Castle Ward is a three-story Georgian pile set in 330 hectares of Irish parkland. As far as starter-homes go Neil Watt and partner Kris Reid had hit the jackpot.
When the couple moved into their first home together it was a special moment. However, this stately new address had not come to them through a duel, game of chance or by being 'to the manor born" – Watt had secured a job as a live-in curator and property manager for the UK heritage charity The National Trust at the beginning of last year.
In Northern Ireland's County Down the house is a hugely popular tourist attraction.
Normally the role would involve welcoming crowds of visitors drawn to the building which has appeal across the board to fans of Jane Austin/Bridgerton-esque romances and followers of fantasy film series.
In the grounds are the remains of the original 16th century Castle Ward still remain. Most visitors know it as Winterfell from the HBO damsels-and-dragons epic Game of Thrones, which was filmed on site.
However having been handed the keys of the castle in March 2020, the pandemic was well under way. National Trust Properties closed their doors to the public, and the new lords of the manor were left with the place to themselves.
However a life of stately leisure wasn't Reid and Watt's style. They decided to give the mansion a makeover.
What began as a spring clean during Northern Ireland's first national lockdown soon became a full-time occupation.
With 40 rooms built at different times and in different styles it was a huge undertaking. They had to make do without any staff, airs or graces to help.
This meant scrubbing Victorian copper pots, cleaning hanging chandeliers and cataloguing a library of over 2000 books.
"Whenever this house was built, it would have been one of the grandest in Ireland," Watt told CNN.
"We kept saying to ourselves, whenever we are allowed to open again, whenever that might be, we want this house to shine."
While there have been periods last year when they have been able to reopen partially to guests, the castle is once again under lockdown rules and the couple have been able to return to their academic projects.
Projects such as researching the rather complicated love-lives of the couple that built the castle – Bernard Ward, 1st Viscount of Bangor and Lady Ann.
"She was very sexually liberated," says Watt who wrote a PHD on the subject. "Before she married Bernard she had a (years-long) love affair with a woman, Letitia Bushe."
His research has taught him that history needs revisiting, and revising "because sometimes we tell stories because that's what's been told before."
Fortunately both Reid and Watt are professional conservationists, so they've been able to make a practical difference to the house and do delicate restoration work that would have been impossible to do, were the house full of visitors.
"We did lots of tasks which are really labour-intensive, but it was very mindful to do and gave us something to work towards," said Watt.
In County Down, Watt's family home the big house has been a sensitive subject. Stately houses of British Aristocracy became a political, and sometimes literal, target during Ireland's troubles.
However, Watt thinks Northern Ireland has begun appreciate the house and history as a national treasure of its own.
"I think we've really turned the corner. I think people are starting to appreciate these places as the shared spaces that they used to be."