical to run because they are independent of each other."

The interior of the central keep is arranged over four floors in a contemporary style. A master suite on the top floor has breathtaking views in all directions, an opulent bathroom and doors opening on to a roof terrace.

Below is a similar octaganol-shaped reception room with a huge dining kitchen on the first floor - the heart of the property, according to Margarita Hamilton. "Everything is low-level and it doesn't have a kitcheny feel. It is a wonderful room with a large granite table and huge windows looking out on the garden."

A most un-castle-like luxury is the underground swimming pool complex with L-shaped pool set among pillars and terracotta and marble slabs. At the far end it opens out on to a sheltered sun terrace beyond the walls of the castle.

This is a home in the country that makes a statement. Private inside the walls, but a landmark nonetheless. Hamilton used to run annual charity balls there when the castle was lit by searchlights visible from the motorway.

Despite being in countryside, Walton Castle is only two miles from the M5 and 12 miles from Bristol. John Denney from Hamptons International, the selling agents, says it is an increasingly sought-after location. "I can see it appealing to someone in the entertainment business. It is arguably eccentric but the kind of place the right person would use for their own enjoyment."

Hamptons International: 0117 923 9230

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