Diversifying from farming activity The Cow Shed Crail offers a blank canvas for weddings and a full event planning service for corporate days
Located in a picturesque corner of Fife, The Cow Shed Crail puts its dairy farm heritage pride of place with a marquee covered steading and plenty of options for ceremonies and corporate functions. We talk to Jo Trust about keeping the local community happy and how the venue survived the ‘Beast from the East’.
When did you start your venue business and what is its history?
The Cow Shed has been a part of the Logan family for over 70 years. Originally used to house the calves for a dairy, it was an important part of a working dairy farm. The dairy closed its doors in the 1980s but we have given The Cow Shed a new lease of life and we were excited to open its doors as a venue in January 2016.
The Cow Shed operates next to an arable farm run by the family, which still farms potatoes, broccoli and wheat, providing an element of diversification from farming.
Tell us about your location and site
The Cow Shed is located on the outskirts of Crail in the East Neuk of Fife, a beautiful corner of Scotland with stunning beaches, traditional fishing villages and pretty harbours… oh, and not forgetting a huge selection of golf courses too!
It is full of original features and character, and enjoys sea views across the Firth of Forth to the Bass Rock and East Lothian – the perfect backdrop to our “blank canvas” venue.
What facilities for functions do you offer?
We have three flexible indoor spaces: a steading marquee, L-shaped indoor workshop and a barn, both of which have beautiful vaulted ceilings. We also have a lovely sheltered courtyard with original cow shed arches as a feature and an outdoor patio area with a large grass lawn.
The venue also has a large car park. We have a sister company which rents out self catering cottages and can sleep up to 44 within walking distance of the venue.
What services do you offer?
For weddings we just provide the venue as a blank canvas but with a point of contact on duty throughout the event. Couples are welcome to have ceremonies inside or outside, depending on the weather. We don’t offer catering but are happy to advise on some great caterers that we have on our supplier list. These range from street food, hog roasts and pizza ovens to a formal three course dinner.
We are happy to offer event planning for an extra fee. For corporate events we have plenty of space for outdoor activities, highland games etc. and are very happy to provide detailed quotes with a full event planning service included.
Describe how you researched and sourced your structures
We repointed and fixed the roofs of the existing steading but for the marquee roof we sourced the help of Greenfield Marquees. They advised on the size of the structure we needed for the temporary marquee frame, fits inside the steading walls (you see the marquee roof and exposed walls when in this structure).
How do you work with your customers to make their events unique?
From the onset we chat to our couples about what style of wedding they want and quickly establish how much input they want from us. We talk them through the suppliers that we feel fit the style of wedding they want, such as catering, any extra lighting, venue styling, photographer etc.
We pride ourselves on getting back to our clients quickly and at all times of the day. We are always happy to have our couples/clients back throughout the planning process to help them with any questions they have or to see other weddings set up to give them inspiration.
How do you publicise yourself?
Through the power of social media! We learnt quickly that having regular, targeted social media was the most powerful tool to use. We enlisted the help of a social media guru to manage this element as it is a full time job in itself! We do also feature in a couple of the wedding magazines as this helps to support the social media content.
How would you describe your ‘style’ or unique selling point?
We definitely offer a ‘blank canvas’ so couples can create very different looks at the venue. We also do not insist on using a small list of agreed suppliers. We offer a recommended supplier list to help couples if they want it. I know that couples definitely like that it is not set in stone. We do not accept any commission from suppliers so that couples know that we are not biased.
Couples like having a full day to set up before the wedding; we are not interested in trying to have a Friday wedding as well as a Saturday wedding, so couples have time to enjoy their events.
What challenges have you faced?
We are located quite close to the village of Crail so we have been conscious that we want to work with the community. So far this has been very positive and many residents have benefitted from the venue – hotels/B&Bs are busy, taxi companies are busy, the local fish and chip shop often does evening snacks for weddings and even the chemist has had to stock up on nail varnish remover and spare tights!
We have been conscious of sound travelling but we sought expert advice and bands now use our own PA system so we can monitor sound and turn it down if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction.
Initially we had lots of feedback that the website did not do justice to the space we had on offer. At this point we decided to get a drone video of the venue which we put on the website and this has been really positive.
Have you worked with any industry contacts?
The biggest help has been talking with similar venues and getting advice from them/sharing stories and learning from each other.
What are your plans for next season?
We would love to make more of our sea views and also to increase the amount of midweek corporate work.
Describe your average day mid-season
Lots of emails! Emails range from enquiries for viewings, some new suppliers asking to be added to the supplier list, booked couples asking questions to help with their planning, suppliers asking when they can come and deliver items.
We are always looking for content to give to our social media guru. Maintenance takes place all the time, just making sure the grass is cut; that we don’t have any weeds in the gravel; ensuring the toilets are clean and tidy; the glass is clean; the floor is swept etc. etc. Every week we complete a detailed event sheet of an upcoming wedding (we do this two weeks before each wedding) and we also need to keep on top of invoicing.
What do you enjoy about the business and why?
You are dealing with one of the most exciting events of peoples’ lives so they are generally really lovely to work with which makes the job great fun. We love seeing the venue styled and ready for a wedding and seeing how happy the bride and groom are.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
We are starting to do more corporate dinner dances, away days (which include highland games/outdoor team building events), and we recently had Mark Beaumont come to do an evening talk which was a ticketed event for the public with proceeds going to charity.What are you most proud of?
Pulling off the wedding during the ‘Beast from the East’ winter snow storm we had this year. We were one of the only venues in east Scotland to not cancel weddings. It included rescuing the bride and groom in a tractor when they went to go and pick up a cheese cake, lots of snow clearing, the heaters working overtime and numerous calls with suppliers, but it happened and was a big success. The courtyard was full of snowmen that the ushers had built. Brilliant.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Be prepared for unexpected cost and to work all hours. People want an answer/response even late at night on a Sunday.
The Cow Shed Crail
Fife, KY10 3XA