Adam and Rosie Baxendine
Husband and wife team Adam and Rosie Baxendine run Aikenhead House, a retreat on
the outskirtsof Blairgowrie which offers guests a place to escape from it all either by
relaxing by the fire or using it as a base to explore rural Perthshire.
The Aikenhead House story begins with a leap of faith.
Rosie and Adam were both working in high-stress environments that they describe as “not serving us well”. They decided to have a total rethink of their working lives and create their own business that aligned with their values and that meant they were, in their own words, “excited about getting up for each day”.
They set about converting parts of their unique country house and small holding to create holiday apartments – a self-contained studio in the Attic and additional accommodation for groups - and which meant they gave up their guaranteed good incomes.
Adam is based at the house while Rosie, who is a walk and cycle leader and passionate wild swimmer, organises activities for guests – everything from kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding to bike hire or simply just taking the resident pygmy goats Del Boy and Rodney for a gentle walk.
The enterprise journey
While admitting there have been some “challenging times”, the couple have stuck to their entrepreneurial dream.
Adam says: “We officially opened in 2018 and our vision was to create a place where we’d love to go ourselves with the idea that this would attract those who aligned with our values – and it has worked!
“We have always held on to a total belief in what we were doing - and that it was both correct for us and for our intended demographic. Staying genuine and not getting caught up in comparing our venture to others has really helped us.
“Our accommodation is a true reflection of our lives and what is important to us – it is quirky,
adventurous, eco-friendly and sustainable.
“We wanted to create a very relaxed, welcoming and friendly atmosphere so guests felt that they could wander about and were happy to, for example, shout through the house to find us if they needed something. We often end up having cups of tea or a beer in the evening with the guests and love the interaction with them.”
Their approach has struck a chord with others – over the peak season Aikenhead House achieved a 100 per cent occupancy, with an average occupancy of over 55 per cent for its first year. Feedback from guests has been very positive with many saying they want to come back and explore more of the local area.
They have an average score of 9.8 with booking.com and are working with AirBnB which has rated Aikenhead House as a ‘superhost’ for the second consecutive time.
The pair say that community-based enterprise support organisation GrowBiz has been a big help from the outset.
Adam says: “We have both attended GrowBiz networking and training events and have also had funding advice from their very knowledgeable enterprise facilitators.
“We regularly recommend other entrepreneurs to get in touch with GrowBiz to see how they can benefit from the range of free services they offer.
“Rural enterprise is a unique environment to work in and can sometimes be lonely and challenging. Having a support network that also offers skills learning and development is vital to help those who need that little bit of encouragement to continue or increase their business.”
Looking to the future
The couple are brimming with ideas for further developing the offering at Aikenhead House.
Rosie explains: “We have so many ideas for the future, it’s just a matter of making sure we don’t forget to enjoy what we set out to achieve from the outset.
“One objective is to continue developing the organic garden to become as self-sufficient as possible – and sourcing all other items from local small businesses. We are most of the way there now but can always look to improve.
“We are also collaborating with other local businesses to provide additional experiences and opportunities for our guests to explore what’s on our doorstep.”