Brockloch Eco Retreat

Two design-led low impact structures surrounded by 190 acres of Scottish countryside.

Brockloch treehouseWe talk to Julie Nicolson about getting the details right and perfecting the personal touch at her and husband George’s low impact retreat which boasts both a bothy and a treehouse. Designed by Echo Living’s Sam Booth, the structures have been featured on Channel 4’s “George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces”.

What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
We run a small family farm in Southwest Scotland and about 10 years ago we were looking to diversify. We farm on a small non-intensive basis and it can be difficult to make a profit so looked to agritourism as a way of keeping the business sustainable.

Brockloch bedroomWhat made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
We saw the potential of adding some sort of low impact off-grid accommodation to our scenic farm and approached a local designer about whether he could design something specifically for our site and requirements.

How did you research the business before entering it?
We stayed in various different glamping properties each with their own unique style. We were drawn to places that were owned and run by individuals rather than comm

Brockloch shelves

ercial companies. The places that offered a personal touch seemed to offer the most enjoyable experience.

Tell us about your location and site
Our farm is situated in Southwest Scotland; an area that is often bypassed as tourists head to the Highlands but it is often described as “The Highlands in miniature” – it has beautiful beaches, rolling hills and quiet roads.

Some challenges include the occasional snowy winter when we can get snowed in but we do have the benefit of a tractor to clear the drive.

How did you tackle getting planning?
We were lucky in that our designer put planning in for us having experience of the local planning department and all that they required.

How did you finance the project?
The whole project was self funded, using savings and overdraft facilities.

Brockloch bathroomWhat glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We have two self-catering properties. The Bothy was our first project and offers accommodation for up to four people. It offers far reaching views of the hills beyond and is off-grid, relying on two solar panels to charge batteries which then run 12v lights and USB chargers. The bothy is built to have as little impact on the environment as possible and designed to leave only the slightest footprint on the land once it has been removed.

The Treehouse offers a different experience, with many tiny little windows offering a glimpse of the bluebell wood beyond. It sits on stilts, surrounded by native trees and has two large skylights, one above the bed and one above the sunken bath offering views of the stars. We originally opened all year but found that we were having to charge the batteries as the light levels were low in the winter and, if temperatures fall too low, there is a danger of frozen pipes etc. To ensure our visitors get the best experience possible we now close from November to March.

Brockloch hutWhat occupancy levels and price per night do you achieve?
We have been very lucky in that the demand to stay has been high, especially after we featured on “George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces” program on Channel 4. We have been up and running for about 10 years now and have come to the point where we need to decide if we expand the business or retire… We charge £150/night.
How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
We were lucky to feature on Channel 4’s “Amazing Spaces” so much of the publicity came from that and subsequent newspaper articles.

How would you describe your ethos and unique selling point?
Low impact, environmentally conscious.

How did you choose your interior decoration?
We went for simple, non-fussy interiors although I’m not a natural minimalist so have had to show restraint sometimes if I spot something that I think would work in either space.

What challenges have you faced?
One of the biggest challenges in this area is finding tradesmen for example, plumbers, joiners etc. There is just so much demand and very few of them available so getting them to turn up can be a huge challenge. I’m tempted to go on a course just so I’m able to fix things when they break but I’ll leave the tricky stuff to the experts.

Brockloch kitchenWhat are your plans for next season?
No big plans to expand at the moment, I think people enjoy having the space without neighbours nearby so although financially it would make sense to build more spaces we are happy with what we have at the moment.

Describe your average day mid-season
The day before check-in I usually do some home baking for the guests, pick some garden flowers and write a handwritten note. I may pop into our local town to the deli/wine shop and buy some wine as a welcome gift. I’ll message guests about directions and key collection.

On changeover day I read the feedback book for any comments or suggestions and carry out a deep clean, cutting grass, cleaning skylights etc. This can be quite a task when you have to climb on top of the Treehouse roof but the views are amazing!

Do you enjoy the business?
I really enjoy meeting our visitors and recommending hidden places that they wouldn’t necessarily find themselves. Sometimes I find it a bit stressful when things don’t work or something breaks but that’s only because I care about our visitors and want them to enjoy their stay.

What are you most proud of?
Probably the personal touches such as the freshly picked garden flowers, the home baking and fulfilling the special requests, for example someone recently asked if I could do some laundry for them as they had been travelling for a while.

What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Start small but do it well. That saying “do one thing well” really resonates with me – I think if you get the details right you can build from there.

Brockloch hill


ADDRESS BOOK

ACCOMMODATION
Echo Living www.echoliving.co.uk

BOOKINGS
Super Control www.supercontrol.co.uk

DIRECTORY SITES
Canopy & Stars www.canopyandstars.co.uk

Brockloch at nighttime


DETAILS

Brockloch Eco Retreat
Brockloch Farm
Kirkpatrick
Durham DG7 3HU

www.brockloch.co.uk

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