Have you ever met a woman who was equal parts beauty and strength? She is lovely in appearance and demeanor, and her strong will only enhances what meets the eye. What lies beneath those grace-full eyes is a mind determined to never give up. That is a woman of grit and grace, and we have found ourselves such a woman in Sarah Little.
Sarah is kind, courteous, and beautiful, but don’t let any of that fool you—she is tough as nails. I suppose you must be all of those things in order to effectively run a literal castle in the mountains. And effectively run a castle, she does.
We found Sarah and her life to be so intriguing that we asked her for an interview. So, without further ado, here is a little bit more about Sarah, from her perspective.
So, you are a castellan. Can you explain what that means?
You’re not the first person to ask that, and I know you won’t be the last! A Castellan is a Medieval English term for someone who looks after a castle and all its land. Which is exactly what I do. I look after Castle Ladyhawke from a logistical and operational perspective, ensuring that the property is up to par in every way; touring with bridal couples, listening to them, and explaining how this incredible location can be used to make their day everything they’ve ever dreamed of; and then working closely with wedding and events planners, and our own event managers and banquet captains, to ensure that the Castle and all it encompasses is ready for them to put together the best event possible.
A little over four months, since Castle Ladyhawke re-opened as an event venue after four years, under the new ownership of a consortium of homeowners from Bear Lake Reserve.
When I think of a castle, I think of fairy tales. Do you have a favorite?
“The Ugly Duckling”
Fairy tales often include women rising above life circumstances and discovering their inner strength in the process. Does that storyline resonate with you at all?
Very, very much so.
Would you be willing to share about some of the things you’ve risen above in your own life?
One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced in recent years is what brought me to Castle Ladyhawke. I divorced in 2016 and moved completely alone from Florida to North Carolina in 2017. Unfortunately in April of this year my ex-husband passed away rather suddenly, and as a result my alimony ceased immediately. I was suddenly devoid of income with a home, 11 dogs, 10 chickens (yes, chickens!), and a lifestyle to support which I didn’t want to lose because I love my home, this area, and the people here so much.
Fairy tales often include women rising above life circumstances and discovering their inner strength in the process.
After a few days of “what am I going to do?!” I knuckled down, started focusing on my strengths and skills and how I could best use them to find the right job, and began reaching out to everyone I knew who might be able to help me. In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, having not worked outside of the home for almost 20 years, and having never worked in America, that was a pretty steep mountain to climb. I didn’t even have a resume!
But climb that mountain I did, and now here I am, totally self-sufficient and independent for the first time in almost 20 years—and still with 11 dogs, chickens, and a homestead on top of the full-time career. I’m pretty darn proud of that!
Many young girls and women think that the storybook romance and/or life will fulfill all of their hearts’ desires. What would you say to that?
As humans we are naturally gregarious as a whole. We like to share our lives and our experiences with others, but I also believe that solitude enables you to appreciate those connections all the more, and enables you to appreciate yourself. Being loved and appreciated for who you are by someone else is a wonderful thing—but loving and appreciating yourself, faults and all, is even more wonderful.
I am lucky that I now have a great man in my life who is supportive of who I am, what I do and where I want to go in life—but I also know that even without him in my life, I would be strong and successful and get where I want to go. He’s the icing on the cake, but I’m the cake!
How did you discover this opportunity?
I am the Vice President of the Humane Society of Jackson County, and two of our great supporters, Craig and Anne Smith, are also investors in the Castle … a conversation with Craig and Anne led to us talking about Castle Ladyhawke which the consortium had just acquired the week before. The timing worked out perfectly for me to join the team! My background is in marketing and events management, and I also owned and ran my own business in England, so not only was the timing perfect, but my skill set fit exactly what they were looking for. Plus Castle Ladyhawke is based on the many Scottish castles the original owner, Kim Nord, had visited, and I’m English, so the fit couldn’t be more perfect!
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of myself for being able to successfully “get back into work” and almost reinventing myself at the age of 47. I’m also immensely proud of my work in animal rescue with the Humane Society.
What do you feel have been your greatest personal achievements?
My greatest achievement in my life is raising my son. He’s a good man, decent, hard-working, kind, and independent—but he still loves his mum’s home cooking!
What is your favorite thing about working at a castle?
The Castle itself! It’s just beautiful, as a building, as a concept, the views, the location, the atmosphere. Just everything about it. If you could pick a place for your office, Castle Ladyhawke would be it!
What does a normal day or week look like for you as a castellan?
Every week, every day is different, especially in these early stages of bringing the Castle back to its former glory, and establishing ourselves as one of the area’s, and nation’s, leading wedding venues. Every week I meet and talk with bridal couples about Castle Ladyhawke and its history, what their vision is, and how we can help them to achieve that. I work closely with our sales, social media, and marketing teams on all manner of projects from advertising and PR, to event development and implementation, and strategy development. I even deal with the nitty gritty details which make all the difference—coordinating cleaning, gardening, and handyman work to keep things up to scratch all the time. I might have to climb a ladder to change a light bulb, help design a uniform for our serving staff, meet with a chef to help to develop a menu for an event, or meet with local business people and artisans to develop a portfolio of Castle products. I’ve even been known to build fire pits and clean out basements!
Do you have any funny or crazy stories from this experience so far?
I think one of the craziest things, in a nice way, is that I’ve met people who have truly become friends who I would otherwise not have met if it weren’t for Castle Ladyhawke. People who live close by me who I would never have encountered if it weren’t for the Castle. It truly does feel like it was meant to be and that I belong.
What would you say to the woman who is unsure of where her story is leading?
Focus on the journey and enjoy the good moments as they come along. You can’t avoid the bad—the heartbreaks, the disappointments, the losses, the mistakes—but you can always learn from it. Even if it’s too raw, too difficult at the time, even if you just need to ride out the storm as best you can. In time, you’ll be able to look back and see where that hardship took you, what you learned, and how you wouldn’t be where you are now without it. You don’t need to know where you’re going to enjoy the ride.
Do you have a favorite fairy-tale quote?
“Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.” (The Ugly Duckling)
Focus on the journey and enjoy the good moments as they come. You can’t avoid the bad— heartbreaks, disappointments, losses, mistakes—but you can always learn from it. Sarah Little
Thank you, Sarah!
At Grit and Grace Life, we love highlighting gracious, tenacious women and sharing their stories because we know it spurs all of us on in our own #gritandgracelife. And we have enjoyed every interaction we’ve had with this one. Thank you, Sarah!
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