Continuing our ‘Stories from the Owners’ series, we hear from Fiona and Ali Campbell, the owners of Mansefield House, a cosy family holiday home in the Argyll village of Arrochar. Two miles from Loch Lomond, the home is perfect for a family holiday or a get-together for a group of friends. Read on to hear from the owners about the heart of Mansefield House and their approach to self-catering.
Tell us about how and when you decided to become host(s) of a self-catering property in Scotland.
My husband Ali and I have operated two large holiday homes overlooking Loch Long, Argyll for the last 20 years. For us, welcoming guests and enabling them to create lasting memories, in a wonderful part of Scotland, has been a true privilege.
At the tender age of 27, it was time for me to leave the rat race of London, and a self-catering business in Scotland became a new career choice. Alongside our own business, I was appointed as the ASSC’s first Chief Executive in February 2015, supporting the sector and working with other organisations to support the wider tourism sector in Scotland. Founded in 1978, the ASSC is the leading source of knowledge on short-term letting and holiday homes in Scotland and is the only trade body representing the interests of the traditional self-catering sector. Self-catering properties have been a longstanding presence in communities for generations, especially in rural Scotland, providing an economic boost for local areas and enhancing Scotland’s tourist accommodation offering. We represent over 1,300 Members, operating tens of thousands of self-catering properties throughout Scotland, from city centre apartments to rural cottages, to lodges and chalets, to castles, generating £867m per year for the Scottish economy.
The ASSC commits its members to maintaining the principles of “quality, integrity, cleanliness, comfort, courtesy and efficiency” and to offering visitors to Scotland consistently high standards within their self-catering properties. The ASSC’s vision is to place our members at the forefront of a professional, vibrant, and prosperous Scottish self-catering sector. In an ever-changing tourism landscape and as more and more legislation, regulations, and business expenses appear on the horizon, as well as the opportunities and challenges created by the collaborative economy, the ASSC finds itself increasingly politically engaged on all levels. Knowing and understanding the industry inside and out, working at the coal face, I am able to represent the sector and provide advocacy with a true understanding of the idiosyncrasies and challenges faced by operators on a day-to-day basis.
What does operating a professional self-catering business in Scotland mean to you?
Self-catering has been my life for two decades and I have enjoyed every single moment. Each and every time I see my guests arrive, eager to start their holiday, or leave, having enjoyed a restful and relaxing break, I remember exactly why this is what I do for a living. I feel extremely fortunate in my working life to have met so many great people from across the world and to have worked closely with my amazing colleagues across sector to promote the work we do. I feel genuinely blessed. I could go on about the many different rewarding aspects of being a Scottish self-caterer but the best way to get an understanding about what our line of work means to us is to go stay in one of our properties – there’s nothing really like it.
What do you see as the benefits of staying in a self-catering property, in the ever-changing world of tourism?
Tourism is a force for good in Scotland. Tourism brings a wealth of economic, social, and cultural benefits to our communities, cities, and regions, while also supporting resilience and stimulating job creation. Sustainable tourism is critical, and I believe that self-catering accommodation has a key role to play. We can lead the way in providing holiday accommodation that balances the creation of memory-making vacations for our guests while also being a key part of our cities, towns, and villages.
The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers is immensely proud of our businesses, of those we employ, and of our record of being a fundamental part of our wonderful tourism offering and the communities we live and work in. Self-catering units can help to disperse guests throughout Scotland and are available in areas that are not often well-served by hotel chains, thereby spreading the economic benefits even wider and into the communities which need it most. Self-catering properties can, therefore, be viewed as part of the solution to sustainability, not the problem.
What is special about your region, to you?
Argyll and the Isles are must-visit destinations. There is no doubt about that. The village of Arrochar is nestled in the shadow of the Cobbler, beneath the Arrochar Alps, at the head of Loch Long. Situated within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, at the gateway to the Argyll Forest Park, the area is rich with spectacular views and scenery; jagged mountains, and sparkling lochs. Exceptional walking, climbing, golf, wilderness mountain biking, horse riding, fishing, canoeing, sailing, and various other water sports are on our doorstep, while the centre of Glasgow is only a 45-minute drive away. The immediate area has a wealth of attractions, including Inveraray Castle, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, the Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, and the glorious gardens of Argyll and Bute. Our guests repeatedly find out that they are spoiled for choice in terms of things to see, do, and experience. Hidden gems such as Puck’s Glen and the Gruffalo Trail, Cairndow, offer delights for all ages, while walks on the doorstep cater for all ages and abilities and also great for our four-legged friends to explore. It is so important to encourage people to visit our destination, to stay longer, to spend more and to provide more value to our local economy.
What aspect of your property do guests comment on the most? What makes them come and keeps them coming back?
We offer a warm welcome and a true home from home for our guests. Don’t take our word for it – here’s what people say: https://mansefieldhouse.co.uk/reviews/ Making people happy makes us happy.
Do you ever think about the memories that are made in your property? If so, how do you prepare your property for guests to have an unforgettable experience?
All the time! Knowing that our guests have had holidays that will stay with them forever is what gets us out of bed in the morning and the feedback we’ve had really gives us a boost. In terms of preparation, we do our best to make sure that every single detail is in place before our guests arrive. Some of that is routine, but nevertheless essential, housekeeping stuff that we always ensure is done to the highest possible standard. We also think about who our guests are and tailor their experience accordingly. A family of four, with a couple of kids and a dog, will have different needs and wishes than a retired couple with their children and grandchildren looking for a trip with multi-generational activities on the doorstep or a group of stressed-out millennials taking a couple of days away from their city jobs to relax and unwind. It’s about making the experience fit the guests – that’s our attitude.
What’s one thing you want visitors to your property to experience when in Scotland?
Mansefield House sits on the legendary Seafood Trail which meanders through Argyll, encompassing some of the most spectacular coastal scenery Scotland has to offer, enabling sea foodies to sample, share, and enjoy seafood and shellfish from a wide variety of waterfront establishments. From the freshest of crab rolls served with a squeeze of lemon and some homemade mayonnaise, to Michelin rated menus that feature a wide range of painstakingly prepared dishes, visitors to the Seafood Trail are assured of a warm welcome and an eating experience that values freshness and flair above all else. We’re so very fortunate to have all of this right on our doorstep!
How important is the local area and local community to the experience of your guests?
It’s extremely important. Our picturesque surroundings, combined with the great people who make up the community we work in, are everything to us. We are lucky to have excellent working and personal relationships with our neighbours, which help us offer the kind of one-of-a-kind holidays that we’re able to.
Do you have a local story or a special local place that you tell your guests about?
Two of our favourite local hidden gems: Puck’s Glen: Dripping with greenery, padded with moss, a tumbling burn: the magical world of Puck’s Glen is surely one of Scotland’s best-kept secrets. The paths weave and wind over the hillside and through the forest, past spectacular waterfalls, viewpoints and stunning rhododendrons. The Gruffalo Trail, Ardkinglas: “A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood”. Take your little ones on an imagination inspiring adventure through the stunning Ardkinglas woodland gardens, discovering the mouse, fox, owl and Gruffalo from Julia Donaldson’s much-loved stories. Perfect for any age.
What are your ambitions for your property or your business?
Green, sustainable tourism, or responsible tourism encourages visitors to Scotland to consider the impact their visit has on the environment. There are lots of ways we can help protect Scotland from the impacts of over-tourism, including considering where and when we visit, choosing sustainable and active ways to travel, and staying in environmentally- friendly accommodation. Self-catering and short-term letting is the most environmentally sustainable option for tourism compared to other accommodation types. At Mansefield House we are committed to providing a good quality service while also minimising the environmental impact of our activities. We are surrounded by beautiful surroundings here in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and we’d like to keep it that way. From PV solar panels generating energy, to providing EV charging points, we are doing everything we possibly can to do our bit, and we are committed to carrying on doing so.
Why should people stay at your property?
If you are looking for a warm, comfortable home from home, with friendly and welcoming hosts, look no further!