THE keys to Penhow Castle near Newport - the oldest inhabited castle in Wales - are to be handed to a new owner.

Owner film director Stephen Weeks, who is moving to Czech Republic, was asking up to £1m for the unique Gwent building spanning 860 years of history.

And after months on the market, during which over twenty prospective buyers viewed the castle, unnamed new owners - thought to be American - are set to move in.

Sandra Archer, partner at Chepstow estate agents Archer and Co said: "The buyer isn't involved in the film industry, isn't local, and will be moving in in a few months time. They intend to live there.

"We had a good response with a good number of people from all over the country viewing it." Mrs Archer said the owners were drawn by the castle's history.

Penhow Castle was the first home in Britain of the Seymour family and was extensively restored by Mr Weeks when he bought it in 1973.

He suffered freezing winters with no roof while he carefully rebuilt the stronghold, and by 1978 he felt ready to throw the doors open to the public.

A range of tours, conducted in four languages and some held by candlelight, drew many visitors to the castle.

Attractions included the 15th century Great Hall with its minstrels' gallery, the restored Norman bedchamber, and the view from the keep tower's battlements. The new owners are not obliged to keep the castle open to the public and Mrs Archer was unsure if they plan to keep the tours going.

Mrs Beryl Morgan, clerk to Penhow community council, said: "People will miss the tours, particularly the candlelit ones. But if they are stopped it won't make an immense impact to the village."