As many of you know, I like to combine travel with volunteering. It helps me feel like part of a community and not just a tourist. This time around it will be the gardens of Kincardine Castle where I’ll be toiling away.
While the castle was passed down to Andy Bradford, the funds to keep it going were not. When Andy and his wife Nicky took over the estate in the 1980s it was in need of major repairs. Additionally, the cash flow needed to care for 3000 acres and a 75 room castle is enormous. So Andy and Nicky set out to make the property an income producing asset. They have come a long way. The castle and its garden have been restored. It is often the setting for private and corporate events, as well as fundraisers for local charities. There are 60 other properties located throughout the estate’s 3000 acres. They are primarily houses and a few commercial buildings, all of which are rented to local residents at below market rents. The community of Kincardine O’Neil is a very small one. So when one of Andy’s tenant families had outgrown their cottage, rather than move to a bigger place, they asked Andy to build an addition to the house. And he did!
While Kincardine Castle is mostly supporting itself now, Andy and Nicky still rely on volunteers in what is really a win win arrangement. Volunteers get to live in the castle and all meals are provided. In return, volunteers help with projects on the estate, typically contributing about 28-30 hours a week of labor. This time of year the gardens require pruning, weeding, and planting. So I am spending part of my days with the Bradfords and my two fellow volunteers getting the beautiful blooming garden ready for its grand annual opening event next weekend. In the evenings and on weekends I am exploring this lovely rural Scottish countryside and its deliciously quaint little villages. A win win indeed.