VERSAILLES — A romantic getaway in an opulent castle might sound like an impractical pipe dream. But it's easier than you'd think to treat yourself and your valentine like royalty, right here in Central Kentucky at CastlePost in Versailles.
The castle has long been a landmark on a drive down Versailles Road, occupying a commanding site in the midst of the equine and commercial landscape on the road out of Lexington. But the castle's long and somewhat mysterious history has created perceptions that it's closed or priced well beyond the means of most people.
In reality, CastlePost is a fully functional luxury inn with an upscale restaurant that is open to the public, and owner Tom Post is eager to get the word out about the offerings of the castle.
"We would love to see more couples stay here for anniversaries and weekend getaways," says Post, a Lexington native and UK alumnus who divides his time between Kentucky and Miami, where he worked as a lawyer for much of his career.
Post purchased the property in 2003 after the death of its initial owner, Rex Martin Sr.
Martin began building the castle in 1969 after he was inspired by a trip to Europe. But the building was never finished and in 1975, Martin and his wife divorced and the property sat abandoned.
A history and architecture buff, Post began restoring the castle when he boughtit, but a fire in May 2004 caused serious damage. Undeterred, Post rebuilt the damaged sections and at long last, the castle was as splendorous on the inside as it was on the outside. Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the last name of event coordinator Christa Tinker and chef Chris Tinker was incorrect.
The CastlePost opened in 2008 and included 10 luxury state rooms, six self-contained luxury apartments located in the turrets, a grand ballroom, billiard room, music room, several bars and a library. The 55-acre grounds featured a pool, tennis courts, shuffleboard court, jacuzzi and landscaped garden. The rate for one night's stay at the time — $325 to $1250 — was too pricey for many locals to consider as a nearby romantic retreat.
The cost has since been drastically reduced. With room rentals ranging from $195 to $420 plus tax, the CastlePost is suddenly an attractive "staycation" destination for locals or a quick weekend getaway. Room rates, which do not vary seasonally, include both English and continental breakfast options.
Each of the castle's turrets are also available to rent from May through October. At $595 a night, each is a self-contained, two-story, fully furnished apartment suite with living room, kitchenette, flat screen TV, wrap-around staircase, bedroom and jacuzzi tub.
Christa Tinker, CastlePost's event coordinator, says the biggest success so far has come from special event rentals, particularly weddings, which can range from $5,000 to $20,000 and more, depending on the number of guests, overnight stays, menu and other variables. She says that at first, people avoided booking the castle because they assumed it was out of their price range.
"It took a lot of talking and advertising and getting the word out," Tinker says.
Special event rentals include the entire castle, including overnight rooms, which Tinker says is a unique selling point for not only wedding parties but corporate retreats as well.
You don't have to be an overnight guest to enjoy CastlePost. Its restaurant is open Tuesday through Saturday, unless the castle is booked for a wedding, corporate retreat, or other event.
Tinker's husband, Chris, is the executive chef, and he prepares a new menu each month. Each includes both a three-course or five-course dinner. The three-course option is $55 and the five course is $65. The restaurant is open to the public, but dinner guests must make reservations in advance. A sampling of chef Tinker's current menu includes dishes like South Carolina BBQ chicken Napoleon, goat cheese parfait and slow-roasted veal grillades on jalapeño-parmesan grits.
"We make as much of our food here as we can," says Tinker, who uses Kentucky Proud products as much as possible. If an item isn't available by a Kentucky farmer, he uses organic products instead. He also cures his own meats and has seafood flown in fresh from Florida.
"None of our seafood is ever frozen," Christa Tinker says. "It's as fresh as we can possibly get it."
CastlePost will offer a special dinner on Valentine's Day. For $100 a person, couples can celebrate with champagne and a five-course meal.
According to the Tinkers, more special dinners are in the works as well. Starting in February, CastlePost will begin to host a themed dinner one night a month.
"Our first themed dinner will feature wild game," Christa Tinker says, and future themes might include international fare such as a French "evening in Paris."
With the new rates, it will now be easier to feel like you're spending the night in the other Versailles.