help exchange   Host 11174
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Help Exchange

All Year: Yes
Area (ha): 0.4
Persons: 2
Category: Homestay
Host ID: 11174
Country: Scotland

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Last Updated: December 19, 2017

An update 19 December 2017: we now have helpers until July 2018.

We are Michael (English) and Nolwenn (French)

We live in a 1902 Arts & Crafts house on Loch Lomond, about 25km west of Glasgow city centre.

We are looking for help restoring our 'lost' 1902 garden, looking after our small holiday cottage, DIY projects (plumbing, wiring, joinery), and generally around the house. (For more detail please read the section below).

This is a long profile, because we have been doing this for a while and think it is better for us all to know what we are about. If you come, you will hopefully be here a while so it may be worth taking the time to read this.

We typically host one or two people at a time, all year round, and usually for at least 3-4 weeks, longer is possible if we all get along. This is so you can learn how we look after the cottage, and get involved in some of our bigger projects. However shorter stays are possible, if we already have a long-term helper.

As hosts, it is hard coordinating the helpers, waiting for replies, managing dates. We get a lot of requests and we will reply to everyone, but please be patient. (And please read the note below...).

We live 2 minutes from Loch Lomond and our home has excellent public transport links with the train, CityLink and local buses. There is a half-hourly train service into Glasgow.

Workwise we follow the guidelines of 5 hours, Monday to Friday, but we are flexible and need you to be too. Occasionally there are changeovers in our rental cottage at a weekend so we'll ask you to work that day and take another day off in the week. But there is a house calendar so you can see the key dates for the forthcoming weeks and work around them. It is no problem for you to plan your time around the calendar to get away for a few days.

Our house is an Arts & Crafts house by architect J J Burnett, a contemporary of Rennie Mackintosh, built in 1902. We have a smallish wooded garden leading down to the river that was totally overgrown, but is now largely cleared. It was laid out by a renowned landscape architect with quartz-lined paths and bridges over the burn (stream). All the paths and features were lost in undergrowth about 40 years ago so this project is a little like an archaeological dig. Over the summer and autumn of 2013 the first paths were dug out and restored, a stone circle and a paved ‘eye’ created, and a new bridge built. Since then we have been laying paths, building bridges, and dead hedges. It has been wonderful, thanks to some amazing volunteers, to see the garden come back to life and be a space to relax in. But there is always more to do, including planting.

This year, 2017, we are clearing, landscaping, and planting the garden on the other side of the burn (stream) that has been impenetrable for 30-40 years. Most of what we are currently doing is more like civil engineering/landscaping than gardening: firstly, clearing, then tree felling, bridge building, path laying, chopping and stacking logs for the fire, and building a ‘dead hedge’ with all of the branches. We have completed the first bridge, the second just needs some finishing touches and we are just planning the third, and biggest, high-level bridge (12m span, 6m over the stream). (Michael has thoughts of a 50m zip wire from this bridge high over the burn but that is for the future….).

We are very keen on re-use and up-cycling of materials. Recently we got huge piles of new yellow bricks and monoblocks left over at a large building site so are building a ‘yellow brick road’. There can be heavy work, but we try to break such tasks up, then work on something in the garden.

Many of these tasks we work out as we go along, but there is a lot of opportunity to learn, and share skills. Special knowledge and skills are welcome, but not required - common sense and a good work ethic go a long way.

We have been hosting for about 4 years and it has been an amazing experience, and so many helpers have returned either as helpers or friends. And real friendships have been made here between helpers.

We are active and love the outdoors. We try to keep work fun and play even more so. We applaud and support programmes like this. We treat everyone with respect and care, and expect volunteers have the same ethics towards others, and our home, that we share with you. We try hard to make sure that this is a two-way exchange of experience and opportunity – not a pool of cheap labour. The more you are open to try things, the more things that we will find for you to try.

Even if there isn't a chance for you to volunteer if you are passing through the kettle is always on...

(How to get our attention: We get a LOT of requests so thought we would share our side... We generally always say no to cut and paste requests like, "I need a place to stay to improve my English" from people with profiles that say, "I need a place to stay to improve my English".... We like just a few lines about why you would like to share our home having read our profile, what skills you have, what you'd like to learn – but not an essay. And please have a photo of just you/both of you, not a group of people at a party.....)


Generally, there is a variety of tasks to do based upon priority, weather, availability of materials, skills of volunteers (have & learn!), and our time to do some jobs together.

There are a few things to be getting on with here, depending on priorities, and the weather.

The priority is looking after a small cottage in the garden we rent out for holidays, preparing it for guests once or twice a week.


• Cleaning, cooking, and gardening

• Completing the ‘lost garden’

• An ever-changing list of projects in the house and garden. There is a good opportunity to learn / share skills in decorating, painting, woodwork,
plumbing, electrics, gardening.......

We both often work at home so can tackle bigger projects together, around our work.


We offer good clean accommodation in a twin/double room with an adjacent bathroom for you with a good shower. You may need to share your room with someone of the same sex at times but we always discuss this in advance and let you know who else will be here. You will be sharing our home and we expect your room and the bathroom to stay clean and reasonably tidy.

We provide all of your food and have a well-equipped kitchen. We are vegetarian and love to cook together, and learn new skills and recipes. (But this is not a place for picky eaters). Cooking together and sharing food around the table is an important and fun part of life here. We cook from fresh ingredients and eat little processed food. We often tackle new and exciting recipes together, that have included some of the MasterChef challenges.

We provide all bed linen and towels, and there are washing and drying facilities for your clothes.

We have a lot of working clothes, outdoor clothes, gloves, and wellington boots for you to use when you are helping.

We have a cosy sitting room with a log stove and TV with Netflix.

Our home has a lot of books, and spaces to sit quietly and read.

There is fast WiFi throughout.

We have a cat but she is not allowed in the bedrooms.


There are endless opportunities for adventures here.

We live right on the river at the bottom of Loch Lomond. Outside of helping you can enjoy the loch: swimming, walking, hiking in the wilderness, or camping.

There are loads of walks and cycle routes from the house - we have bikes that you can borrow. Or you can kayak from the bottom of the garden to the islands on the loch, including one with a pub in the summer! In winter there is skiing at Glencoe, just over an hour away by car or CityLink bus.

Although our home is tucked away in a small wood, we are located in Balloch - a small town of 5 000, but it is the main tourist town for Loch Lomond and has a good supermarket, shops, and bars within a few minutes’ walk.

Depending on the weather and our work, we can take you boating on the loch, trips to islands with castles, camping, and BBQs/picnics – all year round.

We enjoy trips out and of course we will invite you to join us. Also if one of us is going somewhere interesting on business, such as Stirling, we will try to arrange to take you to a castle or whatever.

Our home is a great base for hopping on the train and sampling the culture of Glasgow and Edinburgh: the many (free) museums, food, people, architecture, or even shopping.

There is live music in local pubs and bars, lots in Glasgow (much free), or we can make music here.

To give you an idea of the likely weather Google "loch lomond average weather".

We live very close to the train station in Balloch with a half-hourly service to Glasgow, and Balloch is on the CityLink Glasgow > Fort William/Oban/Skye bus route.

Note: alcohol and smoking
Alcohol is not provided but you are free to buy your own. We enjoy a beer with meals at weekends but we are not big drinkers, and this isn’t the place for you if you are. We are not only ‘no smoking’ but will only host non-smokers.

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