A hotelier and a designer knew just how to encourage their B&B guests to unwind when they renovated Winterton in Argyll
Since she was a child, Stephanie Schwind-Parsons has wanted to run her own B&B, and with Winterton she’s finally achieved her dream.
Fortunately for Stephanie, her husband, Adrian, shared her goal and it was his parents who introduced the couple to Crinan Ferry in Kilmartin, Argyll, a stunning, but relatively unknown area of Scotland where Winterton is located.
“It goes back many years,” Adrian explains. “My parents were travelling through Scotland and came across Crinan House, which is a 280-year-old listed building which lies at the end of a rocky peninsula between the sea at Loch Crinan and the estuary of the River Add.
"When it came up for sale they bought it as a holiday home. Then 13 years ago, we were holidaying at Crinan House and Winterton was up for sale and we realised this might be our opportunity to run our own B&B alongside the holiday let at Crinan House.”
Stephanie takes up the story. “As we were living in Germany, it took us some time to sell our house and move to Winterton and start the renovations.
“There was a lot to be done and we also wanted to extend. We converted the loft, put in a new staircase, ripped out all the windows, rewired, installed a biomass boiler and renewed all the heating and plumbing, which took about three years.”
“We didn’t know we were going to take on such a large project,” says Adrian, “but we had renovated an old farmhouse in Bavaria, so we thought it was doable.
"We underestimated a little, but I think that was to do with the fact that the house had never been finished properly.
"It was built more than 30 years ago on the site of an old croft house, but the doors and windows hadn’t been fitted properly and had rotted. Unfortunately, they all had to come out.”
The couple did the project management themselves, which was a huge learning curve, but a challenge they relished.
Adrian is a graphic designer who had a design consultancy in Munich. He also studied interior design and by his own admission “is a frustrated architect”.
Stephanie trained in hotel management and has worked in five-star hotels in Britain, France and Germany.
This skill set allowed Stephanie and Adrian to create a layout that offers guests a truly relaxing and comfortable stay while still giving them private living areas that can be enjoyed in their downtime.
“Adding the oak frame extension has transformed the downstairs. We love being in nature and love how it affects us and by building this extension it lets nature into the house. It’s also a magnificent piece of workmanship,” says Adrian.
“There are some stainless steel bolts going into the foundations but apart from that it’s all held together by traditional oak pegs.
"The frame came from Carpenter Oak, who are down in Devon, but they have a commissioned workshop in Cumbria.
"I did the initial sketches and drawings, they made sure it would work and a structural engineer checked it.”
The extension incorporates the new sun and viewing lounge and a dining area which is accessed through the living room in the old part of the house.
“We wanted this space to be an extension of the guests’ bedrooms.
"While the bedrooms are lovely, it’s nice to be able to spread out and sit on a proper sofa. As we can only accommodate four people it’s never crowded, and one can sit here and enjoy the views down Kilmartin Glen,” says Adrian.
The rest of the property has been reconfigured to create designated guest and private spaces, as Stephanie explains: “On the ground floor, there’s a B&B entrance for our guests and then a utility room, first guest bedroom and en-suite, living room with adjoining sun lounge and kitchen.
"Upstairs is the second guest bedroom and en-suite and our private living room, bedroom and bathroom.
“As it’s our home we wanted to furnish it in a way that we like ourselves so there are pieces brought from our travels, but I also wanted to create something that was really comfortable and cosy.”
She adds. “I know myself, if I stay in an ugly place it makes me feel depressed and I really want our guests to be happy.
"We did buy some additional pieces for the bedrooms but there are pieces which we’ve collected over the years and they’re integrated into the house now.”
One of the new additions to the bedrooms was the claw-foot bath. “We’ve seen the bath in the bedroom idea in various places and magazines,” says Adrian.
"There used to be a bath in that location anyway as that was part of the old bathroom, and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to offer a bath in the bedroom.
"We enjoy lying in a bath, maybe our guests will too, especially if you’ve been for a long walk or cycle.’ We also have a local massage therapist who will come and do treatments, so you can have a truly relaxing experience without going out the front door.”
And, after your bath and massage, you can sit down to a home-cooked meal. “Stephanie is a passionate cook and I’m a very happy guinea pig when she wants to experiment,” says Adrian.
“One of our philosophies was to create a place where people could come and get out of their hectic life and find a place of tranquillity and regenerate.
"Our initial plan was to try to tempt people to stay here longer and we said we’d have a minimum two-night stay, but now we’re getting people coming for two weeks, which is exactly what we wanted.
"This area has so much to offer and not just in terms of stunning scenery, but Scotland’s oldest history too.”
While it’s taken nearly five years to get to this stage, Stephanie now has her B&B and Adrian is no longer a frustrated architect. But does Winterton live up to expectations?
“We’ve had over 30 different nationalities through our door in the past two years which is so uplifting,” says Stephanie.
“Everything took longer than anticipated but it was worth it.”
Winterton House can be booked through the website or by calling 01546 510 567.
Words: Nichola Hunter