We look out for each other as neighbours in a great community here in Lochearnhead and the surrounding villages. Our community newspaper The Villagers has even adapted to an on-line version to keep us all in touch. We have been maintaining and improving the grounds and cottages and I have been updating our local tourism group LETi, on national tourism information as it unfolds. So, it's a busman's holiday for us this year, with no complaints.
We are appreciative of tourism associations like Visit Scotland, The Association of Self Catering Scotland, the Scottish Tourism Alliance and others like the Federation of Small Businesses, who have been working non stop to support our industry on employment and financial assistance guidelines. They are constantly in touch with the Scottish government, lobbying and sharing, ensuring that there will be a national approach to recovery, with cleaning protocols and other guidance. Visit Scotland has helped by promoting and encouraging image sharing on social media and by informing the world about Scotland's rich experiences. Holidays to consider in safer times. For example, look at this YouTube video Absence makes the heart grow fonder..
We know that we are fortunate to live in a naturally beautiful landscape. This is the first time since opening in 2008 that we have taken the time to enjoy our grounds together for weeks on end. I feel as though a pause button has been pushed on life. A good time to rest, reflect and reset.
I enjoyed my birthday in May in spite of not seeing family and friends. I made my own coffee and walnut cake (good effort but not a patch on my mum's). Fraser had us putting on the lawn ( he beat me with 2 holes in one, though revenge has been taken recently) We popped fizz up at our recently landscaped Norman's View by the stream and ordered a takeaway 3 course dinner from the Achray House Hotel in St Fillans. Fraser set the table up outside Briar Steading to ensure a great view over Loch Earn to the hills. He placed garden cut flowers on the table and played Ella Fitzgerald ballads on YouTube, courtesy of his mobile phone and the cottage WiFi. Family presents arrived in the post including a decadent double layer Signature Collection of Cocoa Mountain chocolates that are made in Scotland. What a treat. Glad there were 2 tiers. One each! I also received a delicious selection of Arran Cheeses, Perthshire oatcakes and Scottish chutneys amongst other gifts. A memorable foodie birthday and a party for 2.
We've been busy painting outdoor furniture, landscaping the stream that runs the length of the garden, trimming hedges and more.
Our Nature Watch Loch Earn events had to be cancelled. They were due to take place in March and July with local experts from Aquila Ecology in St Fillans. This was to be our contribution to Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 with Visit Scotland badges and hand out bags at the ready. We hope to offer this some time in the future and who knows, the September event might still be on the cards.
In the mean time we have been surrounded by regular garden birds and birdsong including a woodpecker and cuckoo, 24 Canadian goslings and 4 ducklings! The ospreys are practically a daily sight fishing for trout.
Self catering should be one of the safer options for holiday accommodation after lockdown if we are vigilant and guests are careful. Lochearnhead and local villagers have remained locked own and trouble free from the beginning, so we can understand why they want the area to remain safe. We don't know what the protocols will be. Maybe use of masks in shops will be prudent to make locals and guests feel safer when outside of Briar Cottages three acre gardens.
Regular guests know how clean our cottages are. Liquid hand and washing soaps have always been included at Briar Cottages along with a range of cleaning materials to assist. Countless articles explain why soap is best for Covid 19. Nevertheless, we will check everything against the national cleaning protocols once they are approved by the Scottish government and shared to enable consistent national health and safety standards.
We have accepted people hopping over our garden fence to photograph Stan the Stag and our BLiSS trail thistle sculptures even though they are visible from the roadside. This will have to change now. The time has come to put up "Guest Only" signs so that the loch garden space remains exclusive to cottage guests, our family and friends. Some minor changes like this will be sensible and necessary.
I am disappointed to hear so many tales of insurance companies that have not helped guests or businesses though. I would still encourage people to take out insurance for any travel ( even home travel) though wonder if they will still choose to make Covid 19 and any new unknown epidemics exempt in future. A regular guest made a claim to recover loss of their holiday around Easter. It took weeks for them to get a response. It was like jumping through ridiculous hoops. They were rejected but asked to produce even more information if they persisted, with no guarantee of any assistance. How unhelpful. I suggested to the guest that they should not waste further precious time. We immediately guaranteed to re-book their holiday for the same time next year and are flexible if they want to change the date once we know that we can start up again. And there will be no price increase if it turns out to be next year. So, we lose half the value of the booking while still paying to maintain the cottage. That is so much better than losing valued guests and does not begin to compare with what many people have lost during this epidemic.
We look forward to welcoming many guests back and meeting new people in the future. We just don't know when...yet. Phase 3...ish. Whatever that actually means. So, in the mean time we will continue to make the most of our time together on this safe busman's holiday, while our hearts go out to key workers and those that have suffered pain and loss and our very best wishes go to guests past and future.