They started with just one cottage and over the course of the next five years Iver and Wendy worked with local contractors to refurbish a derelict mill house. This is now offered as a four bedroom upside-down house, and offers visitors the experience of the peace and tranquillity of the Borders countryside as well as access to Edinburgh, the centre of which is only an hour away by car.
On the farm there is also the full residential Straw House which was built using local farm products and local rape straw from nearby Oxenfoord Estate. This house, built partially as a research project with volunteers, is a first in Scotland and is a major part of farm owners Iver and Wendy’s journey to create an off-grid self-sustaining tourism community as part of their farms diversification.
The existing tourist units at the farm, the converted mill and an old riverside cottage provide two levels of accommodation to tourists. The extension to these units will also provide greater viability for the farm shop. Current tourists visit the lambing shed and take part in some farm activities, and use local facilities such as Thirstane Castle, the Cloud House Café and connect to the Southern Upland Way.
Muirhouse Farm has worked with volunteers from a variety of work experience schemes, such as Helpx and Poosh, on previous projects and have gained a huge amount of experience in training, interacting and translating for these enthusiastic and valuable helpers. New projects will utilise these skills as the team is expended. Bringing international volunteers into Scottish farms has helped them learn about farming, about where food on this stock farm comes from, and about animal lifecycles, as well as learning with the builders about how to build eco-homes for tourism.
The project, in opening up the farm to greater numbers of tourist and in utilising helpful volunteers, is already a great success, but is now well positioned to capitalise on the new Waverley railway line stop in Stow bringing more tourists to the Borders.
By working together in this way the Scottish Government’s Infrastructure Planning, the Scottish Rural Development Programme, Leader Funding, the local community, local council policy and local farmers’ forward thinking all combine to deliver public access, a great tourism product and wider farm interaction and education.