They have the castle all to themselves, but there is a twist

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They have the castle all to themselves, but there is a twist

(CNN) – Laura Jamieson and Michael Smith fell in love while working in an 800-year-old castle. But they never expected to live in their place of work.

But this is exactly what they have been doing since March 25, when as a result of the coronavirus they packed their belongings and moved to Ashford Castle, a five-star hotel on the north shore of Lough Corrib in County Mayo, Ireland.

“Who else can say they spent a lock in a castle?” says Smith, 28, a property manager.

Temporary excavations

In the real world, the couple, who have been dating for a year and a half, live in an apartment in Cross, a small village about five kilometers from the castle.

Laura Jamieson and Michael Smith, employees at Ashford Castle (and also a couple), never expected to move into the great diggers.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Nothing prepared them for relocation to the former Guinness family farmhouse, with a 32-seat cinema, two gourmet dining rooms, a spa, wine tasting tunnels and 83 guest rooms.

In 1939 it was turned into a luxury hotel; past guests have been American presidents and celebrities such as Barbra Streisand and Brad Pitt. Pierce Brosnan, who filmed an episode of the TV series Remington Steele in Ashford, returned to marry Keeley Shay Smith here in 2001.

Both Smith and Jamieson, who is in charge of guest services, were surprised and excited when General Manager Niall Rochford asked if they could consider joining a spell. They suspect that they complement each other as a team.

“She does everything so well inside and I have a lot of experience outside and in places, so it was almost perfect yin and yang,” says Smith. “We’re balancing. So I have to believe that’s one of the reasons they ask.”

Are you still having fun?

Was it scary in the beginning to be the only inhabitant of a place so big? Easy.

During the day, part of the hotel staff comes to perform various work functions, but the couple is largely alone.

During the day, part of the hotel staff comes to perform various work functions, but the couple is largely alone.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

For starters, there was the Fiasco dessert.

“We have a five-star kitchen, but we’re a two-star chef between us,” said Smith, who grew up in Pertshire, Scotland. “We both have a sweet tooth, so we tried banana bread. It was a disaster. When you turn on the smoke alarm in the house, it’s right in the kitchen. But when you put it in a hotel, the whole place leaves.” “

The castle, which dates back to 1228, is a huge space for only two people.

The castle, which dates back to 1228, is a huge space for only two people.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Then there was the Ghost of Ashford in the past — or at least the one in their heads.

“The castle dates back to 1228 and we remain in the Victorian wing,” said Jamieson, who has been in Ashford for five years. “You’ve had all these pictures of the owners over the centuries. You almost feel like you’re in a house and they’re watching you.”

Her boyfriend has fun jumping in front of her, “to make sure he’s on tiptoe.”

“It wears out pretty quickly,” Smith admits.

A day in the life of the castle

The typical day keeps them awake until 8:00 am, when they walk around 350 acres of gardens and private forests and then head to the locals for coffee. It’s a regular eight-hour workday, full of Zoom meetings and greetings to colleagues who have come to the castle for a few hours. They can stop by the stable or falconry school to see hawks and owls.

A typical day finds that Jamieson and Smith are awake by 8:00 a.m. They will continue to work for eight hours a day.

A typical day finds that Jamieson and Smith are awake by 8:00 a.m. They will continue to work for eight hours a day.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Then the fun really begins.

As part of their additional care responsibilities, they must vacuum floors, dust Waterford crystal chandeliers, and shower in each of the guest rooms. True calorie burning comes from 160 toilets that flush every day – just to keep everything in good condition.

“It was a good exercise for us,” said Smith, who estimates that they register an average of between 25,000 and 30,000 steps on average per day, which can last up to 7 or 8 hours.

To keep the castle in good condition, Smith and Jamieson run all the showers and flush all the toilets (160 in total) every day.

To keep the castle in good condition, Smith and Jamieson run all the showers and flush all the toilets (160 in total) every day.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Once a week, they spend the evening at the 32-seat cinema, which “looks like something from the 1920s,” says Jamieson.

They bring candy, popcorn, a little wine and pretend to be at the cinema and not in their own private cinema. The first film they watched was John Ford’s The Silent Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, which was shot in Ashford.

They also enjoyed “Game of Thrones” and “The Greatest Showman,” “things worthy of being on the big screen,” Smith said.

The date night is often held in the empty cinema.

The date night is often held in the empty cinema.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

The couple met three years ago when Smith first started working at the hotel. Jamieson worked in different departments, wearing different uniforms in each, and she soon caught Smith’s eye – although he was confused as to whether she was a single person or a set of sisters. “But I managed to narrow it down,” he says, and finally worked his nerve to ask her.

The couple assembled in a luxurious staff room in the original wing of the castle (circa 1228), with antiques, tapestries, Connemara marble, Murano glass chandeliers, an antique grandfather clock, 15-foot ceilings and magnificent lake views.

Taking photos with Polaroid is a fun after-work activity for the young couple.

Taking photos with Polaroid is a fun after-work activity for the young couple.

Courtesy of Laura Jamieson and Michael Smith

Before moving, they purchased a Polaroid camera to document their experience. “We’re making a memory book for ourselves,” says Jamieson. “It’s not real life. It makes us look more fantasy than we are.”

According to them, the most difficult part was not being able to see his friends in person. But they faceTime with them, usually from a different part of the property for a virtual tour.

Laura Jamieson and Michael Smith fell in love while working in an 800-year-old castle. But they never expected to live in their place of work.

Michael Smith is from Scotland and Laura Jamieson is Suri in England, but they fell in love with the Irish Sea.

Courtesy of the red carnation collection

Upcoming expulsion

The castle is due to reopen on July 2. At the moment, they are not sure when they will be expelled. “We avoid asking the question,” Jamieson said.

Although the castle will open on July 2, the couple is unsure when they will be asked to leave.

Although the castle will open on July 2, the couple is unsure when they will be asked to leave.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Beyond the novelty in Eloise’s game, they learned a lot about themselves as people and as a couple. “We’re a relatively young couple, and it was the craziest experience,” Smith said. “I’m not saying this is a Disney story. I’m sure she has time to want me to go to the other side or send me to jail. But we haven’t had a fight and we haven’t gotten sick of each other.

But, he added, “she could change her mind at any moment soon.”

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