Couple poured savings into remote Scottish home they'd not visited

Couple who poured their savings into a remote £415,000 Scottish home they had never visited say they have ‘no regrets’ – even though they had to sell their belongings to get by when Covid delayed plans to open holiday rentals

  • Alan and Yvonne sold house on Crawley to buy £415,000 property in Scotland 
  • Want to rent out lodges for tourists in the Kyle of Sutherland and give tours 
  • They poured all of their savings into the house without even visiting it once 
  • In spite of several setbacks, couple told Ben Fogle they don’t regret decisions 

 A couple revealed how they gambled all their savings into a holiday rental projects in Scotland – without actually visiting the place they bought once. 

Supply chain manager Alan and cookery teacher Yvonne took a big risk when they borrowed from friends and used all their money to buy a house for £415,000 in Linsidemore, by the The Kyle of Sutherland in autumn 2020. 

They told Ben Fogle on Channel 5’s Make New Lives in the Country that they hoped to use the property’s 1.8 acres of land to build lodges, aiming to rent them out to tourists and live off the business, with Alan offering hikes and tours and Yvonne selling cooking lessons. 

They explained on the show, which airs at 9pm, that the whole plan hedged on the sale of their £500,000 home in Crawley, East Sussex, which they would use to repay their mortgage and to design and build the two £250,000 lodges on their new land.

With only Yvonne’s salary to support them, they had to make the tough decision to live apart, with Alan overseeing the project in Scotland and Yvonne staying behind in Crawley until the end of her teaching contract in June 2021. 

The launch of their dream holiday business was delayed by a year, and they had to spend seven months apart, counting every penny sand selling their belongings on eBay to scrape by while they waited to get the exchange on their home.

In spite of these difficulties, they told Ben they had ‘no regrets whatsoever,’ and the lodges are now ready to accommodate visitors for £140 a night. 

Supply chain manager Alan and cookery teacher Yvonne told Ben Fogle they used all their money to buy a house for £415,000 in Linsidemore, by the The Kyle of Sutherland in autumn 2020.

In spite of their difficulties, they told Ben they had ‘no regret whatsoever,’ and the lodges are now ready to accommodate visitors for £140 a night

Putting her feet up! Former cookery teacher Yvonne stayed in Crawley for seven months waiting for the end of her teaching contract while Alan set up their business in Scotland, but eventually helped furnish the lodges in Scotland. Pictured: In her new home 

The couple, who met as single parents 19 years ago, decided to turn their lives around after the covid-19 pandemic.

Due to the pandemic, Alan was made redundant, and the couple reconnected after years of living separate lives, due to their demanding jobs. 

‘We just loved being together and we just loved each other’s company. and being a team and doing things together. We just loved how we are, romantics at heart,’ Yvonne said. 

‘It was almost like a gift in some respect, to have that time together,’ Alan concurred. 

The lodges took £250,000 to set up, and the project was delayed for a year as Alan and Yvonne had to face several hurdles along the way 

The idea was to build the lodges and rent them out to visitor, with Alan giving bespoke tours of the local woodlands, and Yvonne offering cooking courses and dining experiences to the guests

The couple cast their eye on the five-bedroom property in Linsidemore and bought it without any hesitation.

The idea was to build the lodges and rent them out to visitor, with Alan giving bespoke tours of the local woodlands, and Yvonne offering cooking courses and dining experiences to the guests.  

Without even seeing the house in person, they bought the property straight off the internet.  

‘We’ve put every penny that we’ve got into this and we borrowed from family and friends to help get us through,’ Alan admitted, adding the couple would be living on a very tight budget, with a ‘tiny bit of savings left.’

They had enough savings to last for the next three months, and counted only on Yvonne’s salary to fund their day-to-day and monthly outlays of £4,000 a month. 

Yvonne and Alan, who met as single parents, 19 years ago, were motivated to change their life by lockdown  

Ben visited the couple at the end of the show to see what progress they had made on their lodges 

The bulk of the funds they’d be able to pour into the project would come from the sell of their house, which was on the market for £500,000.  

Alan moved to the Scotland property in November 2020, and thankfully, no bad surprises awaited the couple when they went to visit their new property for the first time. 

At first, excitement fueled the couple, with Yvonne saying: ‘Can’t wait to get the business up and running.’

They toasted to their plans with champagne, saying: ‘Here’s to the dream, here’s to hard work, here’s to Scotland and to our future.’

Then the hard work became, with Yvonne returning to Crawley for the remainder of her teacher contract, and living in their empty house while they waited for it to be sold. 

Yvonne and Alan told the presenter they had ‘no regrets whatsoever,’ in spite of opening their renting business a year later than they originally had planned 

Yvonne admitted to Ben it had been really hard to live apart from Alan for seven months, but she said it had been worth it 

‘We know this is journey, we know this is what we have to do, but it is tough, being here without Alan,’ Yvonne said. 

Early after Alan moved to Scotland, he received Ben’s visit.  

‘This speaks for itself,’ the presenter said, gesture to the stunning view the couple get from their new dwelling. ‘I’m imagining this is a bit different to Crawley.

‘I don’t think this could be more far removed from Crawley if you tried, it’s almost polar opposites,’ Alan replied. 

‘The whole landscape to explore is so amazing and this place is such a beauty,’ he added. 

‘I’m really excited about how the seasons work here. Down in Crawley you got about 30 degrees in the summer and then you get rain all winter,’ he told Ben. 

But the presenter was quick to burst Alan’s bubble , warning him: ‘You’re not going to escape the rain here.’

Yvonne and Alan got Ben to help during his visit and he moved some furniture into the lodges for them 

Alan wanted to take visitors into hikes and tours around the property to see the natural beauty if the region 

Ben also had a video call with Yvonne, who still lived in Crawley at the time of his visit.  

‘One of our friends said to us: “my sister won’t even buy a pair of shoes online and you made one of the biggest purchases of your life having not even been in the house”,’ she told him. 

She added that she found the project was ‘absolutely terrifying, and also exhilarating at the same time.’

Pressure of new business and risk of what you and Alen have embarked on.

At the time of Ben’s visit, she told him she hoped that the business would be up and running by the time her teaching contract ended, because money was tight. 

Yvonne and Alan told Ben they are making a point to make time for each other and to go on walks 

When the show was filmed in April, the couple said they were hoping to get their first visitors by July, and they have met that goal 

She said it would be ‘the perfect scenario. We’ll be mortgage free, we’ll have no debts.’

‘I’m just hoping it gives us enough money to survive, fingers crossed, everything crossed that by September we’ll start having the income from the lodges.’

Unfortunately, problems became to pile on for the couple as they tried to get building permission to install the lodges on their land.  

The extreme Scottish weather makes building projects challenging in the region, and the couple only have a small window to put their lodges project into action.  

‘As soon as the money comes through, we’re gonna hit the escalator straight away,’ he said. 

‘I know absolutely nothing about building, it’s totally alien and it’s quite scary,’ Alan admitted. 

Ben, Alan and Yvonne in front of the couple’s hard-earned lodges. The projects met many hurdles 

He managed to find a company willing to build the lodges for him, but in order to move forward, he needs planning permission from the council. 

However, to make ends meet in the meantime, he had to resort to selling his and Yvonne’s belongings on eBay.  

‘I’m selling loads of our stuff on eBay. My stuff, Yvonne’s stuff, eBaying hundreds of things,’ he said. 

Four months after he moved to Scotland, the couple were still waiting to exchange contracts on their old house, to get a much needed influx of cash into their business man.  

It was an emotional time for Yvonne, who admitted she was ‘terrified’ of what would happen if the sale didn’t go through.  

The cosy lodges have amazing views and were furnished by Alan and Yvonme, who joked she went ‘from cleaner to managing director’

Yvonne said the goal was for visitors to come and unwind. It took the couple nearly two years to action their plan 

‘We’re still on tender hooks every single day that we are just going to get that call to say we’ve exchanged because then we can start paying bills and put our biasness plans in action,’ she said, fighting back tears. 

‘We need this house sold. It needs to go. We’re in an awful amount of trouble if it does go in the next couple of weeks. It has to go,’ she said. 

Meanwhile, up in Scotland, Alan was quite literally facing a badgering problem.

He had spotted badgers on the property, a species which is protected in Scotland. 

As such, construction works that disturb badgers’ dwellings, called sets, are not given the go ahead in the nation. 

This discovery threatened Alan and Yvonne’s lodges.  

The self-contained lodges come 2ith their own bedroom and bathrooms and a small living-room overseeing the river Kyle of Sutherland 

‘The worse case scenario is that we just can’t use this end of the property at all,’ he said. 

Alan got an expert badger ecologist, named Mick, to identify where the badgers were.

He found that they were less than 30 metres away from where Alan hoped to build his lodges, which means they would need to be built under the supervision of Mick, who would make sure the badgers are safe. 

The couple also ha to pay a further £11,000 to bury an electric pole on their property. 

This unexpected expenditure forced Alan to take on a remote job while, and pushed by the building of the lodges until October 2021.  

‘It feels like 2 steps forward, one back,’ Alan despaired. 

Meanwhile, Yvonne waved her teaching job in Crawley goodbye, and joined her husband in Scotland. 

After the electric pole was burie, the couple and their contractors raced against time to lay the foundations of the lodges. 

But the lodges’ installation was postponed for weeks on end due to the harsh weather conditions of the Scottish weather, and another wave of Covid-19.   

By November, Alan was disheartened by the delays in the project.  

‘A year ago I’d thought we’d have lodges openby now. That we’d have customers in them,’ he said. 

By the time Ben visited the couple again in April 2022, the couple had made strides. 

The self-contained one-bedroom lodges were finished and part furnished by Yvonne.

‘Since July, I’ve been working, handing the baton over, there are still a lot of things to do, but operationally it’s Yvonne’s baby,’ Alan told ben. 

Yvonne joked: ‘I’ve been promoted from cleaner to managing director.

The couple admitted there has been ‘a lot of sleepless nights’ and ‘lots of tears.’ 

‘When you’re teaching, you are in control, there are many a times where I haven’t been in control. Where I was just like “what are we doing?”,’ Yvonne admitted. 

‘You get a problem and you have to work it out,’ she added. 

‘In my job, I knew what I was doing. I don’t know what I am doing at the moment, but I’m learning,’ she added. 

Alan admitted the project had had its challenges, but the couple learned as they went. 

‘We’re definitely have had to be creative, you have to roll with things, you make the odd mistake and you can’t take it to heart, it’s just another problem to solve,’ he told Ben. 

But Yvonne had been able to see the upside to their hard work.  

‘I feel like I got the best of both worlds now. I still have the people ,but I have the space and the peace, and the tranquility,’ she told Ben. 

‘And the fresh air it’s the fresh air that fascinates me,’ she added. 

The couple added they made a point of spending plenty of time together and to go on lovely walks around their property in their downtime.  

They both said they had ‘no regrets whatsoever,’ and added they were hoping to welcome their first guests by July. 

According to the reviews on their website, they managed to meet that goal, and are now renting each lodge for £140 a night.  

Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Country airs tonight at 9pm on Channel 5. 

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