Travel around Scotland and you’ll discover all manner of incredible projects that are sustaining and supporting our countryside: we’ve chosen just three … each one making a real difference to their local communities – from Royal Deeside to Stirling and across the hills into Highland Perthshire.
Seeing the wood for the trees …
When you’re next on Royal Deeside, take a turn off the main road through Banchory to discover Woodend. It used to be a small farm on the edge of the town – traditional farmhouse, steading and all … but over a quarter of a century, it has been transformed into an arts centre – The Barn – together with an artisan bakery, brewery and smokehouse, all part of Buchanan’s Bistro that opened in 2010 and has become one of the area’s most popular food & drink destinations.
The arts’ centre is a registered charity and has flourished with support from those in the community including the Leys Estate. The Barn provides “an ambitious and inclusive cultural programme, encompassing music, theatre, film, dance, comedy, talks, visual art, workshops and environmental projects“. The venue also supports artists, makers and designers to research and create artwork inspired by their location and context.
Today, the Barn Arts is one of the most successful community art centres in Scotland. It is a focus for a large number of local community and volunteer groups. It works hard to ensure that its programme is both diverse and accessible to all and their work attracts funding support from Creative Scotland as well as through fund raising initiatives and events such as private functions, weddings, comedy & music nights and seminars … all of which are important to the local economy.
On the back of The Barn’s success, community partners worked closely with the local estate to create Woodend Allotments, run by a newly formed Community Allotment Association. Celebrating a decade since their start, the allotments have grown from an initial 3 acre site in 2007 to six acres today. Between the two sites is a wild garden that was created as part of the BBC Breathing Spaces. The unique allotment project attracted Climate Challenge Fund support in 2011 and now has 120 plot holders including three community groups – making it the largest site of new allotments in Scotland. In the same year (2011), four rugby pitches were added to the site that established a new, high profile home for Deeside Rugby Club and when the going gets tough – and muddy – players can take an early bath in water heated by a a biomass energy network that support the entire complex. And they’ve not stopped there. Plans are afoot to relocate the local athletics club to the site and to turn one of the rugby pitches into an all-weather surface. Very much ‘watch this space’.
A date for your diary:
If you’re heading to Deeside in the summer, make sure your visit ties in with the Banchory Beer Festival in August. For other food & drink events at Buchanan’s, follow this link.
A great escape …
From the edge of the Cairngorms National Park … to the edge of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. When Dale McQueen had an idea to open and operate a distillery, little did he realise that – less than two years down the line – his gin would be part of a Scottish gin revolution.
Dale had the idea, but he didn’t have the premises. He approached Cambusmore Estate. They identified a disused barn near Dale’s home that would make an ideal base for the project. The estate handled the planning application, building control and structural works. Dale and his partner, Vicky, took care of the rest … the still, equipment and security bonded warehouse standards.
Construction began in 2016 – and four local tradesmen were employed in the transformation. Just over a year down the line, McQueen’s Gin’s workforce has expanded to the equivalent of 5 full time jobs, all from the distillery’s neighbourhood. The company prides itself that their gin is “produced, distilled and packaged in Callander, Scotland” and that many local outlets stock the range of six unique and premium gins – from Sweet Citrus to Smokey Chilli. Some companies simply add flavours to their gins. Not at McQueen’s. They distill all their gin in the presence of their secret mix of botanical ingredients.
On the strength of the business’ growth to date, they’re now looking to expand – including investing in a second still … three times the size of the original. Dale says: “We’ve enjoyed outstanding support from Cambusmore Estate and we look forward to many years of business expansion and further job creation.”
Cooking up a storm …
Just over an hour north from Dale & Vicky is another rural project that is winning plaudits. Errichel – near Aberfeldy in Perthshire – is the creation of husband and wife, Paul & Becky Newman – a brilliant example of how to diversify to survive and thrive in rural Scotland. They and their team have made a fabulous haven in highland Perthshire that offers guests not only excellent holiday accommodation but also a restaurant and cookery school. They’ve created rooms in the main farmhouse that has seen them extend the original property. Their plans have also seen a complete barn conversion into self-catering and the refurbishment of three cottages to create further accommodation for guests.
The accommodation is superb and – heated and lit with a biomass boiler and solar panels – has won them green credentials as well as rave reviews on Trip Advisor. In their restaurant – Thyme at Errichel – they try to use their own produce. On the farm, they have wild deer, Shetland cattle, large black pigs, goats, rare breed ducks, hens and geese. All their livestock are housed close to the holiday accommodation so that visiting families can enjoy being close to all sorts of wildlife – and that includes Highland ponies too.
They also have a wee shop where they sell their own jams, chutneys and preserves, meat boxes, home grown beef Biltong and cured salmon. Paul is a trained chef and runs the restaurant and cookery school – and also caters for private dining, special occasions, parties, weddings and outside catering … including Highland Safaris. They host events and farm tours from time to time – and support Tayfest Family Festival every October. The farm is not even 500 acres yet all their projects have helped to create work for 10 people – as well as all the knock-on benefits such a great rural business brings to an area.
Thanks for reading.
If you know of a great rural business that deserves a ‘shout out’, just let us know.