WITH many people contemplating making life changes at the start of the year we hear from a woman who decided to move from London to start a business in rural Scotland after an epiphany in Africa.


Ruth Macallan.



What is your business called?

Carphin House.

Where is it based?

In the rural hamlet of Luthrie, Fife

What services does it offer?

Carphin House is a beautiful nine-bedroom house designed by Sir Robert Lorimer and dating back to the 1790s. We make it available to guests for exclusive-use holiday lets, special events, rural retreats, corporate off–the-grid hideaways and have booked some weddings for 2018.

To whom does it sell?

Our appeal is both local and international and we attract wide range of people from across the globe. We have had various approaches from businesses slightly bored of the traditional boardroom approach and looking for more ‘fireside chat’ type conferences.

How many employees?

Currently we work with a small team consisting of my husband and I, and six part-time staff. We are hoping to expand our offering soon, to include an eco-friendly, state of the art venue on the estate. This will be available for people to hire for events. Once this is operational we hope to employ around 40 members of staff to help pull off some fabulous events designed to cover any Scottish wet weather!

What is its turnover?

Based on letting the house as a self catering unit, arranging events and smaller weddings I’ve been delighted by what we’ve achieved in our first year although the planning process for our venue has been slower than expected.When the venue is in place we’ll be in a good position to achieve in excess of £250,000.

When was it formed?

We bought the estate in November 2016.

Why did you take the plunge?

In my 20s I lived it up in London. I learnt loads, worked loads, and lapped up the capital’s vibe. London offered me fabulous energy and gave me plenty entrepreneurial ideas. Just months after I got married, I went on a life-changing trip to Zambia with the Born Free charity, and my husband, Ian, came to visit. That is all we needed to consider making a change! Whilst cooking on an open fire, hearing the lions roar in the distance and camping out in the bush, we made a commitment to enter the next phase of our lives in a different vein. I had just turned 30 and craved a lifestyle that brought me closer to nature, the ability to get back to Zambia, and allowed some creativity for us as a couple to complement our different skills.

We had met and fallen in love as young undergraduate students in St Andrews, so were keen to return to rural Fife, start a family and make a home there.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

My career to date has been varied, but all linked to event management. I moved to London to train to be a primary teacher, but after a year fell into project management, and organizing corporate events for a fabulous national charity, The Challenge – which aims to connect and inspire people to strengthen their communities.

How did you raise the start-up funding?

We lucked out quite a bit by selling our London flat. It really is true that you can get a castle in Scotland with a small apartment in central London! We have also borrowed from our very supportive parents and the bank, all of which we aim to pay back asap! Fife Business Gateway have been really helpful in offering us a small grant to help with our website costs.

What was your biggest break?

Signing the final documents for Carphin whilst in the sticks out in Zambia. Not being on site in Fife wasn’t ideal, but it was an amazing feeling once everything was complete!

What was your worst moment?

Returning from Zambia, and launching straight into making Carphin generate income was a real focus and worry for us. There were lots of initial expenses and renovations to make.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

Every day is different and I truly get to be creative whilst interacting with so many different people who come to stay with us, or enquire about events. Talking to potential bride and grooms is super exciting as there is always such love and emotion in the air. It’s a true privilege. I also love getting to know local suppliers in the area. We both appreciate the freedomof being self-employed, despite the fact that I now largely interact with Ian when he has his face in a screen! He is great on email and replies super fast!

What do you least enjoy?

We were very anonymous in London and it’s sometimes difficult being less so in a rural setting! That said, it’s been great getting to know local businesses and many of our neighbours have been kind and helpful.

What are your five top priorities?

Bookings; to create a year round source of employment and tourism in Fife; to continue to improve Carphin’s house and grounds and to put our own stamp on the place; to build our eco-home on-site (we are looking to convert the old stables); to build our new venue once we secure planning permission.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

Provide greater incentives for eco-friendly businesses.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

Have a formal weekly meeting …even if it’s over breakfast with your husband.

How do you relax?

Ian loves a five-day-a-week exercise routine and an audio book, whilst I enjoy a swim. We’ve both been working at mediation too.