If you are a long-term follower of our blog you will know that we spent six glorious weeks up in Scotland last year on a Helpx stay. Well we loved it so much that we decided to return to the scene of the crime and have arranged to stay a little longer this year.
Let the Train take the Strain
I can’t stress enough just how much we love train travel and we were seriously looking forward to the Virgin East Coast journey from London up to Pitlochry in the Scottish Highlands. An early arrival at Kings Cross station in London meant we had a bit of a wait but a little people watching in what was recently voted as Britains Best Station passed the time very quickly.
Last year we managed an upgrade to 1st Class on the train up, not our style at all, and thought we’d have a go at trying that again this trip. Unfortunately a condescending shake of the head and sarcastic smile from one of their staff and a brief explanation that we would need to pay full price got us shuffling down the platform to our booked seats. Shame. Decent seats in the quiet carriage though for the six hour journey north.
So a combination of reading, film watching, eating, watching the scenery rush by, and chatting soon got us over the border and into Pitlochry station where we met one of our hosts Norman.
Our Helpx Stay
This was another of our working stays where we exchange a few hours work each day for bed and board. We’ve done 4 or 5 of these now and although some are harder work than others have enjoyed them all in varying degrees. Tina and Norman are the hosts in Scotland and our work would be split between three separate locations. Their house in Pitlochry, their holiday lodges in Aberfeldy, and their rentable country house in Foss. I’ll explain more about them all over the coming weeks. Norman took us back to their family home in Pitlochry where we would be staying initially.
What a welcome! So great to be back
Our arrival was greeted with crazy scenes as we were absolutely mobbed! Not by Tina I have to say but by her dogs. Four excitable canines seemed pleased to see us again as Whisky and Coco the terriers and Milly and Tala the labradors welcomed us back. After settling in we enjoyed a noisy sociable Scottish dinner with a table-full of guests.
As well as Tina and Norman and us there were two other Helpxers. Michael and Brooke from New Zealand had been there a few weeks so it was great to meet them as we’d be working together for the first month or so. Also, the incomparable American Annie from next door and her biker friend Billy Connolly joined us for dessert and drinks. I don’t think it was actually ‘the’ Billy Connolly but he was the spitting image and spoke exactly like the Big Yin.
So a wonderful late night of stories and fun and catching up saw us crawl into bed at midnight after a long long day. It felt so good to be back with old friends.
Helpx and the Work Ethic
The website that we arrange these workstays through is called Helpx and links up thousands of hosts and helpers from all over the world. No money changes hands and the whole system is run on trust. The company advises on its home page that an average of four hours a day over a 5 day week is the typical arrangement. As you may know if you are regular followers it doesn’t always turn out that way and we’ve heard a few horror stories. However, the majority of people are fair-minded and nice and the whole system works well.
What we particularly love about this Scottish stay is that there are specific tasks to do, such as turnarounds in the lodges between guests, on specific days. It means no two days are exactly the same and the work is varied. Also, Tina and Norman totally appreciate that some days can be long 6 to 7 hour sessions and they try to make the following days shorter to compensate. What is also great is that we all work together as a team. We love it.
The Lodges at Aberfeldy
Our favourite place to stay is over at Drumcroy Lodges in Aberfeldy where they have six self-catering lodges on a beautiful site overlooking the valley and the River Tay.
Obviously the lodges are usually always booked and full of happy holidaymakers but occasionally there is a cancellation or availability which means that we can stay in one for a while. Luckily one became available so we moved across to stay in Farragon Lodge on the site for the next week.
We absolutely love staying in one of the lodges at Drumcroy as it is so quiet and relaxing and the views are simply magnificent. We never fail to marvel at the incredibly dramatic scenery all around and at this time of year it stays light until close to 10pm so the sunsets are simply amazing.
What sort of work are we doing here then?
The main work during our stay will be helping to turn around the lodges between guests leaving and new ones arriving. So that’s changing bedding, cleaning bathrooms and kitchen, hoovering and dusting throughout, and getting the whole place perfect for the new arrivals. Probably takes two of us just under 2 hours to do a whole lodge. On top of that there is the big house at Foss to changeover once a week plus a fair bit of gardening as the good weather arrives.
As I mentioned earlier there are another couple of Helpxers, Brooke and Michael, here so all of these tasks get done a lot quicker. This gives Tina a chance to get a few bigger jobs done such as painting lodges.
Back in Aberfeldy and Pitlochry
Although it has been a year since we were last here it feels like we’ve never been away. It’s been wonderful meeting up again with Tina and Norman and their parents Peter and Joan. Great to meet and get to know Brooke and Michael. Interesting spending time with American Annie and Billy Connolly. Lovely seeing all of the dogs again. But above all it has been absolutely fabulous being back in Scotland again. We really missed it.
10/05 – 16/05/2018