Shelter is my guiding word for this year. It is a non-striving word. A shelter offers refuge, provides safety, and embraces calm and quiet.
When I was in the 7th grade, my parents decided to move from Lyndon, Louisville’s outer suburbs at the time, closer to town near Cherokee Park. There are many large houses to be found in that area and I asked my mom and dad to please buy a house I could get lost in.
What I had in mind was, of course, the ultimate shelter: A castle.
We’re talking turrets, a moat, a library with shelves reaching up so high that one needed a ladder to access many of the books. Stone walls. Huge fireplaces. A royal bed chamber, hidden staircases, and secret rooms. And, of course, a full staff, including ladies-in-waiting, valets, footmen, and royal guards. All the necessary accoutrements to living a royal life.
Ah, the dreams of a young girl.
Perhaps I had read too many of British author Mary Stewart’s Gothic mysteries with their locales of haunted manor houses, palaces, and stone fortresses.
I have visited many fine castles in England and Scotland: Windsor, Buckingham Palace, Edinburgh Castle, and the Holyroodhouse. And in America, Hearst Castle and The Biltmore. But as we know, touring doesn’t quite fulfill the dream of living in one.
To that end, for a milestone birthday this year, I was determined to wake up in a castle. I found just what I was looking for and I didn’t have to fly to Europe. The Williamswood Castle located in Knoxville, Tennessee, is less than a four-hour drive from Louisville. It is now an Airbnb and my friend and I had the entire stoney splendor to ourselves. There was no one else on the premises. My friend happily served as my lady-in-waiting and was kind enough to drive us there in what I refer to as The Royal Coach. We didn’t have to make idle chitchat over breakfast with strangers. (Actually, breakfast is not provided so really it is just an AirB.) There was no one else to talk to except the handsome suit of armor that greeted us at the entry.
It had everything that I had hoped for. There was even what I called The Moat, as the property overlooked a tributary of the Tennessee River. Our only potential invaders were a few mallards, a blue heron, and a couple of unarmed kayakers. The property is next to a nature preserve, so it is very isolated and quiet.
The Castle was built by a woman in honor of her son who passed away in the 1980s. It is fashioned after a Scottish hunting lodge. It came with a table full of crowns to be modeled, plenty of spots for photo opportunities, and lots of sturdy furniture, and medieval art. It included a windowsill lined with gargoyles, the Black Dog Pub with shelves of beer steins, and two dart boards. There were lots of books, a scattering of religious statues, stained glass windows, portraits of saints, coats of arms, huge fireplaces, three bedrooms, and a secret staircase.
The perfect setting for a Royal Birthday Celebration. My very own Jubilee.
Wisdom tells us that as we age we create experiences and not just consume more stuff. We all have plenty of stuff. I would say that spending the night in the shelter of the Castle was a one-of-a-kind experience fit for A Queen.
Story and photos by Lucy M. Pritchett
P.S. Looking for another place that embraces calm and quiet? Seek shelter here.