Czech-Slovak couple enjoying dream life as owners of castle in Scotland

The Edlmans are a Czech-Slovak couple who chose to escape the stresses of London and build a very different life in a castle in the west of Scotland. Castle Levan is located on the outskirts of the sea-side town of Gourock, less than an hour from Glasgow. I'll let the owners introduce themselves:

"My name is Jan Edlman. I am from Policka, a very small town in the Czech Republic about 100 miles from Prague. I am a professional translator from English into Czech, and Slovak with the help of my wife."

"I am Lydia Edlman, I am from Slovakia and I worked for the BBC Slovak section. Now I run a bed and breakfast in Castle Levan."

Of course my first question when I arrived at the castle was: how did a Czech-Slovak couple end up owning a castle in Scotland?

Jan: "I was working for the BBC as well, for the BBC Czechoslovak and later Czech section. Lydia was working for the Slovak section."

In London, was that?

Jan: "In London, yes. Maybe you know that London is very expensive, and traffic is terrible, and transport and so on. So we were looking for some quiet place in Scotland because we had been here several times and we fell in love with this country.

"When I was in the Czech Republic nearly four years ago, I was looking for some small property somewhere in Scotland. Some farm or something like that.

"I found that this castle, Castle Levan, was for sale at that time. We decided to go for that and within four months we moved in.

"The funny thing is that the price of the castle was nearly the same money we got for the house in London. You may know the houses in London are terribly expensive. So it was rather, I would say, cheap."

What I can see of the castle here, it looks like it's in great condition. Was it like this when you bought it?

Jan: "Yes it was. The castle was rebuilt about 20 years ago. It was in ruins. For nearly 300 years it was completely abandoned. And then a couple from Lanarks, nearby, bought it and within six or seven years they'd rebuilt it to its previous glory. That's why the castle was in perfect order.

"When we bought it we just had to have some slates replaced on the roof, otherwise it was perfect. So there was no work for us in fact."

And Lydia, do you enjoy being the owner of a castle here in Scotland?

Lydia: "Oh yes, I have a big garden and I am gardening. I think I am a girl for everything."

Are there any drawbacks of living in a castle? Any problems?

Jan: "I don't think so. Some people thought that we wouldn't like living in a castle somewhere outside civilization, but it's in the middle of the town of Gourock. It's not far away from Glasgow, here. So I think we don't regret having sold our house in London and moved to Scotland. So, it's O.K., no problems at all."

Are you the only Czechs and Slovaks, or Czech and Slovak, in the area - or do you know any other Czechs here, or Slovaks?

Jan: "Not in this area, but we know that there's a lady from the Czech Republic, or formerly Czechoslovakia, who owns Codor Castle, which is near Inverness. But I don't think there are any Czechs or Slovaks living nearby here.

"We've got some people coming from our country, some friends of ours. Some guests also because we also cooperate with some Czech travel agencies - they send us Czech and Slovak tourists here as well. So we have opportunities of speaking Czech."

Owning a castle in Scotland is rather exotic - what do Jan and Lydia Edlman's family and friends at home think about the fact they have become lord and lady of a Scottish citadel?

Jan: "I know that some of them - when we decided to buy the castle - some of them thought that we went crazy completely, because we changed London for some God-forsaken place somewhere in Scotland.

"Some of them have visited us already and they changed their mind. For example, our relatives both in the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic are quite happy to come here and spend some time with us.

"I think they like it here. It's some sort's unusual for some friends of theirs have a castle in Scotland. So I think they like it. "

So you've been here three and a half years in Castle Levan in Scotland. How do you like Scotland and Scottish people?

Lydia: "Oh, they are very nice. On every step they are waving and greeting you and smiling because they say it doesn't cost you anything."

Jan: "That's right. Even before we moved here, when we came here for the first time, we went from here to the town of Gourock. We've been meeting lots of people on our way, and they were smiling at us and saying hello.

"It would never happen in London. It's the same in every capital, in every big city, in Prague. You are completely anonymous there.

"It has advantages and disadvantages as well, because everybody knows everybody, everybody knows everything about everybody."

What about the Scottish accent? Even for me it can be difficult to understand people.

Jan: "Yes, it is still difficult for us. People who know we are foreigners try to speak slowly and they try not to use the accent too much.

"Sometimes when the English people come here to stay in the castle, we are very, very happy when they admit that they don't understand the Scottish as well. And they are the same nation, in fact, or the same country. And we are foreigners.

"But you get used to that, because we listen to the Scottish radio, the Scottish television and so on. So we are used to it now. But sometimes it is difficult to understand."

What about the weather here? For example today it's wet, miserable, gray...

Jan: "We've got used to that already. Especially in summer, it's raining a lot here. We miss the sun.

"And we miss the Czech weather, because in our country, when it's winter, it's really cold. Then it's summer so it's really hot. But here it's all the same. About 20, 25 degrees above zero in the summer is hot for Scotland.

"It might be just one thing which is not so nice, but we don't mind at all."