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A Place In The Sun presenter Danni Menzies on her whirlwind lockdown romance with Army hero

Danni Menzies
Danni Menzies

Danni Menzies has found her own “place in the sun” with the new man in her life – handsome war hero Simon Moloney.

Their personal slice of heaven is on top of Ben Lawers – the highest peak in Perthshire and close to the presenter’s Kenmore home.

And, while Simon may be dating a celebrity, he is no stranger to the limelight himself. The former Army sniper was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross – second only to the Victoria Cross – after being shot in the throat during a firefight with the Taliban.

The Lance Corporal, 29, thought he was going to die after a bullet went through his neck but after being patched up by medics he was back on his feet within minutes and fought on, helping to save colleagues during Operation Herrick in Afghanistan in 2013.

Danni with Simon on Ben Lawers

TV star Danni, 32, knew little of this when she met the former soldier on a blind date in London.

She tells P.S: “We went on about five or six dates and then ended up isolating together for 10 weeks at home on Mains of Taymouth Country Estate. It propelled things quite quickly. So I have a boyfriend now. It is quite amazing.”

She laughs: “Some of my friends said, ‘Well, he’s definitely passed the test; he put up with you for 10 weeks’. We only fell out once. I usually get fed up with boys quickly, so for me that’s really good.

“Two of our best friends are dating each other so they set us up. He came out of the Army about five years ago and started a company doing outside broadcasting, rigging live events for TV.

“When I first saw him I thought he was attractive. He is a tall, strapping lad, but he was quite nervous and I like people who are confident, so I wasn’t sure.

“Later on in the date, he took control and took me to a fantastic speakeasy kind of place where you solve puzzles for drinks. It was really good fun and he was the most gentlemanly man I have ever been on a date with.

“He met my mum and dad and my brother, sister and granny – from a distance, of course. My mum and dad really like him.

“The estate is closed, and a lot of people are furloughed, but there was still quite a lot that needed doing, so he went out and worked just to pass the time. It earned him quite a lot of Brownie points.”

So is she ready to settle down? “I’ve never been someone who plans too far ahead,” says the animal welfare campaigner who bases herself in London when she is working. But she admits she does fancy a rural nest of her own that she could retreat to when she’s not filming. She smiles: “I’d want to be getting back to the countryside, and having more dogs. I’d like to have that in my life one day.”

And what about children? “I’m not saying I won’t, I’m just not sure,” she admits. “I really love travelling. Even if I do get that country life I want, I still want to travel and work a lot. I am not 100% on having kids, but I am 100% on having lots of dogs and probably a rescue donkey as well – basically anything that needs a home.”

Nothing will get in the way of Danni’s devotion, as the most recent A Place In The Sun filming proved.

“We were driving in the mountains of Spain when I saw this little thing at the side of the road,” she explains. “It was a puppy, she was half-dead.”

Danni took the bundle of blonde fluff she named Sandy back to her hotel room and nursed her. “We found this lovely animal charity and a nice couple to adopt her.”

The puppy is now thriving, thanks to Danni who has her own Jack Russell, Kinky, aged six.

The presenter joined the property show that finds dream homes in the sun for UK buyers almost four years ago and is now a household name. However, the coronavirus crisis meant filming had to be put on hold in mid-March.

“I was lucky, I did a load of filming at the beginning of the year,” says Danni. “There is a bit to finish which we are hoping to get back to in July.”

Producers aim to film in Spain, France, Portugal and Greece once travel restrictions are lifted and it is safe, but say they will be following industry guidelines.

Danni, who since the easing of restrictions south of the border has returned to her London base, adds: “Lockdown in Kenmore is heaven. You can get out up the hill with the dog, or go out and get granny’s shopping. The shops at home are still kind of open although they are operating differently. It was a bit weird coming back to London and seeing everything closed.”

She misses her furry friends who have always been her passion and her comfort – never more so than when she lived in fear of bullies.

She reveals: “I got bullied quite badly at school. It started as soon as I went to high school, with one girl in particular who was three or four years older. She used to wait in the corridors with her friends and kick me until I was on the floor. They threw me down the stairs a few times.

“After school she would be in her boyfriend’s car chasing me and shouting she was going to kill me. Sometimes I would walk to my granny’s house and would have to hide in shops. It was very scary. Eventually she left school but her younger sister was in my class. Then she and a group of her friends started. Mum and dad always said, ‘Never let them see you cry,’ and I never did.”

The young Danni was so miserable her parents moved her to Strathallan Independent School.

“I wouldn’t change anything that happened because it toughened me up. Those bullies did a lot for me.

“I haven’t really thought about them since or what they would think if they saw me on TV. But what I would say to anyone who is being bullied is let it drive you and show them what you can do in the future.”

Becoming a success is arguably the ultimate payback. Former model Danni, whose work takes her all over the world, has a number of projects in the pipeline.

“I have pitched a few ideas for animal rescue programmes,” she reveals. “That would be my dream – working with animals on TV.

“Most of my experience, aside from growing up in the property business, was working with animals. I started the (estate) riding school with horses that were destined for meat factories in Hungary and developed a whole business around rescuing animals.”

The self-confessed petrolhead adds: “I recently started working with Knockhill Racing Circuit in Scotland, so I’m getting better on the track. I am hoping to take part in Super Lap Scotland this year and was talking with the BBC about doing something on getting more females into car racing.”

She also has her heart set on gaining her motorbike licence.

“I have always wanted to be able to hire a motorbike and have different adventures across the world and maybe even film it; a bit like Ewan McGregor. That would be fun.”

Don’t stop dreaming, says Danni

Danni on the show with house hunter Cath Sheridan and her daughter Kate

Sunshine girl Danni Menzies has helped scores of house hunters looking for dream homes abroad.

And rather than killing the overseas property market, she thinks the coronavirus pandemic could boost it.

“I’m sure lots of house hunters have sadly had to put their searches on hold but in difficult times – especially in this climate where we’ve spent a lot of time at home. It makes people assess their lives and dream even more of how they want to live,” says Danni.

“I think that after restrictions have lifted anyone in the position of being ready to buy a property abroad whether for holiday purposes or for a permanent move will get straight back on it.

“And with everything having come to such a standstill no doubt the markets will have been affected which will really work in favour of anyone who’s ready to make that move!”

Danni has kept in touch with house hunters such as mum-of-two Cath Sheridan, who appeared on the show last month.

Cath poured her cash into transforming a tired-looking Almerian property.

“I was so excited because often people aren’t up for the challenge,” says Danni. “Cath did a great job. It now has a very chill-out Ibiza lounge style.”

A Place In The Sun, Channel 4, Mon-Fri, 3pm. New series starts August 10