We have a chart on the wall. Today is day 103 of lockdown at Isla Bank House. I used to watch Big Brother and I can’t help doing the lockdown countdown in a Geordie accent (in my head).
It’s had significantly more ups than downs. We never expected to get to the gardens this year. With an almost full book, we expected to be focussing solely on the B&B business and that for the second year, the gardens would be showing us what happened if you gave them an inch.

With unexpected extra time on our hands, we patched up an old greenhouse and planted veg and cut flower seeds, took cuttings from the beds and marvelled at how nature does its thing and stuff just grows. We dug, re-dug and dug again the walled garden, lined paths with tree trunks, transported 100s of barrows of bark from the woods and turned an eyesore into our fruit and veg supplier for the rest of the year. We put our garden chairs right in the middle and for about 84 of the 92 evenings in lockdown, it has been somewhere to sit and relax with a beer, backache, a smile and a real sense of achievement.

We’ve also worked on the mature beds, borders and lawns. We’ve grown rhubarb for our neighbours. We’ve made garden planters from old pallets. We’ve planted saplings, cut down trees, pruned 100-year-old rhododendrons, divided plants, moved them, moved them back, killed some, saved some and learned everything for ourselves along the way. We’ve uncovered paths and rockeries and ferns that have been buried for years. We have opened up the view from the front so folks out for their daily exercise can, at last, see in. We’ve had many conversations with older locals who told us they have never seen Isla Bank House from the road because of the dense trees and bushes. We’ve laughed at the tales of how they ‘know someone who used to…’ shimmy over the walls as kids to pinch the gardener’s apples and cucumbers!

The downer is that we have missed having guests. Last year our focus was entirely on creating beautiful bedroom suites, a sumptuous bar and a spacious light, bright dining room. We were expecting them all to be filled with laughter and good cheer again this year and it is sad that they lie empty for now. However, we are slowly seeing a cautious easing of the lockdown in Scotland and we look forward to guests returning when it is safe and now being able to fully enjoy the beauty, peace and tranquillity we’ve created in the gardens. Social distancing is easy here, with nearly three acres to explore and we will re-open with just two bedrooms/suites; one on either side of the house and each with its own private dining room. In spite of social distancing and restrictions on the freedoms we have enjoyed in the past, we are confident that guests are still going to leave us wishing they could have stayed longer.

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