The Persabus Hospitality Factor

There was a gathering of breakfast guests at the front door of the farmhouse this morning. The girls were queuing up waiting for the Happy Farmer to deliver their cereal. A flock of Hebridean sheep had taken advantage of the Happy Farmer leaving their field gate open as he loaded a silage bale onto the tractor. With the bull and cows at the top of the breakfast list today the girls escaped from the field and hopped and skipped their way happily into the front garden to munch on the fresh grass as they waited impatiently for the Happy Farmer. Once they spy the farmer with bucket in hand though there was a mass exodus to get back to their field in time for a tasty bite from the troughs.
It has been a wild and blustery time with Storm Dennis calling by. Last night the power supply to the island was cut as the gales raged. When I went to collect the Happy Farmer from his ‘Sunday paper session’ the assembled throng were all sat in the candlelight at the bar enjoying their pints.
With ferries cancelled our guests had to change travel plans at the last minute and book flights over instead, a hire car waiting for their arrival. It would have been a bumpy flight, but if the clouds allowed, the views of the wild and angry seas below would have been quite something. Stopping off for a roast dinner, by candlelight due to the power cut, in the Bowmore Hotel, Peter’s Sunday roasts are getting fantastic reviews, the guests arrived to Persabus in darkness. With no power the Happy Farmer met them with a handful of candles, torches and a dram to welcome them.
There is always a warm and hearty welcome awaiting at Persabus. Long before the farm diversified into offering accommodation alongside the pottery and jewellery workshops. Persabus has always enjoyed a steady stream of visitors. The Happy Farmer always has the kettle on. The network of farmers and local characters is an important part of island life, and the rule of thumb at Persabus is that no matter how busy you are, you should always make time to stop and offer a welcome to whoever arrives. From a kettle on the boil, to drams being poured. Troughs of soup, to big hearty meals, for a few or the many, the Persabus hospitality has always been about embracing the moment. Maybe that was what planted the idea nearly thirty years ago to embark on an epic building programme, a programme which would see the Happy Farmer renovate and build four properties, much of the work completed with his own bare hands. A building project which has allowed the Happy Farmer to extend the warm welcome on offer at Persabus not just to his friends and family, but to the whole world.
It began with Persabus Cottage. With its roof hanging off, a tree growing through the centre of it and just the huge thick old stone walls holding it together. A building which has stood on Persabus for over three hundred years. Once home to the Happy Farmer’s great uncles.
When I first arrived on the farm, the cottage lay derelict. When you stepped inside though and stood in the shelter of those old crumbling stone walls, the old kitchen, with the open fireplace, a swee still hanging over it, the most peaceful, homely atmosphere enveloped you. Beyond the rubble and chaos of lying empty and dilapidated for years, the cottage had a warmth that drew us excitedly into planning our renovations to make it a home once again.
Once plans had been drawn up, and the Happy Farmer had circumnavigated his way through all of the planning applications, with building warrants secured, the project got underway.
The site was cleared of the old lath and plaster, boulders, trees and rubble. Days spent with bare hands and a wheelbarrow. Scaffolding was erected. Walls picked and pointed, securing the old stones firmly in place. Old stone floors had to be picked and smashed, then re-laid and levelled with cement. The cement mixer became an important tool. The remains of the roof were cleared to make way for the new one, maintaining the old traditional slates. Inside walls were framed, gyproc ordered and plastered. It was a huge undertaking, but there was always a good hearty craic and in the early days lots of help from local builders.
Once finished Persabus Cottage provided a little oasis, which we moved into with our young family whilst the main farmhouse went through a similar renovation programme. We spent one very happy year there, and after our draughty old farmhouse, we had the added bliss of oil-fired central heating at the push of a button. The large cottage kitchen maintained its character as the Happy Farmer used old pitch pine beams to frame the ceiling, large Italian tiles on the floor and lots of pine incorporated into units and cupboards to allow for plenty of storage. Patio doors framed the quiet, sheltered garden, a big, old tree in the centre. It was the perfect playground for our two small toddlers and enclosed by a huge old drystone wall. A wall which has lasted the test of time having been built by Thomas Spalding around the same time he built the Round Church in Bowmore.
Our young family had hours of endless fun in that garden, building dens around the tree, and all the while I could keep a close eye on them from the comfort of the large, homely kitchen. The kitchen soon became our main living space. The Happy Farmer installed an oil fired Rayburn, which added a lovely cosiness on cold days. With its oven always on the Rayburn was ideal for leaving soup, a roast, or casserole simmering away in, whilst we enjoyed beach days. We bought a large pine table for the kitchen with lots of space for family and friends and entertaining. A settee beside the Rayburn, made the perfect spot to curl up on, whilst supper was cooking.
In the sitting room we enjoyed the comfort of roaring fires in the evenings, having kept the old original fireplace. With the addition of a study for escaping to write or draw in, a utility room for laundry and bikes, and the addition of a downstairs loo, Persabus Cottage was the perfect, lovely home for our young family.
When we vacated the cottage to move back into the farmhouse we began offering holiday lets in Persabus Cottage. Over the years we have been lucky to welcome so many guests, friends and family to our lovely cottage. It is a popular choice for families. The secure garden providing added space for young children to race around in, and of course there is always a welcome for a pet dog or two tagging along on the holiday too. Upstairs, with the main bedrooms offering the option of king size double beds or twin beds in each, it has become a popular choice for parties of whisky visitors, especially given our prime location for the north Islay distilleries. This in turn has led to the Happy Farmer offering the option of breakfasts for our cottage guests too, as sometimes, even though there is a large, fully equipped kitchen, sometimes, it is just good to enjoy being served one of the Happy Farmer’s huge cooked breakfasts.
At Persabus we invite you to come along and enjoy our farm hospitality.
Until next time…