Castle History

We would like to honor the history of the castle and the family who laid the foundation that has enabled us to build our own dreams for Castle of Joy.

The information and photos on this page were borrowed from John and Lorraine Panagos, the original owners and builders of "Castle McKenzie," the original name of the castle. The information below was taken directly from the website. Thank you to the Panagos for their dedication, passion and craftsmanship,  and for laying the solid foundation that will allow us to live our own dreams for Castle of Joy. Each stone was made and laid on the castle walls by the Panagos' team using their Olde World Stone & Tile Molds. 

"Many past guests have asked how the creation of Scottish Woods Resort and the Castle came about… " 

"On a two-week vacation to Scotland in 1998, John and Lorraine fell in love with the people, the country, (especially the Scottish Highlands), the culture, and they discovered a new meaning and interest in their Scottish roots. On one special day in particular, while sitting on a hillside over-looking Eileen Donan Castle and Loch Duich, they dreamed impractical dreams, (as most dreams are), of spending their lives together in these magnificent and magical Scottish Highlands of their ancesters. 

John is a "McKenzie" on his mother’s side, and his grandfather was a "Jackson". Lorraine’s grandmother was a "Watts". John never met or knew of his real father. He was raised thinking that "Panagos" was his real surname, and that he was Greek like his stepfather. He didn't find out the truth until much later in life. By then, all of his records were already established during the first 35 years of his life, so he kept the name Panagos as his legal last name. But he did legally add "McKenzie" to his name as well.

After the Scotland trip, some deep digging into his "real" McKenzie roots, and having added "McKenzie" to his name legally, he has continued his heritage quest through to the present. His only regret is that he doesn't have the time for a full-time pursuit. 

In 1998, a lifestyle-altering event took place. John and Lorraine’s best friends, and "across the street" Florida neighbors bought property in Robbinsville, NC.  After much urging by them, John and Lorraine visited NC one weekend in July of 1998.  It reminded them so much of the Scottish Highlands they had just returned from and so loved. On a second visit a few months later, they fell in love with and put a deposit on 26 acres of beautiful rolling land in Murphy, NC. It only had a cottage and a barn on it then. On January 15, 1999, they took title to the property, and moved to what they eventually developed and named, "Scottish Woods".

Much of their Scottish Highland "dream" has been realized… 
They successfully developed Scottish Woods Resort, adding three new guest rental log cabins, plus the owners three-story log cabin. They added stables, barns, fencing, two Scottish Highland Coo’s, and as many as seventeen miniature horses at one time. The three hundred vine vineyard they planted prospered. And the 
intimate first phase of the Castle McKenzie project was started. In late 2004 they decided that it was time to "pass the gauntlet" so to speak, and sell the front portion of Scottish Woods. It was time to concentrate on the rest of the dream… completion of Castle McKenzie... their eventual retirement castle in the mountains.  

In May of 2005, just two weeks before John’s heart attack and open-heart surgery while on vacation in Florida, they sold the rental cabins, along with just over seven acres, to George and Pat Betzhold from the Los Angeles, CA. area. They had promised to carry on the dream and traditions of Scottish Woods Resort, freeing up John and Lorraine to continue with the next phase of their life plan… building their dream castle.

Since October 1, 2005… John and Lorraine have continued to share their Scottish dream with guests who stay in the "Castle McKenzie at Tulach Ard", in Scottish Woods. In case you are wondering what "tulach ard" means... it is "the high hill" in Gaelic... kind of like the hill they sat on over-looking the Scottish Eileen Donan castle many years before. Tulach Ard is also the Clan MacKenzie war cry, and a mountain in the Mackenzie heartland of Kintail in Scotland."