Farm diversifications have become increasingly common throughout agricultural circles. In fact with uncertainties swirling around Brexit, diversifying farms and rural businesses in new and multiple directions to increase income could help businesses remain resilient in the future.

Whether this is branching into the holiday home market or opening a farm shop, diversifications increase farm income, provide a long term future and greater stability, not to mention help individuals develop new skills and carry on their existing farming practice. One couple from Stranraer are testament to this and were ahead of the trend.

Husband and wife team Peter and Anne Wilson, the driving force behind Spoutwells Holiday Cottages, near Stranraer, are celebrating 20 years in the self catering business. A significant milestone given that over twenty years ago the dynamic duo started their own diversification project, which for them, was very much a journey into uncharted territory.

As well as running a small flock of pedigree Suffolk sheep, Peter now retired was a civil engineer for the Council’s road department and Anne was a full time mum and worked part time for a law firm. Nevertheless they took on the painstakingly arduous challenge to convert and transform, what were stables and a hayloft, into two holiday homes, with no experience in diversifying buildings or the holiday letting industry. A gamble you might think in this corner of Scotland.

Nevertheless, two decades on, their small working farm has become a popular destination welcoming guests from all over the world and British Isles and many returning year after year. Only last year the pair lovingly transformed and injected a new lease of life into two further unused farm buildings, adding the The Bull Pen and The Byre complete with hot tubs, to their portfolio.

With no experience in joinery, plastering or interior design their decision to diversify and take on most of the labour themselves with the help of family members and trusted local tradesmen, would for many seem like a daunting task. However, Peter and Anne took on the challenge with both hands and rose to the occasion. The two newest holiday homes wouldn’t look out of place in an interiors magazine and in a short period have proved incredibly popular.

Reflecting on their twentieth anniversary Peter comments: “It’s hard to believe we started off this exciting project over twenty years ago. We would never have imagined back then what we have achieved as a business and on a personal level now. I’ve really honed some new practical skills over the years. Perhaps I should have been a joiner. But for me it’s been a hobby. Something I have loved doing, especially now I have retired. I enjoy setting myself an ambitious target and when I reach that target and fulfill the goal the sense of satisfaction is fantastic. It’s definitely been worth the blood, sweat and tears.”

Peter continues: “It’s not something that has happened overnight however. It’s taken time and a huge amount of effort and sacrifice. But I’ve lived in Stranraer all my life, so for me it’s great to be able to provide people with a relaxing place to stay while they enjoy and explore what I believe to be a corner of real natural beauty and one of Dumfries and Galloway’s hidden gems.”

Anne adds: “There are a growing number of self catering homes in the area, which proves that there is real demand with more and more people visiting the area each year. We have a number of first class golf courses on our doorstep, beautiful botanical gardens only a short distance away and we’re on the Southern Upland Way, not to mention our stunning beaches, coast lines and growing food and drink scene as well as excellent fishing opportunities. We definitely feel we’ve been helping to fly the flag for tourism in the area over the last twenty years and we’ll keep on doing our bit, making sure this corner of Galloway is firmly on the map.”

It’s easy to see why this particular corner of Galloway has become a popular visitor destination and also captured the imagination of film and television crews over the years. The scenery whether in the height of summer or in the depths of winter is really breathtaking.

Golf lovers are spoilt for choice with four great courses close by or if you want to get the adrenalin pumping and the heart racing, head to the Galloway Forest Park to experience world class mountain biking.The Galloway Forest Park is also home to the first Dark Sky Park in the UK. Miles away from any light pollution, Galloway has some of the largest expanses of dark sky in Europe, making it the perfect destination for spotting distant planets and shooting stars.

For horticultural enthusiasts, the gardens surrounding Stranraer including Logan Botanical Gardens and Glenwhan are two spectacular jewels in the crown of any gardening paradise and with the Southern Upland Way running through this area of unspoilt coastline and forestry, walkers will be in their element.

The food and drink scene is also gaining momentum and the natural larder which this area boasts is being harnessed . There are a range of top class producers, farm shops and restaurants showcasing great tasting local produce including the Galloway Smokehouse, Galloway Lodge Preserves, Cream O’ Galloway and Crafty Distillery to name but a few.

With a thriving tourism industry evolving in Dumfries and Galloway, Peter and Anne’s gamble twenty years on has paid off for the hardworking pair. Breathing new life into exhausted farm buildings, Spoutwells Holidays Cottages allows visitors to escape to the countryside and enjoy their own slice of rural paradise, while allowing Peter and Anne to maintain their small working farm.