Making it happen
Up until around the time of World War II and the advent of mechanisation farms required a lot of hands to do the work. On Scottish farms the single roomed building that housed the farm workers was called a bothy. Anything from six to ten men would sleep, cook and eat in one of these buildings that had an adjoining outside toilet. The men would cook from one stove. They’d make porridge for the week and put it in a drawer, cutting a slice off each morning for their breakfast.
It was the bothy at Balkello Farm that Ross and I decided to convert in 2003.
Our farm stretches to the highest point in the Sidlaw Hills where our cattle and sheep are free to roam across acres of green grass. We have Aberdeen Angus and also “Blackie Baldies” which are a cross between Aberdeen Angus and Hereford and are hardy beasts staying outside for much of the year. Our beef is quality assured Scotch Beef, known the world over as Scotland’s best-known food. Our flock of ewes lamb each year in March and April, producing quality assured Scotch Lamb. We grow high quality malting barley in the lower fields, which is used by to make Scotch whisky, and the wheat we grow is sold for making gin and biscuits. We rent fields to other farmers to grow potatoes and fresh peas. People have farmed the fertile fields of Angus for millennia including Ross’ family who have farmed in the Sidlaws for four generations. And keeping guard over us still today is the ancient Dragon Stone of the Picts located on our farm. Ask us about the legend and the ballad.
So it was here at Balkello, surrounded by fields and hills, with views to the River Tay five miles away and protected by a Pictish Dragon that we created our first Hideaway Experience, which opened to take in couples in 2005. That same year our son Finlay was born followed shortly by Sophie in 2007.
From the word go people loved what we were offering, so in 2008 we started working on the business case for two new purpose-built eco-Hideaways which opened in December 2010. Here we had the chance to realise our dream of a luxury hotel suite which we designed entirely ourselves, thinking of each detail a couple would wish for.
Caroline won a Nuffield Farming scholarship in 2012 and travelled to ten countries looking at farm tourism, known as agritourism, for sixteen weeks. This international research inspired Caroline to lead the development of agritourism in Scotland and to develop a luxury agritourism experience at the farm, so our guests can enjoy the best farm and local farm produce as part of their stay.
As we have developed a greater understanding of the needs of our guests we, began to offer single night stays to cater for couples who have very little time to escape children, work and busy lives. Our brand represents complete privacy, luxury, space and fresh air and we will never deviate from that. We have won several awards and we are the only tourism business in Scotland to have won a Thistle Tourism award (the Oscars in tourism) three years in a row, for Best Holiday Accommodation in our region. We are graded 5 star by Visit Scotland and are the highest ranked tourism business in Dundee and Angus on Trip Advisor.