When we moved to the farm in May 2013 the cottage hadn’t been lived in for a number of years so we had to do a little bit of work prior to moving in.
We installed a wood burning stove, and a new gas combi boiler heating system, also re-plastered walls and decorated throughout. We lived in the farm cottage for 3 years and moved out in May 2016 once the renovation work was completed on the farmhouse.
We then decided to look into the possibility of turning the cottage into holiday accommodation for tourists and people visiting the area. Market research showed us that there is a lack of accommodation in the area but a need for self-catering accommodation.
In October 2016 we applied to LEADER for grant funding to help us finance the refurbishment of the cottage into holiday accommodation. We were successfully awarded 50% funding and started work on the cottage in December 2016. The work was completed by the end of April 2017 and our first visitors arrived in July 2017. We achieved an occupancy rate of 88% in our first 6 months and have never looked back.
The refurbishment involved replacing the conservatory, changing the layout of the bathroom, fitting a new bathroom suite, renewing the wooden floor in the master bedroom, renewing skirtings and internal doors, applying a damp proof course, masonry work, renewing gutters, plumbing work, landscaping, erecting a new garden fence, installation of a hot tub and summerhouse and decorating throughout.
The cottage was also fully furnished and equipped to accommodate visitors on a self-catering basis.
We have had many lovely comments from visitors who have enjoyed staying at our cottage, which has made all the work worthwhile.
In May 2013 we moved to Blairhall Mains Farm. There had been water damage to the farmhouse due to a burst water pipe earlier that year and we were not able to move into the farmhouse.
We made the decision at that time to live in the farm cottage until we decided what to do with the farmhouse.
We thought we would be in the cottage for about a year, we ended up being there for 3 years…
It took us a while to decide what to do with the farmhouse and in the end we decided to strip it right back and all that was left was the 4 main walls and the roof. By doing this it allowed us to reconfigure the house to suit our family needs.
The original house had 3 bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs.
Two of the rooms were really small and one of them had a window and a door in an awkward place and it was really difficult to position a single bed in it. Downstairs had a small room at the bottom of the stairs that could be used as an office or spare bedroom.
There was also a living room and good lounge. There was a small extension to the rear of the house where the kitchen was and a toilet at the back door. The house was dated and needed rewiring throughout. The original staircase in the house was very steep and it was only after my Mum suggested that we take the stairs out, that allowed us to completely reconfigure the house and make better use of the space.
Prior to that decision we had been struggling to come up with a design that worked.
The exterior of the house was covered in brown roughcast which had become boss in many sections. We had to remove this and by doing this we discovered that underneath there was beautiful sandstone. Luckily it was all intact so we decided to point the sandstone with lime mortar as it would have been a shame to cover it up again and not keep this traditional feature.
We also uncovered the date the house was built, 1863.
We replaced all the windows with traditional sash and case windows and painted them a historical green colour which looks good against the sandstone. The front of the house was quite plain and lacked a feature around the front door, so we decided to add an oak framed porch which now gives the house a bit more character and it looks as though it’s always been there.
By stripping the house right back and starting again, it allowed us to rewire the whole house, fully insulate it and put new water pipes throughout.
The house is now heated by the biomass system we installed, which works well and the house is always nice and warm.
The old extension to the rear of the house was taken down and replaced by a new oak frame extension on a larger scale.
The extension is to the rear of the farmhouse and now joins onto the old courtyard steading, which means we can access the farmhouse better from the steading when working on the farm.
The new extension has glass gables on each end. We also put two new windows in each gable end of the farmhouse on the ground floor and a Velux roof light in the stairwell.
This has brought as much natural light as possible into the house and made a huge difference as many of the original rooms on the ground floor only had one window and the rooms were quite dark.
We now have 3 large bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. A large kitchen with a larder, utility room, snug, living room and bathroom downstairs. We are really happy with the new layout and feel we have made the best use of the space. The house feels homely and we feel we have achieved what we set out to do.
The garden is the next project…
In the spring of 2015 we installed two 96kW Angus Super gasification log boilers, which supply heat to two 5000L Akva accumulator tanks. This allows us to produce enough heat to heat a workshop, storeroom, farm office, chemical store as well as the farmhouse. The Eco Angus range of boilers have great track record, are very efficient and robust. They have a minimal ash output and are therefore easy to clean and maintain. Overall they require very little maintenance and are very reliable. We burn softwood in the boilers, which is bought in as a raw material and processed on the farm into logs approximately 50cm in length. We have a contractor who comes in to process the wood for us, which is much more cost effective and time saving than us trying to do it ourselves. They are able to process 50 tonnes in approximately 15 hours. It was estimated at the outset that we would use in the region of 95 tonnes of wood per year, we are using more than that. Ideally the moisture content of the wood needs to be between 15-20%. The system is labour intensive but works for us, we manage between us to make sure that the wood is sourced regularly, processed and the boilers stoked. It’s a simple system, which works well.
West Fife Woodlands is a community group dedicated to the preservation, enhancement and accessibility of West Fife's woodland areas.
In the autumn of 2016 we worked in partnership with the West Fife Woodlands group and gave them access to a woodland area on our farm. The group received funding from ‘Paths for All’ (www.pathsforall.org.uk) to improve and extend the path network that the group have established over recent years. Cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers will be able to use the path and the path will contribute to the group’s long term aim of creating a network of Paths linking the communities of Blairhall and Valleyfield to the Devilla Forest. The path on our land has now been completed and gives access from Balgownie wood to the Fife Coastal Path at Culross using quiet country roads. This path will allow people better access to the other paths in the area.
The proposed network of paths will link us directly to the Devilla Forest. The forest attracts walkers, cyclists and horse riders and is a fantastic facility to encourage people to make the most of the outdoors. The Devilla is very much a family forest and has so much to offer. There are many different routes within the forest which are easy to access and not too strenuous and includes the red squirrel trail where the children have the opportunity to explore and spot the squirrels, this route is accessible to everyone, of all abilities.
We were fortunate enough to receive 50% funding through LEADER, which is part of the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP), to help us with our farm diversification project of renovating the existing farm cottage to provide holiday accommodation for tourists and people visiting the area.
The help and support we received from the team at LEADER, as well as Business Gateway and the Royal Bank of Scotland enabled us to complete this project.
To find out more about LEADER and the support available, visit them at www.leaderinfife.org.