The following article was featured in the 17th May 2020 edition of Scotland on Sunday
Words Nicola Hunter
Visitors who want a taste of living off the soil while perefecting their lotus can come to West Bastlebog farm
Ever since Alexa and Andrew Aitken moved to West Bastlebog farm near Duns in the Scottish Border, friends and family have been desperate to join them to sample a sanitised version of the good life. Fortunately, the couple have been happy to oblige.
The Millars moved to the farm in 2018. “I’ve always wanted to farm,” says Andrew. “I come from a farming community originally, but we’d been living in Edinburgh for 15 years. Alexa is a school teacher and a yoga teacher and she was keen to have her own studio. When this opportunity came up it was a meeting of a number of dreams.
“Essentially it’s a glorified small holding. “We have pigs, sheep, hens, geese and vegetable patches and are members of SOPA (Scottish Organic Producers Association), so everything we do is in accordance with organic standards. Not long after we moved in, we planted 110 apple trees; we had so many volunteers helping and this was before we decided to offer a holiday let. People were so keen to get involved in this sanitised version of farming. There was a real interest in farm to fork and a more wholesome way of life, but we were conscious of how out of touch people were with it.”
With so much enthusiasm and interest, the couple decided to look at converting the farm house in which they were living. “There was a section that wasn’t really used which already had its own entrance. As we were accustomed to living in much smaller accommodation it wasn’t a big issue for us to lose this extra space.”
The added bonus was that as part of the conversion, Alexa would get her yoga studio in the middle of the building which also added a degree of separation from the family’s living area.
The vision was to create a holiday let specifically geared towards couples as Andrew explains: “My parents used to run holiday cottages and marketed them for couples only. They were adamant it was important to provide good quality living space. The cottages were remarkably successful, and I think that was the main reason. We’ve stayed in places where people try and max out the bedrooms but you don’t live in bedrooms, you spend time in the living areas so the aim was always to make it as comfortable and spacious for a couple as possible.”
As well as space, the cottage also benefits from a fresh, contemporary feel which Andrew credits to his second job at Edinburgh Curtain Tracks. “I work with a number of interior designers in Edinburgh and I have the opportunity to visit some beautiful houses and see lots of new ideas. The mirror behind the stove pipe in the sitting room was inspired by a job I was working on with Emily Black Interiors. I’ve worked with her on a number of projects and she had used something similar in one her properties and I thought it was a nice touch. I took a little bit of that element, some ideas from Pinterest and this is what came about.”
The gorgeously, dark, Hix Blue bathroom was also inspired by some Edinburgh interiors. “I’ve often seen this colour used in cloakroom WCs and I think dark interiors can often make spaces better proportioned. Here, I thought it would add a sense of warmth and along with the underfloor heating that we fitted it’s a very cosy place to be.”
In complete contrast the dining kitchen could not be more light or contemporary. “I’m not really someone that likes a theme that runs throughout a home. I like to have separate themes in different spaces but really the most important thing was to maximise the fabulous natural light and outlook that the property benefits from. It’s very much a property that sets you up for the day and gently closes you down for the night.
I think you get that first farm feeling when you go through and make your coffee in the morning. We have a fantastic morning kitchen; it’s east-facing and it gets stunning sunrises. When you’re on holiday you have time to dine, time to enjoy breakfast. Morning light is a wonderful thing to energise you and we chose a colour scheme that really maximises that east-facing morning.”
Located in the middle of the house, the bedroom is also here for a distinctive reason. “You sleep in the middle space, so there’s complete black out in the bedroom. We’re big on sleep, we even take our own pillows when we stay away!”
Many guests take advantage of a private yoga class with Alexa in the early evening too, which going by the guestbook comments seems another hit to help them to the land of nod. “We’ve had people say they’ve been unable to move from the sofa after their evening yoga class as it was so relaxing, which is lovely to hear.”
Of course, this only covers the interior of the house, externally, guests can get involved as little or as much as they like in the day to day farm business. Fresh air, homegrown food, evening yoga and a great night’s sleep, this really is the good life, sanitised or not.
West Bastlebog Farm Cottage is available to let through CoolStays, www.coolstays.com.
To find out more about life on the farm visit www.millarorganics.co.uk