By Sarah Ward via SWNS
An entrepreneurial mom has bought a derelict 17th-century castle for $300,000 and plans to rope her extended family into renovating it into a plush wedding venue.
Mom-of-two, Nicole Rudder, 32, bought the estate in November last year on a whim, without telling her husband Grant, 37, despite repairs costing an estimated $6 million.
Her husband Grant, who works as a painter and decorator, calls his wife 'Mrs. Project' and grudgingly congratulated her although she thinks he may not be best pleased.
The baronial castle, Garrion Tower, in Garrion Bridge, North Lanarkshire, UK, was put on the market for £800,000 ($945,548) by an English firm last year, but with no interest lodged the price was axed to offers over £400,000.
Nicole, who says she is a massive believer in 'don't ask, don't get,' offered £250,000, which was accepted.
She plans to draw on the DIY skills of 17 family and friends who she works with at her insurance firm - and has already renovated AirBnBs which she owns - and fears the most arduous part will be tackling admin for the partly B-listed building.
Nicole plans to upcycle the surviving remnants of the property including five huge metal bathtubs but structural repairs also need to be done.
It has partially collapsed inside but renovation work is hoped to be completed by June 2024 and Nicole's project will take it off the Buildings at Risk register.
It was originally the summer home of the Bishops of Glasgow and Galloway, and was also home to Norman Colville, a war hero from a family which owned the largest steel maker in Scotland, now known as Liberty Steel.
As well as the bathtubs Nicole has now salvaged old copies of National Geographic from 1976 and a massive pool table from the castle, and is trying to track down as many people who lived or worked in the castle as she can to piece together its history.
Nicole was stunned to discover that a Michelangelo painting owned by Norman Colville which once hung on the walls sold at auction recently for £12.5 million ($15 million).
She believes American tourists will fall head over heels for the castle, while couples can wed in a building with historic links to their own community.
Nicole said: "When I went and first saw the link I was like 'I don't know if that's going to be a bit too much.'
"I thought 'it's a bit crazy' but me being me, I thought I'd go down and have a sneak peek and not tell anyone.
"When I went down it was amazing.
"You can see how old it is, one of my friends said a tree is around 700 years old.
"I thought 'I want this.'
"I secretly put in an offer and the guy phoned and told me I'd got it.
"I went home and told my husband and had a team meeting at work and said 'we're not just doing claims anymore, we're now doing castles'."
She is counting on her 17 colleagues, who are close friends as well as her business partner brother-in-law and her own brother, to help out.
The extended family unit has enjoyed having all-ages camping trips on the sprawling 4.5-acre grounds, and Nicole said she values it for precious time away from screens for the kids.
As well as the insurance firm, Nicole also has a boutique and a property portfolio in Scotland and the U.S including rental properties she has renovated - but this will be the first historic building.
The family firm is based in a former factory that had been untouched for 28 years and needed completely gutting.
The castle is a five-minute drive from the house she shares with Grant and their daughters Isabella, six, and Stella, three.
Nicole said: "I have done lots of things like that before, I love it.
"The stress is mad.
"There are 4.5 acres of land around the castle, we have been going camping on the grounds - it's time away from work and having birds and trees around us.
"It's nice to get the kids away from screens.
"My husband Grant was like 'here we go again' - he calls me Mrs. Project.
"He's probably not happy about it, but isn't that just marriage?"
People with family connections to the building have been inundating the insurance firm with their stories, which Nicole is keen to encourage.
She added: "This building has got so much history, we have got lots of testimonies of people who lived and worked here.
"The phone has been going crazy.
"We were here until 11 pm the other night.
"It's all friends and family - it's 17 people in total working on it.
"We are really close, that's what gave me the confidence to do it."
Nicole believes there will be significant demand for the hotel and wedding venue, and that it will provide a boost to the local area.
She added: "People from this area can choose to get married somewhere where their great-gran used to work.
"All the photos we have seen we are keen to recreate.
"This building would have been pulled down eventually if someone didn't go in and save it.
"The more people who come forward, the more we can learn from."
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