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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming tale of a labor of love and persistence, 24 Sep 2006
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)   
In northern Wales, 11 miles south of Conwy and 4 miles north of Betws-y-coed, across the bridge from the village of Llanrwst, on the floodplain between the River Conwy and the B5106 road, lies Gwydir Castle, the ancestral home of the Wynn family. Largely of 16th century construction, it's actually what remains of a more extensive Tudor courtyard manor house, and is the finest example of such in Wales.

Peter Welford and Judy Corbett, an architectural historian and a bookbinder respectively, pooled their meager life savings and a substantial bank loan to buy the place in the early 1990s. CASTLES IN THE AIR by Corbett is the utterly charming story of the pair's labors to restore Gwydir from its abysmally ruinous condition at purchase to something resembling its former glory.

The book offers a little something for everyone. There are the restoration adventures, of course, and also romance; Peter and Judy subsequently marry in an ancient chapel on a nearby hilltop. There's a fairly convincing supernatural ingredient that involves Peter being the unfortunate focus of animosity coming from the ghost of Lady Margaret Cave, a 17th century mistress of the manor, which resulted in his being struck on the head with a spade. There's hidden treasure, in this case the original carved wooden paneling stripped in totality from the dining room and auctioned off as a single lot in 1921 to (as it turned out) the American millionaire William Randolph Hearst, and later bequeathed to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which still had it stored in the original packing crates in a warehouse on the rough side of town. Throughout the narrative runs Judy's dry English wit, such as when she describes the visit by an impeccably dressed representative ("Please, just call me Bill") of The Met, who was so impressed by his first view of the castle that:

"... he didn't look where he was going and stepped into the biggest pile of peacock guano you have ever seen. Peter silently directed him to a patch of rough grass where he endeavoured to remove the vile-smelling substance from the stitching of his fine Italian shoes."

Above all, CASTLES IN THE AIR is the story of the pair's love affair with and dedication to something old, historic, and worth saving in the face of seemingly impossible odds. And it would seem they've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams; the recovery and reinstallation of the Dining Room paneling brought a visit by the Prince of Wales himself, though his shoes did stick to the floor varnished only hours before his arrival.

Judy describes herself and Peter as socially reticent almost to the point of misanthropy. Therefore, the fact that they accept paying B&B guests as well as hire out the ground floor halls out for weddings - see the official Gwydir Castle website - is indication of the financial strain imposed by the ongoing refurbishment of the manor house that continues to this day and into the foreseeable future. The Welford's affection for the ancient pile is evident in Judy's words:

"... to walk in the moon-washed shadows of the yew trees and to see the ancient profile of the house silhouetted against a cloudless sky was to feel oneself suspended out of time, as though in that moment we were living in parenthesis. Sometimes, if the night was cold enough, the trails of yesterday's peacock tails would be cast in frost across the patches of lawn we had managed to scythe the day before ... We would walk down to the bottom of the garden and sit on the massive slate bench ... with the sounds of the night rustling and chirruping around us."

How incredibly rewarding the lives of these two must be!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, funny, moving...a must read!, 1 April 2004
By 
helen jacklin (Liverpool United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Castles in the Air (Hardcover)
I got married at Gwydir Castle in 2003, so having a personal interest, I couldn't wait to read the book and find out more about the Welford's painstaking restoration of such a beautiful building and grounds.
From the very first page I was unable to put the book down. I was captivated by thier complete dedication and determination to rescue Gwydir. It is beautifully written, at times moving and funny and certainly one of those books which you can completely lose yourself in. Being unable to put it down, I read it all in one day and was dissapointed when I reached the last page. I would highly reccommend it to anyone who loves Wales, castles, restoration or who just wants a bit of escapism.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars castles in the air, 18 Aug 2010
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This review is from: Castles in the Air (Hardcover)
Having had visited Gwydir Castle in North Wales I found the book by Judy Corbett very interesting. It is well written and is full of humour.She has such passion for the castle that had been rescued from terible fate by young Judy and her husband. Definitely a good read!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book - Gwydir Castle, 14 Feb 2010
By 
G. Egee "Eggs" (Isle of Man) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I found this book a really great read, I am not the type of guy who normally reads anything other than sci-fi, fantasy such as Terry Pratchett & technical stuff. So to say I really enjoyed this book amazes even myself! I have visited the castle in Sept 2008 but had a rushed visit as my wife was off colour on the day so have always intended to return again since then and if possible to try out the bed and breakfast! I first saw the castle sometime in the early 1990's when driving past but had the kids with me and it had been a long day so no chance of stopping then so I was very glad when I could finally get back to actually see the place.

This book brings the place and their ongoing struggles to fix it up to life with nice touches of humour and romance with just the little bit of "Victor Mildrew" in places.

Final word, buy this book its great and visit the castle!

Godfrey Egee
Isle Of Man
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living their dream, 26 Oct 2009
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This review is from: Castles in the Air (Hardcover)
My husband and I found Gwydir Castle by chance while driving through Snowdonia on holiday. It is indeed a wonderful house and I discovered Castles in the Air when I saw a copy lying in a window seat. Judy Corbett writes well and movingly of her and Peter Welford's search for an old house to rescue, their discovery of Gwydir in a ruinous state and their struggle to bring it to its present excellent level of restoration. They have done a great service for Wales in their efforts to rescue Gwydir and mobilised an international community of friends and supporters in the work, including the Prince of Wales. A reader meets a fascinating assortment of people, living and dead, who bring lost skills back to use and lost pieces of the house home.

The book brilliantly conveys a sense of place and the people who made it. The account is sometimes hair-raising, but is so well and honestly presented that I suspended disbelief. Well worth reading--and the royalties will help the Welfords with their splendid work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book you just can't put down, 16 May 2012
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This review is from: Castles in the Air (Hardcover)
You might not think that a book about restoring an old house would end up being a compelling read, but this one certainly is. It is beautifully written, in a lovely calm and open style, yet somehow it's as good as a can't-put-it-down mystery novel. I don't want to spoil any of the dramas or mysteries, so I won't go into detail, but I can only say that I enjoyed it so much that I then bought six copies to give to various friends as presents, and they all loved the book as well. A splendid book which I loved and will happily read again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honeymoon bliss !, 21 Jan 2010
By 
My new husband booked us into the castle for a surprise honeymoon getaway and I was spellbound as soon as I entered the gate. The next surprise was the book detailing the pain staking work this lovely couple had put into making this a real castle not a watered down faux "ye olde worlde castle". The book was read in one go as I relished reading the ups and some terrible downs of this marvellous pair. A great book written by a true dreamer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an awesome book!, 2 Mar 2013
By 
Frederiek "This picture was taken in the Zuid... (Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I bought this book in a sale in Rotterdam and soon regretted not having bought more copies. I love castles and I love Judy Corbett for having written this lovely book. I looked up all the words in the dictionary that I didn't know and wrote it down on my tablet (they were quite a few). I also bought the audio-book at Audible.com. What a superway to perfect my English! The book reminded me of my visits to Knole House just outside Sevenoaks, Ightam Mote in Ightam and Leeds Castle, outside Leeds and the many French castles I visited. I give fhis book five stars, because that is the maximum, otherwise I would have given her more!!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hauntingly beautiful Gwydir Castle, 5 July 2012
By 
Mrs. Lynne Park (Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you have never been to this fascinating place, you must go to the stunningly beautiful Conwy Valley and there just on the edge of Llanwrst is this amazing ancient property.

We have visited it 3 times now over the last 20 odd years. We saw it twice in it's run down state of semi dereliction just prior to the squatters moving in when it was a sad and almost forbidding place. We visited again this year and the transformation we saw on this third recent visit was wonderful to see. Peter and Judy have worked wonders with this marvellous old place which just exudes mystery and atmosphere and to our mind, is a real gem in the Welsh crown.

As Judy makes clear in her book, it is not all gift wrapped, but is a truly authentic, interesting ancient property which anyone with a passion for history and things ancient will appreciate. There is a very special 'aura' about it and once seen is never forgotten. We adore it, and take our hats off to Peter and Judy for rescuing this stunning place. Oh, and by the way, the gardens are quite something too !

Judy's book is beautifully written and it really is a page turner. I can recommend the book even if you don't know Gwydir, but even more so if you do. Buy the book and go and visit Gwydir (and the peacocks)and be prepared to be wowed by this fascinating place.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Castles in the air, 12 Mar 2012
Castles In The Air: The Restoration Adventures of Two Young Optimists and a Crumbling Old Mansion

What a wonderful book.....It is truly captivating and engaging. A true story of determination where renovation of a castle takes over two lives covering all aspects of the problems and fun involved......
Being able to see the results on the internet just goes to consolidate the whole thing.....Judy sets a wonderful atmosphere.
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