Dr Ann Kaplan Mulholland is not a woman who does things by halves.

A self-made entrepreneur, she has a net worth of more than £500 million. A household name in her native Canada (she is one of the stars of The Real Housewives of Toronto) she is an award-winning businesswoman, mother, devoted wife and author of no less than six books.

She is also the new owner of the £11 million Lympne Castle, near Hythe. And she has plans. Big plans. As I discovered when she invited me to lunch at her medieval castle home.

A historic landmark in the village of Lympne, the castle is located on 139 acres of beautiful countryside, spattered with ancient roman ruins overlooking the English Channel.

It has a history that dates back to 1080, but despite its undeniable grandeur, it is a castle in need of some TLC.

Great British Life: Ann Kaplan (c) Ann KaplanAnn Kaplan (c) Ann Kaplan

And that’s something Ann and her plastic surgeon husband [Dr Stephen Mulholland] are fully committed to. They plan to invest £15 million undertaking a grand renovation.

‘We bought a castle, what we didn’t realise we were buying was part of history. We have an obligation to embrace that history,’ she says as we look out across Romney Marsh.

‘We are refurbishing the castle – the goal is for each piece, each turn, each encounter to be an experience.

'I say that if you are going to buy a castle, go all in!'

King Henry VIII, Sir Tomas Beecham, and the Archbishop of Canterbury all lived at the castle. More recently Paul McCartney recorded his Wings album Back to the Egg in the castle, Mick Jagger was a visitor.

Great British Life: Lympne Castle Credit: The Kensington PhotographerLympne Castle Credit: The Kensington Photographer

But how did this ‘unhousewife-housewife’ find herself a chatelain?

It transpires Ann wasn’t actually in the market for a castle at all.

Ann and her husband were intending to buy a British bolthole following their eight children flying the nest. But their original plan was a London – probably Kensington – apartment.

Yet while the couple looked, Ann had the realisation that she could buy a whole castle for less than a city pad.

And that’s when caution was thrown to the wind.

‘I was drawn to the beauty of its architecture, the magic of visiting (let alone owning) an actual castle (turrets and all) and the beautiful English countryside,’ she recalls.

Great British Life: Ann Kaplan and Stephen MulhollandAnn Kaplan and Stephen Mulholland

And while it wasn’t an exactly smooth process, in February, Lympne Castle entered its Kaplan Mulholland era.

The estate has been a whirlwind of activity since. Because of its Grade I listed status, restoration efforts are undertaken with painstaking attention to detail. Even the floorboards have to be just so (previous owners ripped up floorboards from rooms not in use to replace ones in more needed locations – leaving literal floorless bedrooms in their wake).

Being bound by planning legislations and rules on the renovation front hasn’t dampened Ann’s enthusiasm though.

She’s keen to regularly open up the castle to the public and ensure the castle remains a proper part of the community.

Their grand opening – a themed day for locals for a donation to the town of Lympne and its schools – took place the same weekend as King Charles III's Coronation and was inspired by the royals.

‘I copied King Charles’ outfit,’ she says, with a mischievous grin. ‘I had one made with the fur and the black dots and the cape. I posted it on Instagram and said, “Who wore it better?”’

It wasn’t just her though. ‘Everyone was in medieval gowns. We had hog roasts, axe throwing, archery, we had minstrels and jesters….’

Great British Life: Ann and Stephen celebrate the coronation in style in Lympne CastleAnn and Stephen celebrate the coronation in style in Lympne Castle

Just what did the community made of this tiara-wearing Toronto whirlwind, one can’t help but wonder?

‘I was a little worried at the beginning,’ she confesses. ‘With all the Meghan [Markle] reports I just wasn’t sure how welcome we’d be.’

She had expected about 300 people at the themed day, but more than 1,000 turned up.

‘The number of people from the town who stopped me over a six hour day and just said, ‘Thank you’, from the community. Not from England, but from a village.

‘I was actually tearful by the end of the day, because I realised the respect people had [for the castle] and how much they embrace somebody coming in from Canada.

‘They welcomed us with open arms.’

Great British Life: Ann Kaplan in Lympne CastleAnn Kaplan in Lympne Castle

Her determination to do right by couples getting married at the castle can only have helped endear her to the community.

Dozens of Brides had been left in tears when informed by the previous owners that their upcoming nuptials were cancelled. Staff sent out emails to couples stating that their bookings could no longer be honoured due to the change of ownership.

But within hours of the sale completing Ann was contacting couples to reassure them.

‘We actually just got the keys so we were in a very difficult situation where we couldn't respond because we actually hadn't bought the castle yet and those emails went out.

‘But it was always that we were willing to take on all of the bookings, and just go ahead with every bride that wanted to continue.

Great British Life: Wedding at Lympne Castle Credit: Sarah OliverWedding at Lympne Castle Credit: Sarah Oliver

"When we found out, we had to move fast because we hadn't even set up our emails or phone systems yet. We also gave a 20% discount to the existing brides for the price agreed before.’

The castle is set to remain a wedding location – but that’s not all.

Ann's ultimate ambition is to transform the castle into a one-of-a-kind Medieval tourist destination, conference and events venue.

Oh, and then there’s the small matter of a TV series. Set to be something of a combination of much-loved historical drama Downton Abbey and Escape to the Chateau, the docu-reality show will focus on the history of the building.

‘I think it's going to be great for Kent and for people that are living in the area. It won't be disruptive, it will be enhancing.’

Whatever is in store, the Kaplan Mulholland reign certainly looks set to be fabulous. And fun.

About Lympne Castle

Great British Life: Lympne Castle credit: alexakellyphotographyLympne Castle credit: alexakellyphotography

It measures 27,000 sq ft and comes with fortified towers, 20 bedrooms, a wood-panelled Great Hall, a restaurant and kitchens, four cottages, walled gardens, a vineyard, orchard, stables and 139 acres of wood and pasture land.

It is built on the site of a former Roman tower - part of a former fortress known as Stufall.

Paul McCartney thinks he smoked too much “wacky baccy” while recording his and Wings’ final album, Back to the Egg in 1979 record at Lympne Castle. In The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Paul added that he liked the castle’s atmosphere. ‘You’d get these kinds of slightly oddball things happening and oddball songs coming out.’

The West Drawing Room was added during the castle’s restoration by architect Sir Robert Lorimer, and boasts a stunning view from its large bow window facing the southeast coast.


About Ann

She holds a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration), Masters In Business (MBA), Master in Science (MSc) and a Corporate Governance Designation (CD.D).

She founded iFinance, a North American consumer fintech company, taking it from start-up to one of the largest consumer finance companies in Canada.

She has a jet-set lifestyle, with 11 homes around the world, including Las Vegas and Hawaii.