NORTH TEXAS DESTINATIONS

Royal retreat

Luxurious Greystone Castle offers guests a taste of Camelot

BY MARY ROGERS Special to the Star-Telegram

Greystone Castle, with its vine-covered walls and four imposing turrets, sits on high ground. A long, paved lane winds up the mesa through stands of trees and land made lush by recent rains to end just outside the castle courtyard.

For more than two decades, Greystone has been an unlikely part of the landscape near the tiny outposts of Mingus and Thurber, just off Interstate 20, an hour west of Fort Worth. It is already a Camelot for shooting enthusiasts, a luxurious destination for corporate retreats and a magical setting for weddings.

But the owners want more. They mean for this 6,500-acre Texas ranch — stocked with trophy whitetail deer, more than 30 species of exotics and an impressive variety of birds and ducks — to be among the nation’s top sporting clubs. They hope — no, expect — that it will have an international reach, as well.

They’re off to a good start. Accommodations are luxurious and food, prepared from family recipes, is farm-to-table fresh and handsomely presented.

Better yet, Greystone has been endorsed twice by Orvis as the Wing-shooting Lodge of the Year. It’s encouraging to grab this tribute once. Twice is extraordinary.

“This is a huge honor given only to the best of the best,” says one of the owners.

But birds are not Greystone’s only business. The owners continually work to expand and enhance the Grey-stone experience. Using the recent drought as an opportunity to rework a lake, they added wind breaks and structure for bass spawning beds.

Now, they expect to lure fishermen who dream of hooking a trophy fish.

“I think it might have been the week after they finished improving the lake, it started to rain,” says Andrew Wilcox, the new general manager. “It rained and rained and filled it up. They stocked it with bass. …

“Next year, there will be some big fish in that lake.”

Wilcox, 51, a retired U.S. Marine colonel, an infantry officer with 30 years of experience managing men and budgets, is also an avid outdoorsman. Wilcox came on board last year, fresh from Marine service. But he quickly recruited 2015 National Sporting Clays Champion William Walton to design Greystone’s new Sporting Clays Facility. Walton is Greystone’s new sporting clays manager and club pro.

It’s the sort of farsighted management that the owners appreciate.

“Andrew Wilcox will take Greystone to the next level,” says one of the owners.

Sometimes called

“golf with a shotgun,” sporting clays already has a growing and enthusiastic following. Clay discs are mechanically thrown into the air to simulate bird flight and shooters move through various stations testing their skill with a shotgun. Sometimes two clay discs fly straight up. Sometimes they cross. Sometimes one bumps along the ground.

At Greystone, some will skip across water.

This is not one simple course, but several, Walton says. “One is a 50-target course with seven stations; one is a 100-target course with 14 stations.”

Because Greystone’s terrain is unique, the sporting clays courses will be among the most diverse in the country, he says. “Most of these courses are built on flat land. … Here we don’t have flat ground.”

The sporting clays facility will also have a clubhouse and a pro shop, but those won’t be ready when the course opens this fall, says Fort Worth architect Randall Walton (no relation to the shooting champ), who is designing those facilities.

Randall Walton began working with Greystone’s owners more than a decade ago when they called on him to design a conference room and workout facility for the castle. He remembers that, by then, the footprint of the castle was already set with five lodges within the castle walls. Most of these lodges have five bedrooms each and a central gathering room. Some have fireplaces. All have a masculine vibe.

Among other things, he designed the owner’s luxurious — and private — five-bedroom lodge and another two-bedroom suite that can be rented, but his handiwork is really on display in the grand pavilion, with its spectacular valley views.

Stretching across one side of the castle’s courtyard, this pavilion is an enlarged and enhanced version of an earlier structure. This one is an elegant, light-filled space with a massive fireplace surrounded by comfortable sitting areas at one end of the main room and an enormous bar at the other.

The red stag is Grey-stone’s logo. The majestic animal is featured on the gates, and tiny likenesses are even etched into windows. But in the pavilion, a full-size red stag head, carved from walnut by artist Kevin Barker, dominates the wall above the bar.

Beyond the main room, Randall Walton designed a game room with small corner fireplaces in keeping with the castle theme. There are dartboards, a billiard table and other games there, too.

Doors on both sides of the pavilion can be opened to catch the breeze and the imagination. “I designed this so two 30-footby-40-foot tents could be attached. ... It could handle a huge crowd,” he says.

Walton also planned a recently installed pool with hot tub and adjacent sauna. But there’s also an enormous fire pit outside the pavilion, and guests often gravitate to this comfortable conversation area to relax and reflect at day’s end — or after the party.

Mary Rogers is a freelance writer. mary@mary russellrogers.com.