Back in November, we caught up with Andrew Donaldson from Comrie Croft in rural Perthshire to find out about how he started the business, how the Croft has responded to Covid-19 and his hopes for the future.
Comrie Croft is a 261-acre estate with camping and glamping facilities, a range of self-catering accommodation, a café, a farm-shop and a bike shop all in a rural setting in Perthshire perfect for biking, hiking or just taking some time to relax. The enterprise is clearly rooted in a love for nature and passion for rural regeneration and is run with a care for the environment at the forefront. Andrew is dedicated to Comrie Croft being a space for other local businesses to thrive with the different facilities at the croft being run by separate businesses symbiotically, all benefiting from each other and working together to reduce waste.
Andrew, and most of the people involved in running the Croft, are from the local community with Andrew having worked on the estate before the opportunity arose for him to pull together the people and resources to buy it. They also received a business loan from Triodos Bank and were supported by the previous owner to make it a reality by being able to rent the property before buying.
The wedding venue at Comrie Croft provides a substantial part of the income for the business and has been hugely impacted by Covid-19. The Croft relied on the furlough scheme through lockdown and tried to make best of the season when restrictions were relaxed, knowing the importance of having some form of summer season to take the business through the quieter winter. Andrew discussed the resilience created by having multiple enterprises within the Croft which allowed them all to support each other throughout the year. Comrie Croft has now adapted to Covid-19 and their customers new needs and restrictions offering a co-working space and a regular online farmer’s market selling local produce to local people through NeighbourFood.
Moving forward, Andrew would like to see more localised decision making around planning so land can be used to meet the unique needs of the surrounding community and more houses built rurally, considering the environment and our responsibility to look after it. Comrie Croft is already zero-waste to landfill, but Andrew wants to push on with other regenerative projects including net carbon sequestration, energy self-sufficiency and continuing to support suppliers, partners and customers to become regenerative – going beyond sustainability.
His advice to other people considering starting a rural business: Just do it and use the wisdom of those around you!
Comrie Croft has its values of enterprise, stewardship, synergy, community and creativity at its heart and is a founding member of the Northwoods Rewilding Network and a signatory of the Scottish Business Pledge.