World

They had the castle to themselves, but there was a twist

They had the castle to themselves, but there was a twist
Adam D. Crook
Written by Adam D. Crook

(CNN) – Laura Jamison and Michael Smith fell in love while working at the 800-year-old castle. But they were never expected to live in their place of employment.

As a result of the coronavirus, this is exactly what they have been doing since March 25, when they packed up and moved Ashford Castle, A five-star hotel on the north shore of Loug Carib in County Mayo, Ireland.

“Who can say they’ve spent a lockdown on the castle?” Said Smith, 28, an estate operations manager.

Temporary excavations

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

Laura Jamison and Michael Smith, employees of Ashford Castle (and a couple), never expected to move to the stately digs.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Nothing prepared them to move into the Guinness family’s former country estate with a 32-seat cinema, two gourmet dining rooms, a spa, wine-tasting tunnels and 83 guest rooms.

It was converted into a luxury hotel in 1939; Past guests include U.S. presidents and celebrities like Barbra Streisand and Brad Pitt. Pierce Brosnan, who filmed an episode of the TV series “Remington Steel” in Ashford, returned here in 2001 to marry Keely Shay Smith.

Both Smith and Jamison, who is in charge of guest services, were stunned and thrilled – when general manager Niall Rochford asked them if they could consider going for a spell. They suspect this is because they complement each other as a team.

“She does everything really well on the inside and I have a lot of experience on the outside and on the field, so it’s almost perfect for yin and yang,” Smith said. “We balance each other, so I believe this is one of the reasons they asked.”

READ  Bubonic Plague: Russia Stops on Marmot Hunting

Still having fun?

Is it scary at first to be the sole owner of such a large space? Little.

During the day, some of the hotel staff come to perform various job duties, but the couple is mostly alone.

During the day, some of the hotel staff come to perform various job duties, but the couple is mostly alone.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

For starters, dessert is fiasco.

“We’ve got a five-star kitchen, but we’re a two-star chef between us,” said Smith, who grew up in Perthshire, Scotland. “We tried banana bread because both of us have sweet teeth. It was a disaster. When you set up a smoke alarm at home, it’s just in the kitchen. But when you set it up in a hotel, the whole place goes away.”

The castle of 1228 is just an enormous space for two people.

The castle of 1228 is just an enormous space for two people.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Then there’s the Ghost of Ashford Past – or at least, one of their heads.

“The castle dates back to 1228, and we’re in the Victorian section,” said Jamison, who has been in Ashford for five years. “You have all these pictures of the owners over the ages. You feel like someone’s at home, and they’re looking at you.”

Her boyfriend jumped in front of her to make sure she was on her toes.

“It will wear thinner very quickly,” admits Smith.

A day in the life of the castle

A typical day wakes up at 8 am as we roam around 350 acres of gardens and private forests and go local for coffee. It was a typical eight-hour workday, with zooming meetings and greeting colleagues who came to the castle for a few hours. They can hang out at the stables or the falconry school to watch the hawks and owls.

Then the fun really begins.

As part of their extra care responsibilities, they must vacuum the floors, dust off waterford crystal chandeliers, and shower in each guest room. The real calorie burn comes from the 160 toilets that they flush every day – to keep everything in working order.

“This is a good exercise for us,” said Smith, who estimates that on an average day, between 25,000 and 30,000 stairs are logged, up to 7 or 8 o’clock at night.

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

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

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Once a week, they host Date Night in a 32-seat cinema, which “looks like something of the 1920s,” Jamison said.

They bring sweets, popcorns, some wine and pretend they are at the cinema rather than in their own private movie theater. The first film they saw was John Ford’s “The Quiet Man,” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, shot at Ashford.

They also enjoyed “Game of Thrones” and “The Greatest Showman” – “things that deserve to be on the big screen,” Smith said.

Date Night often happens in empty cinema.

Date Night often happens in empty cinema.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

The couple met three years ago when Smith first started working at a hotel. Jamison was working in different departments, each wearing a different uniform, and she soon attracted Smith’s attention – though he was confused as to whether she was a man or a set of sisters. “But I managed to slow it down,” he said, finally working the nerve to ask her out.

Antiques, tapestries, Connemara Marble, Murano glass chandeliers, antique grandfather clock, 15-foot ceilings and stunning views of the lake make the couple sneak into the luxurious State Room in the original section of the castle (circa 1228).

Before leaving they bought a Polaroid camera to document their experience. “We’re creating a memory book for ourselves,” Jamison says. “It’s not real life. It looks more lovely than us.”

The hardest part, they said, is not being able to see their friends and family in person. But they do facetime with them, usually from a different part of the property for a virtual tour.

Laura Jamison and Michael Smith fell in love while working at the 800-year-old castle. But they never expected to live in their place of employment.

Michael Smith is from Scotland and Laura Jamison is Surrey in England, but they fell in love across the Irish Sea.

Courtesy of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection

Imminent ‘dismissal’

The fort will reopen on July 2. Currently, it is not known when they will be fired. “We avoid asking the question,” Jamison said.

Though the castle is set to reopen on July 2, it is unknown when the pair will leave.

Though the castle is set to reopen on July 2, it is unknown when the pair will leave.

Courtesy of Ashford Castle

Beyond the novelty of playing Eloise, they learned a lot about themselves as a people and as a couple. “We’re a relatively young couple and it’s a very crazy experience,” Smith said. “I’m not saying this is a Disney story. I’m sure there is a time when she wants to go to the other side or send me to the dungeon. But we don’t have any fights or get sick of each other.

But, “she can change her mind at any time,” he says.

About the author

Adam D. Crook

Adam D. Crook

Adam is a charismatic science communicator respected for his deep understanding of US S&T system. "New Frontiers in Science & Development' is the online platform he contributes to actively in addition to Science and Getty Images. He has won many national and international awards for his work. Explaining complexities of science in a simple language is his forte. He has extensive experience in reporting about the United State atomic energy program.
His pioneering work show casing US’s maiden mission to Mars and Moon has been applauded this aired in English for Television. In his two decades of writing for the prestigious American weekly Science, his stories have highlighted.

Leave a Comment