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Friday, 2 August 2013

Four Years Later

August 2nd
It is four years today since Nigel and I arrived at Lochranza Campsite about to embark on a summer of camping and sea kayaking following Nigel’s redundancy. Ten days later we travelled on, having bought the business – well almost. (The land is owned by The Estate by the way.) Before Lochranza, we had an action plan for our next moves in life, but when you find a random opportunity popping up in front of you, by a certain age you decide it’s best to grab it with both hands and deal with the inevitable snags later.

Our summer of sea kayaking and camping round Scotland was wet and windy to say the least, but strangely it made running a campsite seem even more appealing. We got so used to living a very basic lifestyle in difficult conditions that going back to normality looked like walking into prison.

Ironically, running a campsite is actually pretty confining for significant stretches of the year, and when visitors comment on our idyllic lifestyle we think it’s not quite the right word. Remember that it does involve embracing toilet bowls on a daily basis, and toilets and paradise do not normally get mentioned in the same sentences. From the beginning, Nigel’s regret was “we don’t get a weekend”- in fact, no down time at all once the campsite’s open for the season (and then maintenance goes on in winter). Undoubtedly however, life has simplicity- you look after people; you look after land, and your day is dictated by the needs of both. And we have a very beautiful office. If running a campsite is something you’d like to try, the most important skill you can offer is being able to fix things – at any minute of any day something will need fixing. Fortunately fixing is Nigel’s heaven.

Looking back, we were in a state of shock most of our first year- it was less of a steep learning curve and more of a vertical precipice.  We had no financial safety nets and we worked very hard, doing a lot of heavy manual labour that we were not used to at all. Also, coming to live in a place like Lochranza is about so much more than taking on a business- it’s about joining in with community and island life too. Four years on, summer 2013 has beamed brightly on this part of Scotland after Easter blizzards. We are pleased with the changes we have made here, especially our investments last winter in new toilets and showers, as well as two camping pods. With Scott the greenkeeper in charge of the golf course (where previously we did all the golf course labours ourselves) we do not topple into bed in an exhausted state every night.

Things are never dull on a touring campsite – far too many interesting people, doing interesting things and pursuing interesting journeys pass through for it to be otherwise. And paradise does really come into it because the island on a daily basis never fails to move me in terms of its unspoilt beauty. With wild red deer grazing, red squirrels trotting by, and eagles gliding silently high up, I feel a bit like Disney’s Snow-White wandering merrily through the woods with wild creatures gambolling about her.

We are here because a) we went travelling b) we got talking c) we took the plunge. We both believe life is full of opportunities floating around like bubbles. You have to catch them when you coincide with them or else they drift away.

Nature put on a glorious show here on Monday night; the photos show the rainbow that arched over Torr Nead an Eoin and the fiery sunset over the loch.

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