LOUDONVILLE - Back in the late 1990s, Jim and Marta Landoll, who ran a publishing business in Ashland, purchased a rural home and property on a wooded hilltop south of Loudonville as a weekend retreat.

As he worked the property, Jim built a barn to house his collection of tractors, snowmobiles, etc. Then, one day, he decided to convert that barn into a Bed and Breakfast. That B&B evolved into what today is Landoll's Mohican Castle, one of the most unique lodgings in this part of the country.

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"As part of his work, Jim and I traveled all over the world, and he became fixated with the concept of unique hotels while in Germany and decided he wanted to build one," his now ex-wife Marta Landoll explained.

What they built was indeed unique, and innovative, as Marta described it, "an inn with a castle look, with stone and hardwood taken from right on the property. If an architect had designed it, it would have been much different, but we built it with our ideas, and with spires, wrought iron railings, crannies, cupolas, cobblestone walkways, and fabulous landscaping right in the middle of a hilltop forest."

The Castle was opened in June of 2002. A lot has changed in the 16 years since, including a catastrophic fire that destroyed the original restaurant on the grounds, construction of an impressive event center and second restaurant, addition of additional lodgings in cottages around the original building, and opening of an indoor swimming pool and fitness center.

Their son, Jimmy, took over as general manager of the facility in the summer of 2014.

A major change in the attitude of the operation occurred in December 2015, when Gordon Ramsay brought his television show, “Hotel Hell,” to the Castle. 

"One of the interesting things about Gordon's visit was that we didn't ask him to come, as is done with many of his shows," Mrs. Landoll said.

"He discovered us on a website, OddInns.com, and wanted to do the show on us," son Jimmy said. "He contacted us and found a way to work us into his show schedule. We were not a typical topic."

A year and a half before Jimmy agreed to work with the Castle and his mother, "with the stipulation I would not have to cook!" he said. Within a week, he found himself in the kitchen, and admitted often developing specials in the restaurant that he pulled off his Smart Phone.

"It turned out Jimmy is very good in the kitchen," his mother proudly said, noting, "I do not remember ever telling him he didn't have to cook."

For the “Hotel Hell” production, Ramsay arranged for guests to fill the rooms at the Castle, and over 80 people to come for dinner at the restaurant.

"That night, I found myself grilling 25 steaks at once," Jimmy said. "There was no way I could keep track of which steaks were supposed to be rare and which well done, so I made them all medium. This was typical of the chaos in the kitchen that night."

Ramsay’s critique of the Castle’s operation was brutal. He was particularly tough on Jimmy, telling him his mother was carrying too much of the load, and that he needed to step up.

The experience, while stressful, was also "amazingly helpful," Marta said. "Gordon Ramsay offered us many valuable pieces of advice and lent us his sous chef for a month after the show to help us. We wanted to keep her, and she wanted to stay, but we couldn't afford her."

Instead, Ramsay admonished the Landolls to find a trained chef to run the kitchen, which they have done, along with a salesperson to market the facility for special events beyond weddings.

"Mr. Ramsay also hooked us up with a lodging specialist, who advised us we needed more rooms to support participation in special events, which led to our decision to break ground for the 14-room Stables lodging that will open in late spring," she added.

"The Stables theme goes back to the old feudal Europe arrangement, with a castle for the royalty and stables for the remainder in the village," he explained. "But actually, the rooms in the Stables will offer the same luxurious furnishings as in the Castle."

Beyond the Stables, Jimmy Landoll also said that "within the next three to five years I can see us building another restaurant on the site of the original restaurant.

"That restaurant would double as a second, and smaller, special event center, would possibly house a brewery or distillery."

He also envisioned establishing another gift shop. "We never really replaced the one destroyed by the fire even though it did very well," he said.

Marta said that from the start the intention was to add more lodging space than the 11 rooms in the Castle.

"We built an electrical infrastructure, and waste water treatment plant, to accommodate up to 40 rooms," she said. "At one time we pondered building cabins in the surrounding woods, but decided on the Stables instead based on a preference from lodgers to be among other people."

Both mentioned a strong attention toward reviews from lodgers and diners. "We are really working hard on our reviews and the reputation of the Castle," Jimmy said.

A recent addition to the marketing effort was listing the Castle restaurant on the Open Table reservation app, as well as listings on all major travel and booking websites.

Very gratifying to the staff was an invitation, made on social media, for everyone to drive down to enjoy the Christmas light display at the Castle this season. "Over a thousand came to see them this year," Jimmy said.

With regular lodgers, special events and the restaurant, sometimes it can get extremely busy.

"One Saturday last October all of our rooms were full, we had 230 here for a wedding, and had 80 diners in the restaurant. That was a busy day!" Jimmy said.


Landoll's Mohican Castle

Inspiration? While traveling, Jim and Marta Landoll became fascinated with unique hotels in Germany built in unique settings, and started building their castle structure on the property they owned in far southern Ashland County.

How it has evolved? After a brutal critique as part of Gordon Ramsey’s “Hotel Hell” television show in 2015, the Castle has revamped its restaurant and business operations. One project that evolved out of that was the recent groundbreaking on the 14-room Stables lodging facility that will open in late spring.