I cant believe we are now into our winter season. The year has flown by and we've had another fantastic year.
Went to a tourism day in Northumberland this week and heard all about the fantastic inroads they are making on Dark Sky tourism.
I don't know where all the hours go. It is almost time to change the clocks and we have our first official St Cuthberts Way walkers in on Wednesday (note to Marilyn, get baking ....cakes for the packed lunches!).
Well that is Christmas done for another year. A very quiet one for us this year but we have just come back from a holiday with 3 grandchildren!
Well seeing as I am a mere woman, an old'n as well I have recently just fixed my first toilet cistern! Replacing all the internal bits (think the originals were about 50 years old (or more)). Had a few leaks where the old plastic cistern had bent & buckled - I let him indoors help me fix those bits (and get soaking wet)!
After the 18 German Lawyers came 15 Danish Walkers,then a family party of 7..... plus homemade jams etc etc
Here they are
So much going on lately,
been a while since I've had time to update this page.
Our rating on Booking.com, Tripadvisor & The AA remain high and we've been really busy 85% occupancy in May & June!
The arrangement with our friend who is standing in for us from time to time is working well, giving us the occasional break that we need to keep us fresh and on top form for our guests.
The birds in the garden are breeding well, we have bluetits, housemartins, swallows and starlings all nesting here and a woodpecker has been on the peanuts on a regular basis.
The garden is looking pretty good, despite the weather doing its worst during the winter & spring, now that it is warm keeping on top of the weeds is proving to be a bit of a nightmare.........why don't you come and see for yourself – you are welcome to help with the gardening!
We get lots of visitors from the US, New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and of course Australia, extra special when one of those guests from Oz happens to be your hubbys best friend from infant school days, and then the following day to get a friend visit from the South Coast that we haven't seen for more than 10 years (and we met Siegfried her new husband!)
One of our neighbours he has a holiday home in the village) comes
from Germany and brings a group of lawyers over at this time of year for their
annual seminar. They arrived yesterday.... so with a houseful of Germans we are
practicing our language skills at the moment - Ja!
On Sunday we held their opening function, a buffet and networking evening (for 18 of them). The food was as Scottish as poss - smoked salmon, haggis, whisky sauce, wild salmon, cranachan, scottish strawberries, and everything, even the salads, were homemade. The evening went really well, so maybe this will become an annual event here (along with St Andrews Day dinner for the Yetholm Whisky Appreciation Society)
We'll post something
about this again later in the autumn, but for anyone who likes to plan ahead,
we have just set up an offer with Living Social for 2 and 3 night breaks in the
self catering annexe. From mid October through to the end of March - 2 nights
will be £80 and 3 nights £115. There will be some goodies waiting for you when
you arrive - including a bottle of wine.
The offer applies 7 nights a week, but there will be a supplement of £20 to pay for Fri & Sat nights, and a £35 supplement for each of the 3 nights over Christmas. (New Year is already booked).
We are in great walking country and close to the Northumberland Coast which is stunning at anytime of year.
Once the offer goes live (if last year is anything to go by) the phone doesn't stop ringing and we get booked up very quickly. So if you would like a ( late autumn/winter/early spring) break at a bargain price don't delay....call today!!!
Next Saturday the new End to End walk (Kirk Yetholm to Cape Wrath) is being promoted in the village. Cameron McNeish is unveiling a plaque showing the start of the walk
For the second year running we have been the base for the organisers at the end of The Spine race.
We must be doing something right - we currently have 5 stars on Tripadvisor and 9.2 (out of 10) on Booking.com!
Below is an extract written on the day of the launch of the trail in Oct 2012
"A new long distance route running the length of Scotland was launched today. The unofficial route, which has been devised by outdoors writer Cameron McNeish and uses existing long distance trails and established walking routes, links Kirk Yetholm just north of the border and Cape Wrath in the far north west Highlands.
The 470 mile Scottish National Trail will be marked by plaques at the start and finish and where it utilises other long distance walks, such as St Cuthbert’s Way, the Forth and Clyde and Union Canals and the Rob Roy Way there is some waymarking for those routes, but other sections such as the northern stretch to Cape Wrath make for a more a serious and challenging backpack. The launch, which is being supported by Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, took place at the Water of Leith where another plaque has been placed at the Visitor Centre.
A BBC Scotland programme featuring the route is due to be screened on TV around Christmas time, and Cameron McNeish has just published a book to co-incide with the launch.
Paul Webster from Walkhighlands commented “This is a superb route with great variety, taking in everything from the Water of Leith Walkway through the city of Edinburgh to some of the wildest country in the Highlands in the far northwest. Cameron’s route demonstrates convincingly just why Scotland is one of the best places in the world to take a walk. Hopefully his route and book will not only inspire others’ to follow in his footsteps, but also to encourage walkers’ to think up their own epic challenges making best use of both Scotland’s historic paths and modern trails.”
The new route adds to the wealth of long distance walking routes now available in Scotland. Ranging from unofficial challenging backpacks like the Cape Wrath Trail and the Skye Trail, to well established and very popular routes such as the West Highland Way and the Speyside Way, there are also lesser kmown trails including the Cateran Trail in Highland Perthshire and the Three Lochs Way. Many of these can also be linked together to form epic routes criss-crossing the country in a similar way to the South to North challenge of the Scottish National Trail and there are also many opportunities for day walks or shorter trips taking in part of these trails. Check out Long Distance Walks in Scotland on Walkhighlands."
................for all you twitchers out there....................most recent visitors to the bird table a woodpecker and a nuthatch. The woodpecker used to be a fairly regular visitor, but I feared the bad weather had killed him off as it was the first sighting in about 3 years. The nuthatch (like the tree creeper earlier in the year) caused great excitement. Only ever once before seen one, now we have had one on our bird feeding tree everyday for over a week
We've had 4 lady walkers staying for the week completing St Cuthberts Way, I asked them today who had a direct line to the man upstairs that organises the weather - it has been fabulous the whole time they have been with us, I think they have had one 5 min shower in a week, but glorious sunshine and no wind at all
Fabulous weather here in the Scottish
Borders, perfect for a short break whether you are a walker, fisherman,
into shooting or someone who just likes to drive around looking at the
Don't forget our accommodation when looking for short break special offers - 3 nights for the price of 2 and 20% off a 2 night stay
Can't believe how determined our recent guests have been. Pennine Way walkers that have fallen in bogs, called out mountain rescue teams but have still completed the walk, Pennine Way walkers completing the walk , often 22 days of awful weather with water up over their boots for days on end, St Cuthberts Way walkers that have completed the walk, all be it out of sequence to make the most of the better (less rainy days) on the hilly sections. Quotes:- Paths turned to streams, streams turned to rivers and lakes appeared where there were none before.When will this awful weather improve!
Wanted to tell you about this really nice group of people that stayed with us. We had our grandson staying and he got on well with them , and when they left, one of the ladies staying left him a little present. I was almost blubbing at the lovely gesture and Robert (aged 6) said - isn't that kind!
Very Scandinavian here this week - full of Norwegians on Sunday and Danish Ladies on Monday - all walking St Cuthberts Way!
We have just received a certificate of excellence from Tripadvisor for consistent top ratings from travellers, that goes with our 9.1 out of 10 on Booking.com and 100% recommendation on Laterooms. I think we'll celebrate....10mins for a cup of tea!
My name is ROMEO and my friends Marilyn & Jon have decided to try and raise funds through the Farmhouse B & B for the Margaret Kerr Unit at The Borders General Hospital
Please donate what you can afford or ask them to add a pound onto your bill. Complete a card with your name and phone number and at the end of the season Marilyn & Jon will draw a name and if it happens to be yours, shortly after I will come and live with you!
I’m lovely & cuddly and don’t cost much to look after, I’d be happy to be donated to another good cause or to go and live with your children or grandchildren.
Please be generous!
For some reason on Saturday my left knee decided to swell up and become
incredibly painful, making walking and standing very difficult, after
spending most of the evening "leg up" on the sofa I retired early to bed
(hobbling up the stairs is the best way to describe my movement),
Sunday morning not a lot better, so poor Jon had to do breakfast on his
own for a houseful of guests. I tried driving round the village and
found that was possible, so was able to do my bit in taking our guests
to Berwick before driving myself to the hospital.
5 hours, 2 lots of bloodtests and a set of xrays later they have no idea what is wrong. So with instructions of "Don't do too much" I returned home. What a good excuse to take it easy around the B & B!
Some recent extracts from our visitors book - "Wonderful time, nothing was too much trouble", "wonderful welcome and very comfy stay", "Thank you very much, wonderful house and wonderful people", "Excellent, a real find, we will definitely return", "Excellent food, spotlessly clean rooms", "Great breakfast, very welcoming, nice & clean - loved the dogs!", "Lovely B & B - just our sort of place - straight to the top of our list!"
Have you used the hostel in the past, is its closure affecting your walking plans, why do you like hostels rather than B & Bs or camping, were there any problems with this hostel when you stayed there? Still working to try and reopen it - so your comments would be useful
My son has a small hobby farm near Livingstone, and while en-route to see his very pregnant and about to give birth wife who is staying at the moment near Newcastle, he dropped off 3 tiny orphaned lambs to be looked after over the weekend. Can't tell you what a joy it is to hold and look after those small, young and beautiful animals.
Last Sunday should have been a quiet night, no guests
booked in even though it was Easter. (We had a booking for Easter Sat
all the rooms for just one night - so it scuppered our Easter bookings.)
Luckily we didn't take the day off, did the rooms and made sure
everything was shipshape, pretty lucky we did as at 5pm we had someone
turn up after a late booking through one of the agencies we use. Then we
had a phone call - could we take 8 Italians that had just turned up in
Kelso....well a bit of shuffling and folding beds later...and we were a
full house again! Wonder if that will happen again tomorrow?
Well I was getting ready for the RSPB birdwatching weekend - filling all the feeders and getting extra food that the birds only occasionally get as a treat (ie mealworms) and what happens, I have hardly any birds turn up all weekend, then today loads (flocks) of the little darlings all day. Last week we had a Bullfinch right outside the kitchen window on about 5 days (one time with a female) then two old friends I haven't seen for a while turned up on Friday, the yellowhammer and just one long tailed tit (there is usually a flock of about 7, maybe they aren't so desperate for the food this year). Today the siskins were around not a large flock like last year but about 5 of them, but then this afternoon great excitement....a tree creeper, never seen one before!
Didn't realise it had been so long since I had updated the blog. I'm trying to keep Facebook and Twitter updated now and the blog has taken abit of a back seat.
We have had two of the bedrooms redecorated so they are lovely and fresh now.
I'm trying to organise an upgrade of the private bathroom attached to Claret, so that it has a shower as well as a bath. We've been so busy it has been difficult finding the time to get it done, hopefully that will happen in Feb. We are also refurbishing our utility room, putting in more storage and more washing facilities...also scheduled for Feb.
We had hoped to start work on the dairy conversion which would have given us more letting rooms, but we are still waiting for the building quotes so that may have to wait til next autumn, that would also have given us the space to open some tea rooms along with access to our gardens and a woodland walk...........all now on hold.
The village is becoming desperately short of bed spaces, some of the B & Bs are either closing or cutting down the number of guests they are taking, and the Kirk Yetholm Youth Hostel has also closed. We contacted the SYHA about taking it on, but because of their charity status and the costs associated with the building they can only consider selling it rather than what we had hoped, leasing it, so another great idea hit the dust as we can't afford to buy it AND bring it up to current expected standards. The situation is obviously good for our business in the short term, but in the long term it could be really detrimental for the village as a whole - we'll just have to get the dairy conversion done as quickly as we can.
We've had a fantastic week for bookings and one of our regular guests (Linda Norris) recommended someone to take our St Cuthberts Walking Holiday - Linda and her husband are now getting a free stay as a Thank You.
Loads of Pennine Way walkers already booked in. Lots are staying two nights and taking advantage of our transport from and to Cocklawfoot, which allows them to break the long last leg of the walk into two manageable days rather than one long 27 mile walk.
The shooting season is now in full swing and we currently have a party of Belgians here spending 2 days with Kirk Yetholm Shoot.
They can't speak highly enough about their experience, and are already planning next years trip.
Apparently it is excellent with the birds flying high, making the shooting a challenge.
If anyone is interested I can put you in touch with the organiser.
Kelso races on Saturday (Nov 5th) - do you need accommodation?
Haven't yet updated the site for next year yet, but am aware that the walkers among you will be starting to plan and organise your walking trip.
St Cuthberts Way - Stay here for as much of your walking holiday as you wish and we will work out a package to suit. The package on the website covers the whole expedition from a pickup and drop off at Berwick (if necessary) and the taking you to the start and end of your walk each day. Packed luches are included and a meal on the first night - but everything is negotiable.
Pennine Way package - covering the last two days - we'll pick you up at Cocklawfoot, provide a meal that night and a packed lunch the next day, before returning you to Cocklawfoot the next day. 2 nights accommodation included.
So what is stopping you?
Well today the clocks went back and now, at the end of a hectic but fantastic year, the numbers of our visitors are starting to drop off a little, which hopefully will give me the time to update our website and get to grips with Social Media.
As many of our guests know we have been on Facebook for a while, and I have recently started "twittering".
Apparently the way forward is to work with social media and much of our business in the future should come from "Word of Mouth" recommendations - that would be great as it means that we wouldn't have to pay as much commission to Laterooms & Booking.com, and that in turn would mean that we can keep our prices competitive.
So do follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
We intend to have a few days each month (between now and Christmas) visiting friends and family and with luck finding somewhere warm to relax. We started last week by taking the grandhildren to Fife, we were really lucky with the weather and had a brilliant time with the children.
Jon had to come back early to look after previously booked guests and today we have a shooting party booking in.
During our next break when we are visiting friends in Cornwall, we will be getting the two bedrooms in the Cottage Annexe decorated, after 3 years they are starting to show evidence of use.
We are currently investigating the cost involved in partially renovating the dairy - any of you would be investors we'd be glad to hear from you (seriously). If we do go ahead we will be opening up at least one more room in the house and possibly even opening a tea room.
The chickens have been a great success, not only have children loved getting close to them, but they are now supplying all our egg needs. They are so much fun and are VERY tame as we have handled them constantly since they arrived as very young hens. One is constantly managing to escape and then trots around the garden as if she owns the place. She is the only one to have acquired a name - Jon called her Dorothy - perhaps she reminds him of Dot Cotton.
At the moment we are looking into our pricing for next year, we are hoping to keep everything much the same, a couple of our transport links need to increase in price but other than that we hope to keep things the same.
However, we have alreay decided to put in place some special offers for November :- 3 nights for price of 2, and a 20% discount for a 2 night stay.
Hope to see you soon
.....our most recent review on Laterooms........
...........just had our first booking for the winter shooting season and also our first 2012 booking
............look out of the back door and see the hens strutting around in the dairy courtyard...................look out the kitchen window and see the YELLOWHAMMER.................look at the birdboxes and the bluetits are nesting..............the old dairy walls house at least 2 great tit nests....................a robin nesting in the cartshed..............and the swallows are nest building again!
Our first group taking advantage of our walking package completed St Cuthberts Way last week.
They had fantastic weather and really enjoyed being able to stay in one location and not keep packing and unpacking each day.
The only real problem that we encountered was that our "new car" was playing up and finally died on Thursday on the way to Wooler. Luckily, even though we were in an area where ALL the mobiles were out of signal, we broke down near to some houses, so a quick dash and a grovelling Marilyn later and I phoned Jon who rushed over with another car, so the group were only delayed by about 30 mins max.
Thank you so much the kind man in Kirknewton who helped us with unlimited use of his phone.
Elsbeth who was the group leader has also offered to be a guide for other groups wishing to take on St Cuthberts Way, but are not confident enough to do the walk on their own.
This group was made up of a group of Swiss, American and British. Our next group is a couple from Australia.
Your break can be tailored to your own requirements and doesn't have to cover the whole of St Cuthberts Way. Our third group in May are just using us for 3 nights in the middle of their walk.
Friends have recently started building a smallholding on their property Colemanstone , in Gordon. Have just bought a few of their first batch of sausages to try. The guest that tried them said they were fantastic, tasted just like he remembers sausages tasting when he was a child.
We have spent rather a lot of money on the B & B this week. New headboards for Poppy, quilt and bed runners for Lavender and Thistle, matress covers for the twin beds, a new sign to put outside, a new table for the dining room which removes the necessity for two tables and still gives everyone lots of space without overcrowding the room, AND a new (but secondhand) 7 seater car to transport our walkers around.
Bookings are still going well, we are getting close to 50% of the bookings we had last season already and we are only just into March.
Don't leave it too long before you book your short break
Never enough time in the day, the week, the month etc etc......... We try to have a few weeks in Dec & Jan to recharge the batteries and get a few jobs done around the house in readiness for the new season. This year the weeks disappeared and we have only got a fraction of our jobs done...........why?.........eldest son and wife has produced 5th grandchild plus lots of illness prior to and after the birth which meant that grandma has spent a fair bit of time back and forth to Edinburgh, or having grandchildren at home (not that she minds one little bit). James (8), Abigail (7), Robert (5), and Katherine (3) now have a baby brother George.
We have managed to replace the shower screens in two of the bathrooms, the new innovative ones that we got at the ideal home were NOT as good as they were supposed to be and were a nightmare to try and keep clean. Thistle and it's ensuite have both been spruced up, new headboards ordered for Poppy, and we are hoping a major revamp in Claret before the bookings really take off in April. We found a company that cleaned carpets with an organic process that leaves them dry after their clean so have had virtually the whole house done.
Mr & Mrs Nelson from Edinburgh have been the first of our regular guests to claim their loyalty bonus break. In the 22 months we have been open they have stayed with us 5 times and will be staying free of charge when they stay for the 6th time on Wednesday.
This week must be National Moving week - we have had 3 couples staying with us while they moved house, looked for a house or helped someone else move.
We have started looking towards the new season and had our first "Big Food Shop" last week, we need to get ourselves organised as we are away on our first cruise in 2 weeks time (any potential burgulars, don't get excited we have house and pet sitters staying here), are back just 4 days and then April arrives and with it a minimum of 50% occupancy.
Our St Cuthberts Walking package holidays have been popular this year. We already have several week long bookings. For those that are unaware, we offer accommodation for the length of your walking trip and take you to the start of your walk each day and pick you up in the evening. Packed lunches and some meals are included. You have the benefit of not having to pack and unpack each day, you can take advantage of the hot tub at the end of each days walk, and perhaps even book a massage on a couple of days.
Talking of the hot tub, we cleaned it out before we went away in November, intending to refill it on our return. However the day before our return the snow fell, the temp dropped and we weren't in a position to refill it until Jan. (We couldn't find the housepipe under 3 feet of snow). However what little water that was left in the pipes inside the hot tub froze and has caused some problems which we are still trying to fix. Poor Jon hasn't been able to have his daily soak for 4 months now. Still hopefully not for too much longer - the plumber is now on the case, as we have given up trying to resolve the problems with the supplier via phone and internet.
Well thats the news for now, except for the little detail of the new Ice cream maker - ice cream in 30 minutes! It must be good the grandchildren thought my chocolate ice cream was better than anything from the shops! Watch out for ice cream and sorbets on our evening menus!
I couldn't believe that it was 6 months since I've written on the Blog. We were so busy this year (not that we are complaining) that the Blog and emails had to take a back seat.
We also had to fit in Jon's son's wedding at the end of September, so by the time the daily number of guests slowed down a bit we were more than ready for our holiday.
We wanted somewhere warm and went to Tenerife for 2 weeks, just as well because the day before we were due to fly back (Nov 25th) the snow arrived here and it is yet to go. 6 weeks later we still have huge piles of compressed snow and ice from where it has fallen off the roof and from the constant digging of paths and parking spaces for our guests.
We are now in maintenance mode and trying to get the rooms in the house refreshed. Thistle has been done and we are hoping to take out the old cupboards in Claret and replace them with modern furniture, but we have to find someone to make some coving to match the 19th century coving that was cut away when the rooms were modified many years ago.
Before we went on holiday we drained the hot tub to give it a good clean, but have yet to refill it, (Jon is having withdrawal symptoms) because we have lost the hose pipes under the snow!
We never did get our hens last year, perhaps a job for the spring.
I have just updated the website with all the prices for 2011, including the St Cuthberts package, Pennine Way offer and our "special" for Valentines Weekend - do have a look.
If you are part of a walking group don't forget we will quote you a special price for groups over several nights and are happy to provide meals for the whole walking group even if some are staying elsewhere.
Well I have just had my four fantastic grandchildren staying for a few days - the house seems very quiet without them - they are soon to be joined by a new baby brother or sister, so if I'm a bit distracted at the end of Jan that will be the reason why.
Happy New Year to everyone
PS we have a Facebook page - check us out!
We've had a succession of very contented and happy guests this week. First a group of 6 who were walking or supporting two of the group that were finishing the Pennine Way. One of the walkers also celebrated his 60th while with us, and the whole group celebrated with a 4 course meal that we prepared for them. They supplied their own drinks and had a super evening, inviting us to join them once we had served the last course.
Another couple on their way back to Lossiemouth after a holiday booked on laterooms and were thrilled with everything here, the location, the scenery and the accommodation.
And finally a lone Pennine Way walker that took us up on our Pennine Way package. He left saying we were one of the best B & B's he's ever stayed in, and certainly the best on this trip. He even bought Jon a bottle of port as a birthday pressie.
We certainly don't have the biggest of rooms, but what our guests seem to like is the fact that they are made to feel at home, and we try hard to live up to our motto of "nothing is too much trouble.............something special? just ask"
It's been a while since I have updated the blog. We have been very busy (thank you to all our guests), and I think I've ended up a bit brain dead of late...........maybe it was reaching that awful age that I celebrated 6 weeks ago.
We have a few gaps in July and August, so if you are still undecided there are a couple of short breaks available for self catering and then a reasonable spread of B & B dates.
We've had quite a few takers for our St Cuthberts Way Walking Break package, some have taken it for just the middle section and others for the whole walk.
The first two guests to take up the St Cuthberts Way package complete their holiday tomorrow. Everything has gone really well, and they have enjoyed the walking knowing that they don't need to move on the next day. We gave them a booklet with details of some of the history of the area (towns, monuments and places), and gave them a meal on their first night (our meals are always 3 courses with wine and coffee). Each day we have taken them to the start of their walk or where they finished the night before, via local sights and towns so that they have seen something of the area. At the end of the day, we pick them up and bring them home. The two ladies have also taken advantage of our spa treatments, and yesterday spent the evening so chilled out, I wondered if they would be able to rouse themselves for the final leg to Holy Island today.
.......and then today we have had a booking for 4 more guests to take the package in August.
Other guests have taken a part package and have used us for the section between Morebattle and Fenwick, others between Harestanes and Hethpool. We can work out something to suit most guests........as long as we have the rooms in the first place!
We had a walking group from the Wirral staying over the weekend. It was quite nice to have everyone knowing each other meal times were buzzing and they seemed to enjoy themselves. Several of the group were finishing off the Pennine Way and other were undertaking shorter walks around the area. On Sunday evening we held a formal sit down meal for 11, quite an undertaking with three choices for each course, but it went well, especially considering the shelves on the door of the fridge broke just as we were serving the starters,which resulted in 4 pints of both milk and orange juice forming a large lake on the kitchen floor.
Well come and stay with us! It has been great to see our guests so chilled out and laid back. Many are now using the hot tub and they come prepared with plastic wine glasses and a bottle of wine and just chill out.
We are also having more enquiries about the treatments - three lady walkers have just booked the "Total Timeout for Ladies", they are staying with us while doing St Cuthberts Way and as the day they arrive is a short walking day - they are using their time in the best way they know how!.
Congratulations to Andi and Kathy who celebrated their anniversary last weekend.
We've had some super compliments about our evening meals lately - "Excellent" and "As good as anything we've had in any of the local restaurants".
We are currently working on discounts for long stay Bed & Breakfast guests. We hope to be able to apply a discount to any stay over 4 nights. We will similarly formalise discounts for group bookings... still working out the finances!
It always lifts my mood when I see the swallows and today I saw a couple in the advanced party checking out the old outbuildings for their nest sites again. Please don't let the weather turn again...just let them have a fighting chance to reproduce and get back to their old numbers.
All the birds are starting to build nests now and it looks like we will have some bluetits in the new nesting box that we have put up just outside the dining room window - will be great to watch them progress each day. We put up about 6 nesting boxes and 4 roosting pockets last autumn, so we are hoping that there will be more than just the one new family to watch.
The volcano eruption has spoilt many a holiday, and lots of people seem to be going to Scotland. We have already had a couple that should have been in Crete and another that was heading for Nice.
Our first guests have gone on the private tour of Thirlestane Castle that I can arrange with the castle administrator. The castle doesn't open til May, so this really is a special.
We received a fantastic thank you letter from one of our guests yesterday. They stayed just one night at the end of March, but as well as themselves we also provided an evening meal for the rest of their family that were camping while doing St Cuthberts Way, it is great that they took the time to show their appreciation.
We've had our first photography activity break and our guests went away very happy.
We have also had our first booking for the St Cuthnert's Way Walking Holiday, the lady booking it is very excited about what we are offering - a change from the traditional walking holiday which necessitates moving on each day to a new B & B or guest house.
We have already got a couple of bookings for our Pennine Way package - so things are looking good for 2010.
We laid on a special meal for a walking group on Tuesday, and we have more of those planned in May.
Back from Sunny Spain to lovely sunny Scotland. Finally snow free, but soooooo windy today.
So today is what we really consider the start of our second season, we have been saying once we get back from holiday we'll do this and that, so now we have got to get going. Sort out the chicken run, order the hens, insulate the summer house for our treatment room, start in the veggie garden.
We have a lovely apartment where we are staying, and although they have had terrible weather in this part of Spain for the last couple of months, the sun has shone most of the time and it has been just like a spring day back in the uk.................................................but......................the Tv blew up on our first day, a heater blew up two days ago and last night the water tank leaked into our wardrobe! The only thing that hasn't gone wrong (so far) is the internet connection - so at least we can check the bookings etc each day.
Currently in Mijas in Spain on hols. Didn't realise how much we needed a break - haven't woken up before 10.30 each day. Still will e ready for the new season when we get back.
Have finally got all the details of the treatments etc on the website. It will be a while before the treatment room is ready, but we can use a room in the house instead.
There will be something for everyone no matter your age or sex- walkers/massages, girly weekends / waxing& tanning, relaxation breaks...the works!
Still have to sort out the relaxation breaks - have sources for group hypnotherapy, visualisation, reiki, crystals, therapies and reflexology
Well our Valentine Weekend Special went really well. It was the first time we had tried a package option and I think it worked well. The treatments were a huge success, and Tracey our beauty therapist now comes well recommended by our own guests. We had a Bucks Fizz breakfast included in the package, but our guests also asked for dinner on the Saturday night. Even I was pleased with the way it went, the table looked good and the food went without a hitch - their comment - "it's so good to go out to dinner in your stockinged feet and not have to drive home".
We are having trouble getting our treatment room ready. The weather has tied up all the local tradesmen so they are behind with their work, and we have had to have our back porch reroofed - it started leaking so badly that we had to have a dustbin in the porch catching the drips that often turned into a cascade. The weight of the snow had made things worse and we were told we were lucky the roof hadn't caved in! Lucky that it isn't an entrance we use for guests. So our work is behind and we are in a bit of chaos in the "working" part of the house....but we just keep smiling!
Until the treatment room is ready we'll use a room in the house...just have to get the prices and treatments listed on the website!
It's been a while since I've updated the blog.
Jon & I have had a couple of trips away - we went to Brugges for a couple of days in December, then went south to stay with family over Christmas and have just had a Centre Parcs break with our two youngest grandchildren. Just a couple of days in London to see Oliver with the elder two before we have our holiday in Spain in March and then we'll be back to work full time.
We decided to close up to the online agencies and only take a few bookings during Dec & Jan. Our guests around Christmas and New Year all turned up (more than they did at one of our local pubs - who lost all their business once the snow started). We had a lot of snow, it was nearly 5 weeks before we saw the grass in the fields again. The amount of snow on the roof and the length of icicles was unbelievable. The snow pulled one of the soil pipes off of the wall, pulled gutters off and we lost a few slates, but not as bad as alot of the local farmers that had stores completely collapse under the weight of it. I've put a few pictures on the site so you can see how lovely it looked. I think we spent as much money on wild bird food as we did on dog food during January!
Our bookings for 2010 are going well - May especially is about half full already. We have a few groups coming - for various reasons (Jim Clark rally, walkers and families). A walking club is staying mainly with us and those that are hoping to finish the Pennine Way we have offered to drive to their start and finish points each day, plus we are doing a meal on one evening for the whole group, including those not staying with us.
Our Pennine Way and St Cuthbert's Way offers are being picked up , and we are have 2 couples (so far) staying for our special Valentines Day break (Wine in the room, Bucks Fizz breakfast, Spa treatments) and they want a special meal as well.
So far we haven't got off the ground with the photography and birdwatching, but it is early days yet - we had an enquiry today.
The Spa/Beauty treatments will definitely be available from April - just waiting for the joiner to insulate the summerhouse which will be our treatment room. Have just bought the massage table. Also ordered the towelling robes today for use by guests when having treatments or using the hot tub.
We are really going to town on our home produce this year - loads of seeds already ordered.
Oh and our best bit of news - we'll be shutting the B&B the last weekend in September - Jon's son is getting married!
Photography and Birdwatching short breaks have now been arranged for the spring, with a Relaxation break in the planning process. I also intend to advertise a Valentine Weekend Special - pampering treats, wine and a late checkout.
Hope to get the newletter out within a couple of weeks.... in time for Christmas ....Boxing Day being the time when people start thinking about holidays
Not only will you be able to laze in the hot tub when you visit from now on, but from Easter next year we are hoping to offer health & beauty treatments for men and women. One of the local therapists (who has worked at Stobo castle & the Roxburghe Hotel, and now has her own salon) is willing to come and treat everyone to a wee bit of luxury and pampering. We are currently finalising arrangements, and Jon & I need to prepare a room for this, but from April (latest) you will be able to have a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure, eyelash tinting, tanning, reiki, hopi ear candles and much much more. I'm also going to be looking for someone with reflexology skills, that can also be available for pre-booked treatments.
So all you walkers and those just wanting pampering ....The Farmhouse is the place to come.
The new beds are now in place and what a difference they make, both in comfort and to the look of the rooms.
I'm also putting together a calendar of all the events that have been confirmed in and around the area.
We always try and go to the Melrose Book Festival, and last week there was a spin off from it (a new book festival at Lennoxlove, nr Haddington) it was excellent. Anyone who has just a passing interest in books do try the Melrose one in June. We have seen Michael Palin, Gervaise Phinn, Sheila Handcock, Germaine Greer, Bill Patterson, Jackie Kay, Martine McCutcheon, Hardip Singh and Kate Adie.
Just a few more bookings and then Jon and I are having a break for a couple of months. Watch out for your newsletter if you have stayed with us before - it will tell you all about these changes.
........just seen the woodpecker again!
Only another couple of weeks and we will be shutting the door for a few weeks to give us time to touch up the paint work and get ready for 2010. We are over the moon with our trading in 2009. We have 100% recommendation on laterooms, several of our guests have already been back more than once, and we are looking at ways we can improve for next year.
We are going to replace the two double beds (ordered today) in Thistle and Lavender, and have already replaced most of our pillows -although they were mostly new this year they were of a very poor quality and the new M & S ones I have just bought are a huge improvement. One of the duvets is also going to be replaced - again it was a new one - I shouldn't have been seduced by the bargain!
I am trying to re-arrange the Thistle room to give a little more space, I don't have many options, as I am limited by doors & windows, but I don't give in easily!
We are going to change our breakfast menu - providing other options such as bacon butties, sausage sandwiches and reminding people of the kedgeree and kippers we can serve but need a little notice for. We may also provide snacks as well as evening meals. We are already offering hot homemade soups during the day - just the thing for those walkers that come in from their walks in November - feeling great, but cold and hungry.
We have three bird feeding spots in the garden. One (and our favourite) is outside the front door and can easily seen from the kitchen. We see loads of different birds the normal blue & great tits, coal tits and long tailed tits, siskins, sparrows, chaffinches, robins, blackbirds, dunnocks (I think), green finches, gold finches, rooks, jackdaws, ring necked doves, the odd pheasant, very occasionally a yellow hammer and today a great spotted woodpecker. We have seen them a couple of times before but at least a couple of years ago, so today was quite a thrill, almost as good as the day I looked out and saw a barn owl on the bird table.
Well tonight was calm and not too cold, so I took my first dip in the hot tub since it's commissioning. At 100F the fact that it is November was irrelevant as we sat, glass of wine in hand, under the stars, in the steamimg water as the clock in the Kirk chimed midnight. Who would have thought it!
What a fabulous day we had on Saturday. My friend who is the administrator at Thirlestane invited us (Jon & I and our friends from London, Ireland & Australia) to see the hunt leaving the castle and then gave them a private tour of the castle - they didn't stop talking about it all weekend. Thirlestane is such a lovely place.
The hot tub arrived and after a lot of cutting down of tree branches and shrubs it is finally in place.
Things didn't start too well when the driver of the lorry that delivered it, said the tail lift on the lorry (a huge beast) wasn't big enough to get the tub off and onto the ground. I had already arranged for one of the local farmers to lend me 2 of his men and a fork lift to lift it over our drystone wall and into the garden.....but they were out moving cattle at the time!. So we had to have the tub delivered to the garage, in the other village as they could offload it with their fork lift, then once the cattle were moved, the hot tub was back on the move from Town Yetholm to Kirk Yetholm on the farmers fork lift.
Then we had to get it into the garden - quite a task in itself - one large branch off the eucalyptus tree, an espalier apple is now a stump about 12inches high, and many of the other shrubs are a shadow of their former selves....but it is in!
The electrician has done most of the wiring and will connect it up on Friday and all that is left for us to do is interpret the instructions which were obviously originally written in Chinese and have been literally translated.
Roll on the weekend, hopefully a lovely relaxing treat is in store!
We have a guest staying this week that was interested in doing some trout fishing - I put them on to Forrest of Kelso and also Ron at Tweedguide, but they did some more research on the net and came up with a Trout Fishery over at Chatton. He spent the day there today and not only did he catch two fish one of which weighed 5lb (I think) - he gave the big one to us - what a star! cos not only did he gererously give it away, but he gutted it and prepared it for us as well. It has now gone into the freezer for our dinner on Thursday when we have friends arriving from London, Ireland and Australia (no paying guests for much of the latter half of the week!...too much catching up with old friends to do).
I have spent the last few weeks making more jam, drinks and soups that are all in store to get us through the winter and where the jam is concerned probably through next season.
The fruit has been so good this year even the wild and ornamental trees have produced fruit - we had pounds of plums off of trees that (in some cases) I knew were relatives to the fruiting plum tree, one tree at the bottom of the garden which must have been in place for decades suddenly produced the most beautiful and sweet golden plums - a really rich gold - not the yellows that you see in the shops. We have had pounds of crab apples, blackcurrants, damsons, gooseberries and raspberries plus loads of wild fruit such as elderberries, sloes, the berries from hawthorn trees, and rowanberries. I missed the blackberries and rosehips. So we have plum, rasberry, apple, elderberry & apple, raspberry & apple, cherry, gooseberry and damson jams plus the most delicious apple butter made for the first time this year. It is an American recipe and is full of spices (lots of cinnamon and the like), put it on hot toast or crumpets and it is like eating Christmas. We then have lots of fruit in the freezer for pies and deserts next year. Then of course there is the chutney made from all the odd bits and pieces.Any thing else like the sloes, raspberries and plums have been put to good use making sloe gin, and plum and raspberry vodka liqueurs. I have yet to make the blackcurrant version.
We have put into store a couple of sacks of potatoes and onions and there are more onions to pickle. The vegetables were a bit of a disappointment this year, but we were so late planting out it isn't really too surprising. Still I have made loads of soup to see us and our guests through the winter. (The curried carrot and apple sounds weird but that was really good for lunch today).
We've decided to take self sufficiency a bit more seriously and are intending to rear hens next year to enable us to have our own organic eggs. I went back onto ebay (should have stayed clear of it after my hot tub purchase...we'll have no profit left!) and bought the henhouse on Monday.
So now we are working hard with Peter the gardener to get the garden ready for the hot tub and the chickens. We had one of the farm workers round today with his huge forklift truck working out how to lift the hot tub in (over a 4 ft wall and across the garden) when it arrives next week....that should be fun, apparently it weighs nearly half a ton. Just got to get the electrician here to do the work so that we can heat the water up.
We're shutting the guest house for a few days over the next couple of weeks I'm taking the grandchildren to the Lake District for a couple of days, then friends arrive from London, Australia and Ireland (using up all of our rooms), and finally a couple of days in Harrogate at a spa hotel with a friend (Jon's running the B & B while I'm away). He's just had a couple of days with his daughter in Aberdeen and will be going to Kent to see his son at the end of November. It's quite strange how different life with a B & B has become. No more setting off for nice breaks in the summer!
I managed to win a Hot Tub on ebay last night, I had been after several, but finally won one. It is a large 6/7 seater that we will be putting in a sheltered spot in the garden, so that it will be useable all year round. So all you guests visiting in 2010 (and maybe even from Nov 2009) bring your swimsuits with you!
Last weekend (Oct 3/4) saw the start of the Kelso Races season. We had several couples staying that were attending the races. 2 couples stayed after the races and arrived in good spirits because not only did they have a horse that they owned racing, but it also won!
Exactly one week ago I had just left to drive to Edinburgh to run my son's hotel virtually single handed for the weekend. He had let it for a month to performers at the Edinburgh Festival, but unfortunately when it was handed back it was in a bit of a state, and he had 20 guests booked in for the weekend. Luckily I had the parttime help of one of his long term guests, and between us we muddled through the weekend. It was a bit of a panic when I went to serve breakfast on Sat morning and couln't find enough cutlery for more than 6 guests....luckily Tescos is just around the corner. Anyway we finally got straight and I think the guests had a good time.
Meanwhile Jon had a houseful at The Farmhouse, he managed the evening meals that were booked, and all in all we had a really sucessful, if not exhausting weekend.
Our bookings keep coming in, our first season has exceeded all our expectations. We seem to be getting quite a few business people staying now, along with holiday makers, although the walking numbers seem to have dropped off a bit. Last night we had 3 lots of Farmers staying- they were all attending the Ram sales in Kelso. Our other guests last night were motorcycle tourers. I now have to investigate the BMW GS owners web site for more potential guests.
Today, saw the finishing touches to the garden, now it is just a bit of tidying and planting that is needed. I spent most of the afternoon knee deep in the large new pond finishing off the rock pool effect. I'm so pleased with it. It was so frustrating when my arm was either in plaster or so painful that I couldn't do the pond. I knew how I wanted it to look, so just had to do it myself..............and I had to get it finished this weekend as I have family visiting next week.
Although I've just said the walking numbers were dropping off, we had someone take a room at the last minute today. He has just 2 days off, so decided that he would do St Cuthbert's Way. Today he walked from Melrose to here and tomorrow he goes all the way to Holy Island........................and me? I'm just about to go all the way upstairs to my bed!
We must be doing something right in the garden. Today , while having his lunch our gardener saw a red squirrel on our new lawn. I intend to make a feature of the wildlife in the garden by putting up lots of nesting boxes and creating log piles etc.....but I never expected a red squirrel.
We have put together a package for all would be St Cuthbert's Way walkers - stay in the same B & B, relax in our gardens or read on the terrace when not walking, eat good homecooked food and be transported to the start of your walk each day, and picked up each evening. Start and finish where it suits you - not where there happens to be a B & B. Prices get cheaper per person as the group gets larger. If some partners don't want to walk they could perhaps fish, shop or tour while their partner is walking but still see them in the evenings.....just need to talk to us and we can make up the package to suit the party.
We have just had 2 very special guests (Mr & Mrs Young) that just make me happy to see them. Having just celebrated their Ruby Wedding they have bought themselves a fabulous "Ruby" red Honda Goldwing.
Motorbikes have a special appeal for me, not that I have ever ridden one, but to see two people obviously devoted to each other on such a fab machine, just makes me happy to be alive. Unfortunately Mrs Young isn't too well, so they have had to cut short their stay, but I hope they have many more years of pleasure touring on their brilliant bike.
The last 6 weeks have been a struggle as many of our recent guests will know. On July 13th I tripped over and broke my arm. Cooking breakfast and evening meals has at times been very difficult, the plaster cast making it impossible to carry pots and pans in my left hand, and even holding and slicing food has been awkward. Well the cast came off 2 days ago, and although it is sore and a little swollen - I just have to get the strength back in it....poor Jon....he's still going to have to do the rooms for a while yet!
We've had some fantastic reviews on Laterooms, one which we had a preview of today had 3 excellents in 2 short sentences. To see them log on to www.laterooms.co.uk
We get lots of comments about our food and it's presentation. Many say how nice it is that we don't serve jam in the plastic individual serving pots...................but that would be impossible as the jams and marmalades are all home made often from our own home grown fruit. We are also serving our own veg now: potatoes, courgettes, broad beans and salad so far but much more to come, and of course all the herbs are from the garden as well...........and we mustn't forget the homemade raspberry vodka liqueur (mainly for our own consumption!)
.................and last night's guests did just that. On the way to the wedding of one of the group, they had a birthday to celebrate. The house was decorated with banners and helium balloons and they enjoyed a family meal complete with homemade raspberry liqueur..............their comments................."great food, warm welcome, just like being at home"
The last 4 weeks have seen a transformation in our gardens. The garden that led down to the old mill lade, was so steep and unmanageable plus two years of building work had left it a total mess deep in weeds and rubble.
Our new gardener has worked so hard, and it is turning into a peaceful haven, with winding paths, seating, lawns and a large pond. The colour scheme will be restful pinks whites and blues. Just the place to go to escape from the troubles of the world
............and then we had a mass invasion of Pennine Way walkers...we saw 6 in 2 days! The jacuzzi bath had a good workout!
Only two days after the exodus of the dogs and we were full of musicians and crew. Playing a show in Kelso, they stayed with us before moving on to Peebles with their Elvis Show. One of the guys was a member of MUD (of Tiger Feet fame) and another was called "Rock Star". It was quite funny being around the ageing rockers....happier with a cup of tea than smashing their guitars and thinking about throwing our TV sets out of the windows....well we all have to get older!!!!!
No one can accuse us of not being dog friendly! Last week was the championship dog show at the Kelso Showground - over the course of the weekend - we had Border terriers, West Highland Terriors, Bearded Collies, Dalmations and Spaniels booked in - but you would never have known it, they were all so well behaved, had their special crates to sleep in and we didn't hear them at all. Didn't even worry our own dogs!
It has been interesting understanding why people come to the Borders to stay.
We have already had bookings from participants in the Jim Clark Rally, exhibitors and competitors at dog shows at the Border Union Showground, walkers on St Cuthbert's Way and The Pennine Way, people attending weddings and just plain "holiday makers".
HAve just spent the day compiling a database of activities and places to go when staying in the Borders. I intend to offer a holiday planning service to anyone staying more than a couple of days. I've also printed off a load of walks and bike rides (with their maps) and am going to laminate them all. Nothing huge like the Pennine WAy or St Cuthberts Way, but walks that people can do in a day.
The words of others usually describe your work better than you can yourself. We had a launch party on Saturday when many of our neighbours from Kirk Yetholm saw the renovation work for the first time. A few of the comments follow: "we were truly amazed at the transformation.....it is beautiful...definitely has the "wow factor""....." it is so sympathetically done, making the most of gorgeous wood and stone"...."your home is a triumph & that view across to the sunset from the balcony is a delight"
Well today I took some of our guests out birdwatching - a trial run with the expert that I hope to use for future birdwatching days out (Ron McCombe of Borders Birdwatching Tours). The weather was glorious and we had a fabulous day travelling down the east coast from St Abbs Head to Burnmouth. We saw the birds flying to Bass Rock to nest, thousands nesting at St Abbs Head and then waders and other coastal birds...not to mention the seals sunbathing in Eyemouth Harbour.
All I have to do now is develop the birdwatching package and the web pages to promote it.
Every available bed will be used next weekend (17 - 19 April) as we hold our houseparty to celebrate the completion of the renovation work. Looking forward to seeing friends and family from far and wide
It's Easter and the sun is shining on a new season, and a new way of life.
After all the builders and upheaval of the last 2 years we have finally managed to open our new accommodation business at THE FARMHOUSE at Yetholm Mill, Kirk Yetholm.
The cottage has been taken by a couple with a young family. They have brought their dog with them and of course they only have to walk a few yards and they are in the fields and can let him run free.
We have also had a young New Zealand couple walking St Cuthberts Way. They chose to have an evening meal....and the new posh china came in very handy!