Meet the owners of Britain’s quirkiest homes

Read all about the highs and lows of living in an unusual abode

Would you love the idea of living in a windmill, a tepee or a castle, or are you quite happy living in a conventional home with four walls? We speak to three home-owners who tell us what it’s like to live in some of the most unusual houses in the UK.

‘Our windmill has amazing sunset views’

Clare Winchester, 56, is an artist and lives in the Old Smock windmill in Benenden, Kent with her husband David, 58. They have four grown-up children.


Why did you decide to buy a windmill?

We were looking for a new family home in 2004 and during our search, the Old Smock Mill kept popping up and my son insisted we went to see it. It was derelict and out of our price range but they accepted a lower offer. We were prepared to do it up and it had a beautiful garden. So, we just did it!

What was it like to renovate a windmill?

It was amazing. It had no windows so it felt like going into a cave. People had used it as a workshop and a garage in the past so it needed a lot of work. We knew we could ‘stitch it up’ and make it into something amazing.

What are the downsides of living in a windmill?

The loo is at the top of the building so it’s quite a walk if you need to go! It’s also very expensive to renovate a building like this as fixtures like the staircase need to be custom-made.

What do you love about your quirky property?

It has a fantastic, relaxing atmosphere. It’s also high up so you get magnificent sunset views. It was used as a watch tower during the war and people appreciate the work we’ve done to salvage it. The great grandson of the man who built the mill even paid us a visit.

‘Living in a tepee brings me closer to nature’

Rick Mayes, 69, a priest, lives with a small community in Tipi Valley near Cwmdu, Wales. He has two grown-up children who he brought up here.


Why did you choose to live in a tepee?

At the end of the 60s, I became a hippy. I was reassessing the way we lived and I wanted to reconnect with nature. I decided to move to Tipi Valley and brought up my two children here with my then wife. I’ve lived here ever since.

What are the downsides of living in a tepee?

It can be a tough life if the firewood is damp or the wind is blowing the smoke around from the fire, especially if you have a family and you need to bath the children and keep warm.

What do you love about living in a tepee?

When things are good, it’s paradise. It gives you a sense of ‘connectedness’ and allows you to live more ‘gently’ and closely to the land. It’s quite spiritual and allows us to reconnect with our ancestors who lived in this way, around a fire, for millions of years.

‘It could be haunted but we love living in a castle’

Wendy Bennett, 47, lives with her husband Simon, 49, in Augill Castle in Cumbria. They have two children, Oliver, 18, and Emily, 16.


Why did you decide to buy a castle?

We were living in London. I was working in HR and Simon had worked in journalism and the hotel industry. We had a huge mortgage to pay yet barely any space in our house. We wanted a bigger place so we could start a family and we spotted Augill Castle for sale in a magazine one day. It may sound naïve but we decided to just go for it!

What was it like moving into the castle?

Moving from the city to the Cumbrian countryside was quite a dramatic change in lifestyle and the property had been empty for several years so we had to do a huge amount of work. We started with a house and now we have an estate with several outhouses and stables. We soon realised we’d need to create some form of accommodation here to enable us to afford the upkeep.

What are the downsides of living in a castle?

It has very high ceilings and is obviously quite old so it can get very drafty. We’ve never felt frightened but some people who’ve stayed here believe it’s haunted.

What do you love about your quirky property?

We’ve had all sorts of interesting experiences thanks to living in an unusual home. We’ve made it onto the front page of a national newspaper, we’ve had someone abseil off the building and we meet all sorts of interesting people. Simon has even written two books (Undressed for Dinner and Stop for Breakfast) and writes a blog about our life.

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