Sustainable living experience on a smallholding in rural Aberdeenshire, Scotland


United Kingdom

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 Min stay requested: at least 1 month

  • Description


    My husband and I used to live in London, where we worked for many years. We had always wanted to leave the city and move to Scotland where we spent most of our holidays and live a more sustainable life. In 2011 we made the move. We live in a spacious old farmhouse and have around 13 hectares of land. The area is stunningly beautiful. The climate is the driest in Scotland. The air is clean and it is wonderfully tranquil. If you love the countryside and animals then this is the place to be.

    My husband and I have travelled a great deal for work and leisure. I grew up in Africa and have lived in many countries all over the world. We love meeting new people from different countries and sharing the knowledge we have gained. Even where we are living now we have several international friends.

    We have spent the last few years undertaking major work in the house and also in the gardens. We have achieved a great deal in a very short time. Living on a small holding and having livestock means that we have to work hard and we are always forced to learn. We also have larger projects where extra helping hands are required. We would like to welcome Workaways to our home to learn more about sustainable living and share in their experiences as well.

    Our donkeys Raffles and Harry arrived in 2015 and they have settled in very quickly and are a delight. They used to work on the east coast of England giving children rides at the beach. We hope to use them to help us when we coppice our hazel woodland, carrying small loads of logs up to the house. Harry and Raffles have now fully bonded with us and we have undertaken some training with them, getting them used to wearing their new pack saddles and going for short walks. Harry was diagnosed with Cushings disease last year and has responded very well to medication. In donkeys Cushings can cause lots of abscesses and poor Harry had more than his fair share. As a consequence we were unable to undertake any meaningful training with him or Raffles. We hope that this year we can resume their training once more.

    We used to have a small flock of Jacob sheep for their fleece, but I took the decision a few years back to sell some of them. We are now down to five sheep, two Jacob and three Suffolk Mules. These are largely used for grazing management. However, I will continue to use the unwanted fleeces of other Jacob owners to produce my knitting yarn and we have historically enjoyed strong wool sales.

    We have a small flock of hens. The younger ones are laying well, but the older ladies tend to lay more sporadically. For the ladies who do not lay anymore, of which there are quite a few, they will be allowed to live out their days, as they have worked hard producing eggs for us and they deserve to enjoy a relaxing retirement.

    This summer has been so challenging. It has been warm and we have had had extended periods of drought. After last year's drought, when we had no grass to feed our sheep and donkeys, this year we have had a reasonable amount of grass. This has made maintaining our donkeys' weight very challenging. Donkeys gain weight much more easily than horses and, of course, this is bad for their health. We hope that during this coming winter we will be able to slowly get them back into shape.

    We have also had a slow start to the vegetable and fruit growing season, but things have now romped away and we have been enjoying the fruits of our labours with some bumper crops. We have been busy preserving the glut.

    On a positive note, we have taken a small paddock below our house and we are in the process of creating a bee and butterfly garden with some edibles, designed using permaculture principles. The garden has come on by leaps and bounds. Far from finished, but you can already see that the bees and butterflies are benefiting immensely.

    We began hosting workaways almost five years ago and we have loved every minute of it. We have met many wonderful people, learned so many new things and made lots of new friends along the way.

    Sadly we are currently shielding because of the pandemic and will only consider taking people who are willing to stay for a minimum of six weeks and have their own transport.

  • Types of help and learning opportunities

    Types of help and learning opportunities

    General Maintenance
    Farmstay help
    Help with Eco Projects
    Help around the house
    Animal Care

  • UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN sustainablity goals this host is trying to achieve

    UN goals
    No poverty
    Zero hunger
    Good health and well-being
    Quality education
    Gender equality
    Clean water and sanitation
    Affordable and clean energy
    Decent work and economic growth
    Industries, innovation and infrastructure
    Reduce inequality
    Sustainable cities and communities
    Responsible consumption and production
    Climate action
    Life below water
    Life on land
    Peace, justice and strong institutions
    Partnerships for the goals
  • Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Cultural exchange and learning opportunities

    Gardening and permaculture skills
    Animal husbandry
    Life skills for running a smallholding
    An insight into living in Scotland
    Local art classes are available on a Thursday (£2.00 per session) between March and October

  • Projects involving children

    Projects involving children

    This project could involve children. For more information see our guidelines and tips here.

  • Help


    We need help with moving and stacking chopped wood. Assistance with mending fences around our small smallholding. Help cleaning out our chickens, collecting eggs and feeding our hens. Help with our sheep and cleaning out their field shelter. Help with managing our stable yard. We also require help with garden maintenance and growing lots of vegetables. We grow all our plants, including flowers from seed. We have a large house and would appreciate some help weekly with the cleaning.

  • Languages

    Languages spoken
    English: Fluent
    Swedish: Intermediate

    This host offers a language exchange
    This host has indicated that they are interested in sharing their own language or learning a new language.
    You can contact them directly for more information.

  • Accommodation


    We have a small cottage adjacent to the main house. This has two double bedrooms, one with a double bed and one with two singles. There are two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen/diner and sitting room. As we are shielding whoever joins us will have to self isolate in the cottage for the first two weeks. We will provide all your food and will be able to provide enough outdoor work for five hours per day, Monday through Friday. Thereafter, breakfast will continue to be provided in the cottage each day and Monday to Friday you will be given lunch and supper in the main house. On the weekends you will be expected to cook for yourselves in the cottage and we will provide you with the food. Bed linen and towels are provided, but you will be expected to launder these each week and keep the cottage clean.

  • What else ...

    What else ...

    We live on a smallholding (small farm) in rural Aberdeenshire. We have chickens, a small flock of Jacob sheep and we now have two donkeys to help us to coppice our small woodland. We grow a great deal of our food and love being outdoors. For us it is a way of life. We also have three dogs who live in the house, so whoever came to live with us would have to be comfortable around dogs. The dogs would not have access to your accommodation upstairs.

    In your free time there are loads of wonderful walks you can take directly from our smallholding. Our smallholding is situated above a river valley in a beautiful area. We have a wide range of maps of the local area that you would be free to borrow. You will have the use of two bicycles to use locally or we would be happy to give you a lift into the local town, (five miles distant). We go into town several times per week, including Saturday. From the local town you can catch a bus to travel to Aberdeen, Inverness or further afield. We would obviously be happy to pick you up again on your return and bring you home. Both cities have great amenities with a good variety of retail outlets, cinemas, arts and cultural venues. For example there is the most amazing bookshop in Inverness in an old converted chapel. We also live very close to Speyside, which is the home to whisky production. There are lots of distilleries and most open their doors to visitors providing tours. We live five miles from the coast and there are lots of quaint old fishing villages, some with lovely beaches.

    N.B. Please remember that if you are from outside the European Union and planning to visit the UK as a volunteer and not as a tourist you will need the correct visa. To find out more information you need to contact the British Embassy or Consulate in your home country before travelling to the United Kingdom. Failure to do so could result in deportation.

    Currently travel restrictions into the UK remain in force due to the pandemic.

  • A little more information

    A little more information

    • Internet access

    • Limited internet access

      Limited internet access

    • We have pets

    • We are smokers

    • Can host families

  • Space for parking camper vans

    Space for parking camper vans

    We have a small car park where a small campervan or motorhome can be parked.

  • How many Workawayers can stay?

    How many Workawayers can stay?

    More than two

  • ...

    Hours expected

    Maximum 4-5 hours a day, 5 days a week

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Accuracy of profile: (5.0)

Cultural exchange: (4.9)

Communication: (5.0)

Host ref number: 959988866121