The History of Bluefolds pt III

Above Portsoy Harbour

We discovered Bluefolds completely by accident. Chris used to work shifts and every so often would have a twenty day break. It was August 2000 with a twenty day break looming, I had booked time off for the summer holidays, so we decided to have a holiday and in particular in Scotland. It was early days of ‘The Web’ and so we looked on-line and came across Bluefolds, booked it on the Wednesday and arrived on the Saturday for a week. Steve’s directions were great, and to be honest, we still have them on our new website. This was the first summer Steve and Elizabeth opened and the start of a lovely friendship.

It was raining all the way up from Warrington and it was dark when we arrived. We were all a bit tired, so had something to eat, unpacked the car and went to bed. When we woke up and saw the views, well that was us, well and truly smitten! At that time, our children Simon & Robyn were 12 and 8 respectively, they had a fantastic time exploring the cottages outside and in. The weather was glorious the whole week whilst we explored the area. One of the first places we visited was The Falconry Centre near Huntly and is still a firm favourite today that has to be visited every time they are up here. Now they are 32 and 28 (how did that happen) and they even visited when they came up without us with their own families and friends. Elizabeth took some beautiful pictures of the children holding the birds and Simon made it on the Gallery of one of the original Bluefolds Website.

That first trip started a dream, the second year only made us want the dream more. This truly is the perfect place to get away from it all. The third visit came a few years later but this time we came up in October, again for a week. It snowed that year, the kids just loved being out at midnight building snowmen and having snowball fights. We had gone out for our evening meal to a restaurant in Dufftown, when we left the restaurant it had started to snow, by the time we got up to the cottages it was probably about and three inches, so that was that, kids  got changed into wellies and warm coats and they played outside for the next few hours. They still talk about that night and the story gets enlarged when they take the mickey out of each other.

The lasting memories of those first visits are discovering what a fantastic area this is, castles, coast, wildlife and the feeling of peace and happiness. Over the years we have brought family and friends with us, the kids have brought their partners here too. Everyone without exception loves to be here. We have been to other parts of Scotland in the in between years, but there was always something pulling us back to Bluefolds.

It was a big family visit here in October 2016, we were all miserable at the prospect of going home. Steve and Elizabeth had come over to wish us a safe journey home (and obviously a cuppa and Dram before we left). The family were all packing up the various cars ready for the journey, and Chris asked Steve, ‘if ever you think of selling the place, please let us know.

Steve said, ‘well, it’s funny you should ask that, as we have decided to sell next year…..’. Chris and I just looked at each other and all the way home we were talking it through. We talked it over and over and over on the Sunday. Then on the Monday we started the ball rolling to see if we could actually make the dream a reality. Appointments were made to see pension advisers, mortgage advisers and telling our family what we were thinking of doing.

Nothing more was said until April 2017, Steve emailed me to ask if we were serious about what we had asked, I said yes absolutely, if we can, we will! Good he said as they wanted to sell in the next 12 months. Coincidentally, just then we received a letter from Chris’s pension with ICI saying when he started with ICI he put down that he wanted to retire at 58 and what would he like to do as that date was approaching . ‘It’s a sign’ I said…

The ball was well and truly rolling to get the funds together, when we were in a restaurant deciding if it really the right thing to do. Chris had worked away for 10 years and so he was used to being away from the family, I on the other hand wasn’t. My family all lived within a mile of each other and we saw each other 2 or 3 times a week at least. It was big decision for me. We ordered sparkling water with our meal and were talking things over when the water arrived it was Glenlivet Water. ‘It’s a sign’ I said. Decision made.

We came up in October 2017 for a week, stayed in Folds Cottage and didn’t do the tourist stuff, we just lived here for the week. We did do one holiday thing, which was a Wildlife Safari with David Newland. We went into the Braes of Glenlivet up to the Suie Bowl and saw red deer and heard the noise the stags make during the Rut season. Chris got some great pictures of the area. He was getting excited at the prospect of having time to improve his photography. So, decision made, I handed my notice in at work and plans were made to complete the purchase and the move up here in March 2018.

Of course, we do not do things by halves, we moved up in the ‘Beast from the East’ and the cottages were inaccessible unless by tractor or 4×4. It was exciting and definitely a novelty. We moved in and the furniture didn’t follow us until the track was clear enough for the removals wagon to get up the track 3 to 4 weeks later, but it still the second best thing we have ever done, to put that into context, having our children is the first and getting married is now third!

We have now been here two years, still pinching ourselves and saying out loud “We Live Here” amazed that we managed to achieve our dream of living here in the peace, tranquillity and happiness.

2018 – Our First Year

We came up to sign all the paperwork the week before we moved in. Chris booked our first night up here in a lovely hotel as a celebration to us, then we stayed with Elizabeth and Steve for a couple of nights. A trip to Aberdeen to the solicitors and bank to sort everything out and finalise everything. We were very excited to say the least.

The day arrived to move, Chris came up first, with a car full of stuff, I was still packing, our daughter and her partner had bought our house, so they were moving in.

I followed a few days later, with a car full of stuff and Splodge (our dog). Our first guests were due to arrive at the end of March, so the hand over with Elizabeth and Steve began in earnest. It was quite daunting at first, so much to remember. I mainly I remember the mountains of linen and towels facing me, then the website and all the different booking systems. Chris had the maintenance schedule to go through and ‘The Garage’, which looking back, on the whole I preferred my tasks. We cannot thank Elizabeth and Steve enough for all their help and smooth hand over of Bluefolds. Elizabeth had a smile on her face handing all the laundry over, Steve was a little more subdued at handing the ‘The Garage’ over.

Our first guests arrived, Sam and Sandy Datta, they have a travel business called Salmon Fishing in Scotland, and we hit it off immediately. So much so we’ve had some of their guests staying with us since. Then the day arrived for our first changeover.

The snow was melting fast now, Chris was still working a week a month, he was due to go down to Hereford the week after we arrived, but his flight was cancelled due to snow at Bristol Airport. I have to say I was quite relieved. I remember 7th April as the day that was the first day when it didn’t snow and there was hardly any snow on the ground. Boy did I regret remembering that date. As it turned out that was the last time, we would have any rain until 28th July, coincidentally Dufftown Games day.

The Cottages water supply comes from a spring for our house and second spring for the cottages. My family were staying with us for a week. It was the end of June and we had noticed a drop in the water pressure, Chris was already monitoring the spring level, well the day came when spring dried up. To say this was challenging would be an understatement. The cottages still had water in their spring, but it wouldn’t be long before that ran dry.

We have made some amazing friends since moving here and they all rallied around to help us. The summer heatwave was our first unprecedented event! and it just happened to be our first year. Steve had this covered, the cottages were short of water once before, so he had the equipment to cover this. This, as it turned out, was in ‘The Garage’…… phew. Tanks were used to store water which thanks to Stuart and Leslie (our neighbours), we could fill up our tank and through a system of hoses up at our spring we had. Stuart and Leslie still had water and were exceedingly kind in letting us share it. Steve loaned us his 4×4 and trailer so we could get up the track to fill the storage tanks for our water. We still had guests booked to arrive all through the summer, so we had to write to them and tell them the situation and gave people the option to cancel. Fortunately for us we only had a few cancellations, then we had to block out the few spare weeks we had available. We had to buy bottled water for the guests to use for cooking and drinking. We had to pump water into a 1500 litre tank, strapped to the trailer and hauled up the cottages so we could feed the cottages through a separate hose and the “Spring” pipework.

One of the weeks shortly after the spring finally did not have the head pressure to supply the cottages was the week that Anton and Claire (first blog) and their friends were staying with us. Chris sorted out the supply to the cottages then off he went to Hereford to work for a week. I couldn’t quite manage to get the water we needed on my own so Mark helped me with the trailer and submersible pump. Mark and Alison moved up here on the same day we did. Elizabeth knew Alison’s mum and introduced us to each other. We have been firm friends ever since. Mark and Alison have the Glassworks Coffee Shop in Dufftown and moved here for the same reasons we did. It’s the best cup of coffee in the area, in my opinion.

One of the times Mark helped me was when Chris was away, I was worried that the water level in the tank was low, so no problem and up he came to help. He said ‘are you sure Sue, it feels heavy’. As it turned out it was still a third full and we were trying to turn the trailer round with a third of a ton of water in it. The trailer started to roll. I was trying to hold it back, Mark was trying to pull it back, but nope nothing was stopping that trailer. Thank goodness the grass was soft as otherwise nothing was stopping it from rolling down the hill. Needless to say, I’m not allowed to ever forget about that!  The plus side to that was that it didn’t take long to fill the tank up that day.

The water situation went on for four months we got our supply back at the end of October and the cottages got their spring back mid-November. Thank goodness it didn’t go on any longer as the nights were freezing, and we had some quite harsh frosts in November. The hosepipes had to be lagged to stop them from freezing.

So now we are a dab hand with a submersible pump and trailers. I must admit there was only one time when I wondered why we had moved. It was August, Chris was away working, it was raining, I was full of a cold and stood in the rain transferring yet another tank into our spring. I was crying at the irony of it raining and me with no water. I soon got over it, when I went to fill up again at Stuart and Lesley’s, their kids gave me a big hug and helped with the hoses.

Elizabeth and Steve helped to do the laundry for the cottages. We had a good system going on for that. We got used to using minimal amounts of water, whilst still supplying water for our guests. Thank goodness we have a condenser tumble drier because I was using the water from that in the steam iron.

The year was topped off with horrendous storms and a tree blowing down, narrowly missing the house. It landed where the car would normally be parked, fortunately we had put it in the garage earlier in the day. So we had a good supply of firewood for the winter, went to The Croft and had a good time there.

Our first year was coming to an end, what a good year of experiences it was, a very steep learning curve, but a good year. We made some fabulous friends, met some lovely people staying with us from all over the world. Experienced our first Whisky Festival, where we met even more lovely people.

This really was an unusual year for weather but a fabulous year for us. The people who are regulars to Bluefolds I’m pleased to say they return to us as they did for Elizabeth and Steve, and it’s nice to know that all these people love Bluefolds as much as we do, which makes us feel very privileged people.

2019 – Our Year Two

We rolled into year two with optimism. The year started well, with a steady flow of bookings. The Whisky Festival always books up first. As the year got started, we noticed that people were not booking for more than a month in advance. As we talked to a few people in the same situation as us, it was clear that they were experiencing the same thing.

We changed a few things in the cottages, updated a few things. We didn’t really change much in that first year as we wanted to run it as Steve and Elizabeth had to learn about the business and got involved more in the local community. We also learned quite a lot about ourselves that first year. Only when you look back of what we actually managed to do that you realise how much we achieved.

The year was developing nicely, and as uncertainty about Brexit got worse so did the booking rate. As deadlines were extended a few more bookings would come in. This was the same for everyone else. Mark and Alison from the Glassworks Coffee Shop were in a prime location to notice the lack of visitors around in Dufftown.

Then I became ill, Chris looked after me and was sorting everything out for the cottages and us too. It took a while for me to get back on my feet. This year we decided on getting our new website. This is with big thanks to Johnny and Erica Baldaray.

We met Johnny and Erica when they stayed with us for the Whisky Festival in May 2018. They were running an event for the Festival called “Whisky and Donuts”. Johnny and Erica first arrived at Bluefolds for their honeymoon in 2015 returning in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019 becoming Bluefolds regulars sharing a passion for the region. Steve and Elizabeth assured them that we love Bluefolds as much as they did. We got on like a house on fire. They stayed with us for the Whisky Festival 2019, this is when over a drink one night with us….. sounds familiar… Johnny said “I can help you with a website, that’s one of the myriad if things that I do…”. Ok we said that would be great. It’s taken a lot of work, and many, many video calls to California (that’s where they live) and a real ‘Bromance’ between Chris and Johnny that Erica and I don’t get a look in when the calls are made.

Year two continued to stutter as the Brexit deadlines were constantly delayed. Our European visitors were confused about what was happening, which is nothing to our confusion. Some of our previous guests were worried if they came across and Brexit happened they wouldn’t be able to get home due to the rumours flying around Europe at the time. We missed our European guests.

One of our guests wrote her book, whilst staying with us in 2018 and her book was published in 2019. She very kindly sent us copies of her book for the cottages and some publicity from the book launch. How exciting a book written here! We have had quite a few artists staying with us over the last two seasons. Its lovely to know that Bluefolds feeds inspiration to people.

We continued to learn from our experiences and the gaps in bookings allowed Chris and I to explore even more of this beautiful, magical area. We went to places we hadn’t had time to when we used to come up here for a week. There is so much to do and see and explore.

One thing Brexit did not effect was our visitors from outside of the European Union. We have some returning guests from Sri Lanka. We first met them when they stayed last year. We got a phone call from Imran asking if there would still be snow when they arrived in late March. We couldn’t guarantee it but as luck would have it, it snowed the week before they arrived, but it also started to melt quickly. We shovelled up as much as we could and put it in the shade for their girls. We still had enough to build a small snowman when they arrived. Imran had only stopped to open the gate and the girls were out the car and in to the snow. They had great fun, I think they been here a good hour before they could get the girls inside. Lessons on how to warm your hands up without it stinging followed.

We added things to the cottages for our guests. The one thing that is proving most popular is the arrival of “Alexa”. She is now a permanent fixture as people love her. Although we sometimes get reminders on our phones were the children of our guests have shown their parents how to use it. One time I recall, I was visiting my family in Warrington and my phone kept going off to say…. Remind dad to take a photograph… Remind dad to put the pasta on… and a few variations along the same theme. I was calling Chris, saying what are you doing, I keep getting reminders at all times of the day & night. He swore blind it wasn’t him and he was getting the reminders as well. It was children of our guests staying at that time setting reminders for their mum and dad to annoy them…  Anyway, that’s all sorted now, and our guests seem to love Alexa and one in particular, my cousin, ordered an Alexa to arrive home for when they got home. I’m sorry Nicola.

2020 – to date

This year, going into our third season, and you could not have written this script….. the unprecedented even of the COVID 19 pandemic hit the world. Events were being cancelled and we went into lockdown. Bluefolds is not a bad place to be locked down in, unfortunately following Scottish Government Guidelines we had to cancel all our bookings with our European guests having to be cancelled early because of the lack of international travel facilities.

It gave us the opportunity to finish the development and launch of our new website adding to mix some improvements we wanted to make but didn’t have the time to previously.

The website launch has been the most exciting time. It took such a lot of hard work to get the website built. Johnny and Chris have worked so hard to get it to the stage where we were all happy to launch. I mentioned the ‘bromance’ earlier. I think they are inventing things now, so they have to video call each other. What do you think Erica?

We would like to thank our guests who have booked for this year for their patience in this another unprecedented time and are so grateful that you all want to book again for later this year or next year, loyalty and the guests love of Bluefolds means so much to us.

So as lockdown is easing across the UK and the world, COVID cleaning protocol courses completed online, registration and sign up to “Good to Go” – Scottish Government’s Approved Standard, the “Commit To Clean Standard” and a few  Zoom meetings and video conferences attended later we are excited to be opening again. We are excited to be able to welcome our guests, regular and new, to Bluefolds and we hope you like the changes we have made during the lockdown ……….. keep checking out or website, The Bolnpait blog, our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts for the latest news.

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