This blog covers the transformation of a 17th Century Highland Croft and Steading (Bolnapiat) with its own Lime Kiln, into the luxury 4 star self catering cottages as they are today during the last decade of the 20th Century – By Anton Dikken
Chris has asked me to do a potted history of Bluefolds (being one of the three people that created it as we now know it). It’s a bit of an emotional journey starting 30 years ago. whilst talking to a friend, who had purchased a derelict cottage in Glenlivet, I became hooked on the idea of owning/rebuilding my own property; within a couple of months I had found and bought Bluefolds, much to my wife’s dismay – all on borrowed money. When we bought it there was no water, no electricity, no road, no septic tanks, most of the roof had collapsed and it was four foot deep with cow dung with a tree growing through the main wall.
I enlisted the help of two friends, Kevin and Colin, as my partners. We started the building work in about 1988 I think, with plans to convert it to the three cottages you see now. We had no experience, no money, a few tools and an old red rusty transit van (what could possibly go wrong?). It took us until 1995 to finish the job on the steading and start renting them out. In 1995 we then started the renovation of the croft farmhouse now Folds Cottage, finishing in 1997, just before my first born was due. It was a huge, mixed bag full of experiences which evolved us commuting the 640 miles between Brighton and Glenlivet every couple of weeks. We would work down South for two weeks and then spend the money on the conversion. I borrowed huge sums of money from all of my family and friends, we purchased an old caravan down South, and towed it all the way to Scotland!
The van was so underpowered, it took us 16 hours to get there. We lived in the caravan for about two years with no power; fun in the summer but miserable in the winter when it got down to below -10 degrees and we had to dig ourselves out of the snow. I have so many vivid memories of being up there for all those years: the long evenings doing the stonework surrounded by the sounds of the sheep, curlews, buzzards etc; pouring out generous drams of whisky at the end of the day, just drinking in the atmosphere.
I remember the day we got a water diviner in to tell us where to put the well, the joy of digging the well and watching it fill up with perfect spring water. We made friends with a lot of locals and other southerners moving up and doing the same as us, it was great to be accepted and we became known as ‘the boys on the hill’! We eventually completed the cottage and started renting all four properties out. however, managing the business from the South of England,with a new baby proved to be almost impossible. We ended up doing what would previously be thought of as unthinkable, we had to sell. It was very painful and we made no profit for the ten years of blood sweat and tears. However we did have a fantastic adventure, fell deeply in love with the North Eastern Highlands, made friends that will stay with us forever and still visit as regularly as possible. We have become friends with Steve and Elizabeth, the owners after us, and now Chris and Sue the current owners. It’s very obvious that all of them love and share the passion for Bluefolds as much as we do, which is understandable as it is a wonderfully magical place that just keeps on drawing you back – you never ever really own it, you’re just it’s guardian for a while.