Owner Case Study: Bank Barn - Wreay, Ullswater, Lake District

Owner Case Study: Bank Barn - Wreay, Ullswater, Lake District

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Bank Barn
Ullswater, Lake District

Sleeps: 8
First letting through The Travel Chapter: 2018

Wendy and Richard, who have lived and worked in the Middle and Far East, bought Bank Barn 22 years ago, after a long search for a renovation project. What they got was a ‘project’ on a larger scale than they anticipated!

Built from local stone and with extensive grounds, the property was a ‘working barn’ when they first viewed it, complete with farm equipment, straw bales and cows roaming its lower floor. Wendy recalls that it was in shocking condition, had limited utilities and that the only walls were the four external ones. “Richard thought I had lost the plot when I said we should buy it!” she laughs. But buy it they did, and the couple have spent the years since transforming Bank Barn into a luxury holiday let.

It was the location that really sold it to them. Situated on a gently sloping hill, with the lower level tucked into a bank - hence the name - Bank Barn is in the hamlet of Watermillock, on the western shore of Ullswater in the Lake District, Cumbria, England’s largest National Park. All the front windows of the house look out onto fields, with uninterrupted views of Lake Ullswater.

“It’s truly a magical location.” 

The surroundings are undoubtedly a strong draw for visitors. At nine miles long, Ullswater is the second largest lake in the Lake District and is regarded by many as the most beautiful of all.   

There are a wide variety of activities in the area. Wendy notes that, “A lot of our guests are walkers and there are walks for all levels close by including Aira Force Hallin Fell or the challenging Scafell, England’s highest mountain." Ullswater itself offers sailing, kayaking and fishing, while a trip on the award-winning Ullswater Steamer is a great way to travel the length of the lake.

Go Ape in Grizedale is a breathtaking outdoor adventure site with treetop challenges, zip trek and treetop adventures just some of the activities on offer. For a less energetic day out, there’s The World of Beatrix Potter in Bowness-on-Windermere, together with the author’s home, Hill Top and William Wordsworth’s home, Dove Cottage, where he wrote some of his best-loved poetry. Another option is a trip to UNESCO World Heritage site, Hadrian’s Wall, stretching 73 miles from coast to coast.

“The list of things to do is endless, with something for all the family."

As for Bank Barn itself, there are many reasons for holidaymakers to make the property their temporary home. While Ullswater is very popular with visitors, the house is just off the tourist trail, offering peace and seclusion. Deer, red squirrels and badgers are among the local animal population and there’s also ample space for children to play in the garden.

Plenty of thought has gone into the interior décor, a key aspect of the property’s appeal. Wendy has worked in senior marketing positions at several luxury hotel groups, exposing her to world-famous interior designers. She says, “I loved this aspect of my job and I drew on these experiences when we renovated Bank Barn."

The couple have combined the fruits of their travels with a respect for the property’s original function. Wendy explains, “Bank Barn reflects the countries we have lived in, with furniture, art and crockery from Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.” At the same time, many original features have been retained, such as the upstairs beams. They also used some of the cows’ water bowls for soap holders and commissioned a local artist to make two huge cow moulds; one is now mounted above the Aga and the other is in the main hallway. “A gentle reminder of the origins of this lovely family home”, is how Wendy describes it.

With increasing demand for properties big enough to accommodate extended family groups and larger gatherings of friends, Bank Barn’s size - sleeping eight very comfortably - is a major plus. There is a snug for children and a sitting room for adults, while the kitchen is large and welcoming.

“Bank Barn is rented for lots of family gatherings, special birthday events and groups of friends wishing to spend a relaxing time in a luxury environment.”

In the Lake District as elsewhere, the concentration of holiday bookings in the peak summer months has decreased, with bookings more evenly spread through the year. Bank Barn’s location lends itself to year-round occupancy. In winter, the mountains on the opposite side of the lake are snow capped, in the spring months, the fields in front are filled with sheep and lambs, in summer, the sunlight reflects off the lake and autumn brings amazing natural colours. Wendy sums it up, saying, “Whatever the time of the year, guests can always get out to enjoy the area’s activities.”

There is a continual focus on making the house even more attractive to potential customers. Indeed, Wendy describes Bank Barn as a constant “work in progress” as they refresh soft furnishings, install new sound systems and smart TVs and, recently, a new heating system from renewable sources. The same applies to the outside as well, and they are currently working with a gardener to upgrade the landscaping at the front of the house. 

“The standard of holiday homes has increased significantly over the years, so be prepared to present your home accordingly.”

Overall, the couple recognise the need to go above and beyond for their guests. Small touches make a difference; in this case, flower arrangements in the summer, free-range eggs from the farm next door and welcome hampers that change with the seasons. They also provide a comprehensive welcome pack with information on how appliances work, local attractions, dining options and so on. Wendy points out that “Travel Chapter has a great section on their website providing extensive advice for new owners."

“Make your property stand out with some unique features. Bank Barn’s size, the layout and the fact we have retained many of the original features from when it was a working cow shed all add to a special guest experience, which they won’t get elsewhere."

One reward for these efforts is in the form of return visitors, another key component of a successful holiday let. Wendy is happy to report, “We have many repeat guests, including two groups who have been coming for more than six years."

Making a success of a holiday property can be challenging. Wendy highlights the importance of keeping up to date with all the legal requirements around running a holiday let and says that as a general point, potential owners should recognise the time needed to oversee their property. But it is rewarding both financially and in other ways. Wendy mentions how much they appreciate “the many notes from guests telling us it’s the best holiday home they have ever stayed in.”

As for The Travel Chapter experience, the couple are very happy with how things have gone since they started working with the company in February 2018. As Wendy puts it, “The Travel Chapter ‘inherited’ us when they took over a company that was marketing the property.” She admits that they are demanding owners, as the old agency offered a bespoke service, but The Travel Chapter has more than lived up to expectations.

“Travel Chapter pulled out all the stops to integrate Bank Barn into their portfolio. They have listened to my requests and done everything to ensure a seamless transition, with high-yield bookings.”

So what does the future hold? Wendy’s passion for the property is clear when she says, “Bank Barn won’t ever be sold. It is a property we will pass on to our children.”

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