After 31 years busily keeping South Whittlieburn Farm bed and breakfast, caravan park and livery yard and sheep farm going, Mary Watson has decided it’s time to take some time for herself.

Mary, who is 77, has been running the whole business on her own for the past four years, after her husband, Tom, passed away, and she admits it was as steep a learning curve as she has ever climbed to keep things going.

The farm, near Largs, has 150 acres and previously Tom looked after their flock of Blackies and Mules, with Mary looking after the house and the guests. Tom's death meant that she had to learn a lot about sheep – and fast.

The business has been thriving for years, the caravan and camping ground is really busy with lots of motorhomes and mobile caravans and tents and she has enough land to offer both hard and soft standing. As I talk to Mary in her kitchen she has people coming to the door and the phone rings constantly.

She doesn’t mind, she is used to it and she says the best part of the job is meeting the people who pass through the farm, either related to the livery, the B and B or the caravan park. “You’ve got to be a people person to do this job. I’ve had people come back to the B and B for years and years. They’ve become family friends now.”

Looking back over the years, she talked about previous businesses – they had a milk retail outfit and a small grocers shop in Kilmarnock. They also had a butcher’s shop in Glasgow and one in Dunoon, it was a hectic life, and the busy life they lived she says, helped her tremendously when Tom passed away. She threw herself into the routine of work to get her through.

After having to find out about buying sheep, lambings and buying and selling sheep: “I had no idea what to buy and the auction went so quickly I kept missing the ones I liked.” But Mary now knows her limitations and she has help with the sheep side of things.

She keeps herself busy the rest of the day by doing breakfasts for her guests, cleaning up bedrooms, then she goes over to the camper’s toilet and shower block and cleans those too.

The livery yard is mainly self livery for the 27 stables, so even though she isn’t mucking out horses, she says she is still cleaning up after everyone out there too. It never ends.

Then she has the garden, caravan and tent fields to keep tidy, plus the house to maintain and lots of paperwork to deal with. She’s a hard worker but she loves it.

“I have definitely not pushed the B and B side of the business so much lately – it is word of mouth and repeats, as I like to let it tick over which is fine for me now. There are five ensuite bedrooms to look after.

"The caravan park is busy and the livery yard is almost full. There is so much potential here for someone to take over the business now that I have decided to sell.

"I’ve not advertised the B and B for a long time, but I’m sure if the new owners are more computer savvy than I am and make use of social media etc, all the elements of the business could expand easily.”

There’s lots of land for any future expansion and Mary shows me plans that were drawn up to put in a park of cabins or pods down by the river that runs through the farm, it is a particularly scenic part of the land.

Mary and Tom never got around to pushing the plan forward, and she says herself it was a pretty ambitious plan, but you can imagine how lovely the park would have been from the drawings. There’s also planning for a four-bedroomed house across the road.

The farm site is well situated for a glamping option, with lots of the facilities already there for further tourism diversification.

Just being a couple of miles outside of the popular tourist town of Largs, the location is terrific, situated in the glorious Brisbane Glen and the views from the hill behind the house are outstanding over the estuary looking down toward Ailsa Craig.

If you are going to be a landlady with a Scottish Tourist Board 4 star B and B, you might as well be a great one. Mary has certificates all over the house with various awards she has picked up over the years. She was in the top 20 of the competition for the top landlady in the UK in 2005. And the B and B was in the Which top 10 list.

Mary continued: “I have people come here from all over the world, and I love meeting them all. I do my best to try to make their holiday as much fun as possible.

"I can advise them on the best places to eat, and where to visit, things to see and do and as a result people return annually or every now and again. I get lots of thank you cards and emails which is lovely.”

What was the hardest challenge when she took over the business on her own? “It was definitely learning about sheep. I felt the local rural affairs office could have given me more advice and been more helpful.

"There was plenty of information about the things I couldn’t do. Advice on what I should be doing about missing tags from sheep that were going and coming from the market was the kind of information I needed, but that wasn’t forthcoming. My neighbours helped me particularly when I had to go to the market for the first time, so that was good.”

Her 'children' now have families of their own, so she plans to spend more time with them and her grandchildren on retiral.

The plan is as follows: play more bridge, do more painting (not walls this time), and maybe get involved with the community council which she enjoyed many years ago.

“I love it here and will be really sad to leave after all the years we spent here. And I will miss meeting all the guests from all over the world. But I want to retire before I am 80, my only worry is that I will get bored!” I doubt Mary will weary!

South Whittlieburn, Largs, is on the market with Galbraith, at offers over £875,000.