A NEW Zealander with Scottish roots is living in his own castle in Inverclyde - built by his great-grandfather.

Steve Mills's dreams came true when the ground floor of the sandstone mansion came up for sale and he's now the proud owner of Dunavertie, located on the seaward side of the A78 immediately after the railway bridge in Wemyss Bay.

Steve is a former policeman with the Met in London and is married to Caroline.

He said: "We always planned to come back to live in Scotland, Caroline's family live in Glasgow.

"We started looking at properties and Caroline's aunt spotted that Dunavertie was up for sale.

"I had always known about the house because my family lived in Largs.

"When I heard the name my ears pricked up.

"It was a bit rundown and had lain empty for about five years.

"We were bidding against somebody else, they got it and we were gutted.

"But six months later, they pulled out - it was meant to be.

"It's part of our family history."

Steve's great-grandfather Charles McNeil - who owned Kinning Park Forge in Glasgow - built the imposing red sandstone house complete with turrets and a castellated roof in 1901 as a seaside home for his family.

He said: "He built the house after the railway line opened in the 1860s.

"The story goes that he asked Lord Inverclyde for some land but only got a strip as he was 'new money'.

"So he built Dunavertie in the image of Inverclyde and the story goes it was called 'spite castle' - because every time Inverclyde passed to go into the village he would see the castle."

Steve recalls seeing the house on the way to visit his grandmother Annie McNeil.

He said: "She married Malcolm, the son of Charles, during the war after her first husband died and she lived in Stepps, and Malcolm adopted my mother Marianne and her sister Fiona.

"During the war, troops were billeted in Stepps Siding and my granny opened her house up, providing tea, buns and music to keep their spirits up.

"She later looked for a lodger and Malcolm McNeil returned and they fell in love and got married."

Steve's mum Marianne trained as a midwife in Glasgow and in the 60s took a £10 ticket to New Zealand where she married Steve's dad Maurice a native New Zealander.

His parents split up in 1973 and Steve and sister Fiona moved back to Stepps.

Steve, 55, said: "I joined the Royal Navy and when I wanted to leave the Met in London were offering resettlement packages so I worked as a police officer for 27 years before retiring."

The couple moved back north in June 2018 with their daughter Charlotte, 26, who now lives in Gourock.

They also have a son Ben, 29, who is married and lives in Oxfordshire.

It took the couple nine months to get the house up to scratch.

Caroline, 55, said: "The floors were rotten and we completely gutted it."

Steve's family left the house in the 1940s and the building has been used for various purposes throughout the decades.

It features in a local book called A Walk Through Time At Wemyss Bay by Marjorie Spragg.

It's understood the property was used for evacuees who'd been bombed out of their homes during the war.

In later years it was run as a B&B by the family who owned the Wemyss Bay Hotel and was later divided into three separate apartments.

The middle flat is owned by someone else and the top flat is owned by a different landlord who rents it out.

Steve said: "We are basically living in the servants' quarters and our living-room is where the school room would have been.

"The middle floor would be were McNeil would conduct all his business with his clients as an engineer and has mosaic tiles and wood panelling.

"I don't know how much it cost to build and I'm hoping to go up to the Mitchell Library and get the original plans."