Simon Hunt's brave decision to live happily ever after in a Scottish castle

DREAM HOME: Simon Hunt and his wife Stef made the brave decision to purchase Kilmartin Castle in Scotland six years ago, and have spent a lot of time and money renovating the castle to their liking.
DREAM HOME: Simon Hunt and his wife Stef made the brave decision to purchase Kilmartin Castle in Scotland six years ago, and have spent a lot of time and money renovating the castle to their liking.

It's safe to assume that living in a castle is only reserved for royals and fairy tale characters.

However, former Bordertown local Simon Hunt has bucked the trend, spending his days living and renovating Kilmartin Castle in Scotland with his wife Stef.

Before making the massive decision to move across the other side of the world and live in a 16th century castle, Mr Hunt was just your everyday kid growing up on his parents' farm.

"I grew up climbing trees and having mud fights in waterholes with my older sister Cindy on my parents John and Karren Hunt's farm called West Nalang, near Wirrega," Mr Hunt said.

"I played footy for the Moots until I realised I was pretty rubbish at the game and really only went along to try out other towns skate parks after the match."

Completing his entire education in Bordertown, he stated that art teacher Rose Milton and woodwork teacher Michael Tonkin both made lasting impressions on him during his younger years.

"Both had lasting impressions on me and I often revert to different little things they taught me, like lino cut print making and coil construction ceramics," Mr Hunt said.

With an eye for anything creative, Mr Hunt said he loved nothing than getting stuck into a building project with his dad, before decorating and designing the space alongside his mum.

"Growing up in the country, all I wanted to do was move to any city and get involved with more creative people," Mr Hunt said.

"So I moved to Adelaide, and met more like-minded friends. We dabbled in the art scene and always wanted to make art, and mix it with music and street culture."

Mr Hunt said all the early skills he learnt during his youth gave him a DIY approach to everything and served him well through his career in advertising and now in castle restoration.

Living his life with a "roll-up your sleeves and do it" attitude, he made the big decision to move to Dubai in 2008, eventually finding his feet in the events world.

"I started out freelancing, doing graffiti and building pallet furniture and pop-up bars for rooftop carpark parties for brands like Tiger Beer and adidas originals," Mr Hunt said.

He would then join friend Steven Hetzer's agency, spending seven years specializing in experiential advertising.

In 2011, Mr Hunt would meet his wife Stef Burgon in Dubai, with the couple then travelling to northern England in 2013 to spend time with her parents during Christmas.

While in England, they decided to do a little two-week road trip around Scotland in January the following year.

Travelling during the wintertime, Simon and Stef fell in love with the dramatic scenery of Scotland's West Coast, the "canny" people, and the climate.

On returning to Dubai, Stef found that Kilmartin Castle was for sale.

"We studied the area on Google Earth, and read lots of articles on the historic sites of Kilmartin Glen - the more we read the more hooked we got," Mr Hunt said.

"It felt like this was that 'thing' we'd always been dreaming about doing since we'd met, a creative project to jump into together, something to call our own, a better work life balance.

"The castle was all of it for us - we finally visited the castle personally and put in an offer, and it just felt right."

Feeling an overwhelming sense of belonging, Mr Hunt felt like he was finally home - his feelings were later justified after some research.

"Only later through genealogy research, my uncle Garry Coles learned that eight generations ago our family lived only seven miles from where the castle is," Mr Hunt said.

"We have visited the grave site where they're buried, and I instantly got that excited tingling feeling down my back, like something special was happening."

The couple eventually purchased the castle in 2014 and then did urgent repairs and cosmetic renovations, before putting it straight onto Airbnb as a basic holiday rental.

A couple of years later, they got married in the grounds of the castle.

However, the extra flow of all the guests broke the castle's already dodgy septic system, costing them 4000 pounds to temporarily fix the day before the wedding.

"I think it was around at that moment we decided we needed to start saving hard to do a final full overhaul restoration of everything," Mr Hunt said.

Renovating the castle has been a massive job, with the couple working on site everyday for a year alongside professional builders, restorers, and crafts people.

"We ripped out the 1980's interior and started again from the 500 year old castle foundations up," Mr Hunt said.

"The finished project has modern underfloor heating hidden beneath the original flagstone floor, and five en-suite bedrooms.

"It turned out that we needed to spend the same amount of money as we did to purchase the castle again on the restoration, and we finally fixed the troublesome septic system for good."

Simon and Stef now live at the castle and run it as a tiny boutique hotel.

Mr Hunt said their next project is to develop the surrounding grounds of the castle.

They have plans for an event space barn with glass atrium, woodfire pizza oven, BBQ area, and firepit - they also hope to be able to host pop-up events in the future.

"The good thing is that the future looks bright, we're having fun working together, our work life balance is great and we finally feel financially safe," Mr Hunt said.

"We bet our lifesavings and more on this little castle project and we're currently full of guests and getting great reviews."

This story Simon Hunt's brave decision to live happily ever after in a Scottish castle first appeared on Border Chronicle.