Champagne, fancy frocks and fireworks. If there's one thing we've learnt from watching Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby, it's that he knows how to throw a good party. It totally got us in the mood - what with the bank holiday coming up and all - and where better to celebrate an occasion JG style than in your very own castle. Nestled in the heart of Cumbria lies Augill Castle. It's run a bit like a boutique hotel but there's no manned reception desk or bar staff. Each guest is encouraged to make themselves at home. It's perfect for a romantic break or girly weekend but if you fancy going all out Gatsby, you can hire the entire castle for your very own house party.
Inspired by the film's release, Augill are offering guests the chance to try their Gatsby-inspired break. The two-person retreat includes one night’s bed and breakfast in one of their suites, mint juleps on arrival, afternoon tea for two, pre-dinner cocktails and a place at their nightly dinner party. There's also the option to retire to the tiny but very intimate on-site art deco cinema room to enjoy a movie. Sounds perfect, right? Well, we thought we ought to try it out for ourselves...
On arrival at the impressive Augill Castle, we were first shown to our suite in the West Wing. Apparently, Queen Victoria had once been a former resident of our room Pendragon and it’s easy to see why. Decorated in keeping with its surroundings, our stylish room featured a four-poster bed, working fireplace, period furniture and an en-suite bathroom with stained glass windows and a roll top bath. We loved the little touches including luxury bath products, fresh coffee and a ready-to-light log in the fire.
Exhausted from the five-hour drive, some much needed refreshment was served in the music room – a large, sumptuous living room with a grand piano, huge fireplace and sofas we didn’t think we’d ever get up from – in the form of afternoon tea. Champagne cocktails and English Breakfast Tea washed down some of the best cakes we’ve ever tasted – as well as finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream and jam, we scoffed white chocolate eclairs, mini coffee and walnut cakes, iced lemon shortbread and chocolate cake. Yum!
After a very leisurely potter around the castle grounds we got ready for one of Augill’s infamous nightly dinners. First stop, the honesty bar which is as well-stocked as any including cocktail making accessories, bottles of new world wine, beers, spirits and mixers but without the queue. Choose what you want and write it in the book (and resist the urge not to charge it someone elses room)!
As Augill isn’t a typical hotel, you must request an evening meal in advance. It’s served nightly at 8pm using fresh, local produce around a large table in the castle dining room. It’s a great way to get to know the other guests so make sure you're feeling sociable but the highlight has to be the food itself. After a salad starter – inspired by a Waldorf salad – with fennel and pork belly, we had cod served with a tomato and olive tapenade followed by a plum tarte tatin and homemade ice-cream. And for £30 per person, you can’t say fairer than that – it was divine. There was nothing left to do but retreat to our suite, light the fire and doze blissfully, full and very contented.
Each room is light, airy and spacious. You’ll never trip over other guests or the owners who live there too. However, if you do encounter the lovely Simon and Wendy, they are delightful and have plenty of hilarious tales to regale you with. If you do want the full Gatsby experience, why not hire out the entire castle? Be it a raucous house party with your best mates, a family celebration or even a wedding, they've got it covered. Besides what could be better than having no neighbours to disturb or any cleaning up to do..!
The Gatsby break at Augill Castle starts from £280 for two people.