Interest in the castle taking shape at Riverstone north of Oamaru has been phenomenal, says Dot Smith, the woman behind the project.
“The public interest has been way beyond what we had imagined or contemplated,” she said yesterday.
“People fly from Auckland, and book for lunch to see it. It’s crazy stuff.
“Why are they interested? There’s Larnach Castle down there in Dunedin but people say it’s good you’re following your dream.
“A lot of people don’t do that and they let life slip away.”
Work on the castle, which will have a moat, drawbridge and battlements, started a year ago and is expected to be completed in 12 months.
Interest around the country soared after TV3 featured Dot and her castle last year on 3rd Degree.
Yet the castle has been a dream for much of her life, ever since she read Enid Blyton as a seven-year-old, which unlocked her imagination.
It has come as a surprise for her, however, to hear comments from visitors to Riverstone. Often when visitors call, she is gardening in the plots next to the Riverstone Kitchen restaurant, which her son Bevan and daughter-in-law Monique run.
The visitors do not realise she is the woman behind the project.
And if talk centres on how much the project is costing, it grates with her.
“The whole point is to live in it (the castle). There are too many knockers in this world and everything you say is distorted so I keep it (comments) general.”
Dot said she and husband Neil had been married 44 years and had lived in “a cottage”.
After dairy farming at Wellsford, Northland, they came to North Otago and Dot said they “began the journey of creating something in a gravel farm”.
Even now, they work seven days a week, 11 months of the year, and Dot is busy running her gift shop business next to the restaurant.
“We’ve never been over-the-top in our spending. This is our life interest for our retirement. Some people have boats and holiday homes.
“We want to live happily ever after in our castle on our island.”
Following the television appearance on 3rd Degree, a publisher, Random House, approached Dot suggesting she write a book.
“I’ve got to get it out of my hands in the next four days. It’s quite emotional. It’s all about from the day I was born till now, growing up in Northland, dairy farming, travelling to Europe as a 19-year-old . . . it’s quite emotional to go down that whole path.”
The book, Dot of Riverstone Castle, will be out for Mother’s Day and Dot said it would appeal to “everyday New Zealand people”.
Writing a book had been on her mind for a long time and she had already done a lot of writing before Random House approached her.
During her travels overseas, she has taken a vast number of photographs, which could end up as material for further books.
By CHRIS TOBIN