Fed up with celeb spotters, CRAIG REVEL HORWOOD sought sanctuary in an 'a-ma-zing' country estate in the middle of nowhere... until he became Strictly spooked!

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As the big five-oh approached in 2015 I was beginning to find the hustle and bustle of my London life tiring. I started to yearn for something a little more tranquil.

Don’t get me wrong, I had loved living in my little pink two-up two-down in Camden, North London, for 20 years.

But I am a born entertainer and love nothing more than rustling up spag bol or curry for 20-plus. I longed for the day I had space to dish up special menus plate by plate, rather than buffet style.

The other reason for wanting to move was the increasing status of my celebrity profile. In the early years of Strictly I could get around Camden pretty well unnoticed, but as the show grew I was finding it increasingly difficult to get from A to B without being recognised.

Most people who approach me are really lovely and I love chatting to them. But when I am in a hurry, feeling ugly as hell, or just wanting to be another face in the crowd, it can get a bit much.

I'm just a country boy: Strictly star Craig Revel Horwood in his £1.8million mansion 

I was working a lot at a theatre in Newbury, Berkshire, so it made sense for me to look around that area. I was also dating Damon Scott, the monkey-puppet boy from Britain’s Got Talent, who lived nearby in Salisbury.

Damon’s mum, Susan, knew I was house hunting. While I was there one weekend, she suggested I look at a property she’d seen in the local newspaper. The estate agent gave us the address, yet despite the satnav’s best efforts, we couldn’t find it. It eventually took us up an old tractor track — which is not great in a vintage Triumph Stag.

The bottom of the car was being scraped by stones and I thought it couldn’t be the right place.

It turned out it was. You have to work really hard to find the driveway, but when I finally discovered it, I fell in love. It was a mile-long, private road lined with the most delicious trees, which formed a dappled, sunlit tunnel. We came to the crest of the hill just as the sun opened up.

There was a breathtaking view of what looked like an old-fashioned manor house (although it’s only ten years old), standing in lush lawns and picturesque countryside. When I walked into the house, I was blown away. It wasn’t long before I performed the biggest no-no in house viewing: mentally furnishing the rooms.

I imagined a white baby grand piano perfectly placed in front of the picture window and my Swarovski-encrusted Buddhas sitting happily on the Italian marble hearth. Not to mention my selection of white ceramic dancing pigs that had been looking for just such a generous mantel to high-step on.

Next, I entered the room that is my measure of any home of worth: the dining room. It was filled with natural light and long enough to seat 20 people. Big tick there. The kitchen, meanwhile, was bigger than my whole terrace in Camden.

I wasn’t a fan of the decor. But the place had great bones and was crying out for some CRH flair. I knew I could turn it into something really A-MA-ZING.

Craig Revel Horwood with his partner Jonathan in the impressive grounds of their home

When I walked into the house, I was blown away... even though it was out of my price range 

Outside, there was a swimming pool which needed some fixing. But I could see fabulous pool parties, complete with half-naked waiters and inflatable flamingos.

To top it all, the house was surrounded by seven and a half acres of gardens, woodlands and fields. Yes, it was out of my price range at £1.8million, but since when have I let that get in the way of what I want? The moving date was set for September 26, 2014.

Before I moved in, gossip about the new owner was rife in the area. The butcher was telling everyone Bruce Forsyth was moving in, so all the neighbours were convinced it was Brucie. They were probably bitterly disappointed to find out it was me!

To make up for it I decided to announce my arrival with a huge champagne reception. I went out and delivered invitations and all but one of the neighbours, who was away, turned up.

In my naivety, I thought they’d all turn up in Barbours and wellies, but everyone turned up in smart suits and cocktail gowns.

They obviously thought my party would have all the glitz and sparkle of Strictly Come Dancing. Unfortunately, I was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip-flops. I had to change into a suit.

In the early years of Strictly I could get around Camden pretty well unnoticed, but as the show grew I was finding it increasingly difficult to get from A to B without being recognised

Also, everyone was exactly on time, which caught me unawares. I’m so used to guests in London being fashionably late.

There were 50 guests. My invitation said the party would be between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, but they stayed and stayed and we had more and more wine. It went on long after the finish time and I loved getting to know them all. But I was really spooked by the deep darkness of the country. It was the first time I’d seen pitch black since I’d been in the UK, and probably since I left my birth town of Ballarat, Australia. And the deathly quiet was unnerving.

Living in London, I was so used to ambulances, police cars, lights and people walking around outside talking or fighting after kick-out time at the pubs.

You get so accustomed to noise that the silence feels a bit creepy, and I couldn’t sleep at all.

 Living in London, I was so used to ambulances, police cars, lights and people walking around outside talking or fighting after kick-out time at the pubs

Whenever there was noise, it freaked me out even more. Foxes howling in the night make an eerie sound and I’d never heard peacocks squawking before. It’s a really weird noise — like something out of Jurassic Park. As winter closed in, bringing strong winds, trees fell down over the driveway and I had to deal with those. For a city boy, it was like moving to another planet.

When the ‘Beast from the East’ came, I was snowed out. I’d been away filming and couldn’t get home because the driveway was impassable. Goodness knows what will happen if it snows when Strictly is on. They’ll have to helicopter me out from the roof.

I feel a very lucky man to be living in my gorgeous country home. It’s just what I was looking for, a lovely living space off the beaten track. Jonathan, my partner of seven months, has just moved in too. (Damon and I broke up in 2016.)

I still experience the mad rush of London, what with touring, West End shows and all my Strictly commitments, so I don’t spend as much time at the house as I’d like. But when I’m there I can relax and recharge the batteries for the madness of my life.

They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. When I’m in my country pad, I can truly live like a queen.

After two decades of making happy memories, I let my London house go last year. It was valued at £1.2 million, which wasn’t bad considering I had bought it for £149,500 back in May 1997.

In the end, I sold it to a very famous celebrity who wanted it for their 23-year-old son. Lucky boy! I hope he enjoys living there as much as I did.

  • A version of this article was originally published in the Mail on October 17, 2018.
  • In Strictest Confidence by Craig Revel Horwood (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd, £20). © Craig Revel Horwood 2018. To order a copy for £18 go to www.mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.
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