Kinneil House was built in the late 1730s, as the manse for the Polmont Old Parish Church; in fact, the current church was opened in 1845 and stands alongside the ruins of the church building for which Kinneil House was originally built.
The house has been in our family since 1983, when my Aunt and Uncle moved into the upstairs apartment. Dad purchased the ground floor for our family business in 1987 and then took over the apartment in 1989, when my Aunt and Uncle decided to move to Bridge of Allan. For a time the family business made use of the whole building but we moved to online supply in 2005 and no longer have need of such a huge amount of office space, so the apartment became vacant and Richard and I moved in when we finished University in 2006.
Old buildings always cost a lot to maintain and that’s just the trade-off to living and working in such an amazing environment. However, a few years ago we discovered that the house needs a completely new roof, for which we were quoted £60,000. We have since had quotes from various roofers, coming down to £37,000, but this is still more than we have available. In addition to the roof repairs needed, the ancient sash-and-casement windows all need refurbished and we’d like to replace the wiring and heating systems and re-point the garden walls. We therefore began looking at ways to try and generate the necessary cash from the 2 1/2 acres of land that surround the building.
Our first approach was to look at building houses in the walled garden, something that my uncle had considered back in the ’80s. We had a local architect draw up a scheme, taking inspiration from the church building, and went through a whole consultation process with the local planning office, leading up to the point where we were to submit our application for planning consent. However, when it came down to it, we just couldn’t do it – the idea of breaking apart this wonderful old site just didn’t sit well with us at all. That left us with a bit of a dilemma, though: we still need the money for the roof so if we weren’t going to build on the garden, what were we going to do?
I don’t actually remember where the idea for glamping came from, but one day I came into the office and suggested that we consider putting some pods in the garden. Yes, it would take us longer to generate the cash to make the repairs but it had the massive advantage that we could keep the site together and, if we designed them carefully, we would even be able to remove the units at some point in the future, without any lasting impact on the garden. Added to that, it would allow us to bring people into the local area and introduce them to all that we love about Falkirk and, more widely, Scotland. Perfect, surely?!
As it happens, Mum discovered that the first Glamping Show was taking place just a few days after I made my out-of-the-blue suggestion, so Richard and I headed off to Warwickshire to try and establish whether this genuinely was something we could do, or just a crazy notion of mine. We came back absolutely buzzing with ideas and certain that this was the right solution to make the Kinneil House site self-sustaining. In the two years since then, we’ve refined our plans somewhat, starting with the realisation that we didn’t want to go for basic pods, preferring something a bit more in keeping with the unique nature of both the building and, to be honest, our personalities.
Getting planning permission has been something of a challenge but it looks like we are nearly there and, two years on, we’re still just as excited to get started!