Seven Scots tell us what their dream jobs are like

ALISON Campsie speaks to a gin distiller, a castle keeper, a music venue owner and four other Scots for whom business is pleasure

Martin and Claire Murray of  Dunnet Bay Distillers
Martin and Claire Murray of Dunnet Bay Distillers


Martin Murray, 34, who co-runs Dunnet Bay Distillers with his wife, Claire

“I am passionate about alcohol and I wanted to do my masters in brewing and distilling but ended up doing it in oil an gas. When I was working on rigs I was experimenting with beers and cider. My wife is a gin drinker so then I started to focus on that. My offshore post came to an end and I was asked to move to France. Then I was asked to move to Angola or Nigeria. It was at this point that I really wanted to give distilling a go and have some control over what I wanted to do. I had been in Angola before and was bitten by a mosquito and was tested for malaria and I just thought, ‘I need to figure out what will make us really happy.’

Pat McConnachie, who runs Huntly Castle in Aberdeenshire

“We spent 18 months developing the recipe. We loved it, but we had to get other people to like it, too.

“Our business plan said that we had to sell 10,000 bottles in the first year. We are only on year two but we are now working on year six of our business plan and are building an extension, which isn’t something we thought we would have to do so soon.

“The question is how big do you want to be. Sometimes you think, ‘can we not just go and make some gin?’

“I love distilling. I love the solitude of working here. I am concerned that if we go too far, it could take us away from what we love to do the best. We are really fortunate that we have this thing that we love.”

Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire. Picture: Wikimedia/CC

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Pat McConachie, 49, looks after Huntly Castle in Aberdeenshire for Historic Environment Scotland

Racing car driver Gordon Shedden

“I was born and brought up in Huntly and when we were kids, the castle was our playground. I used to work in the Co-op and as a school auxiliary but one day I came down here for a walk and it was so beautiful and tranquil. Not long after that a job came up and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I absolutely love the winter months. There is a lot of housekeeping on the site but I get that done in the morning. We are surrounded by mature trees, and while we are a ruin there is a five-story building so you are constantly battling to keep it clear of leaves.

“Once I have done the housekeeping I can spend the afternoon with visitors or, particularly in the winter, I can do a lot of research on the Gordons. This was the ancestral seat of the clan. I love to find things out and sometimes a visitor will come and tell you something you had never heard of, so then I have to go away and research that.

“If someone comes to the castle and they have Gordon connections, that is when I can really roll out the red carpet for them. They are so excited to be at the castle. They really make my day.

Gary Gilmour, Blair Drummond Safari Park manager, with a tiger cub

“I usually get here for the back of 7am although we don’t open till after nine. I like to go round the castle, drink my tea and listen to the birds. It really is an amazing place to work.”


Gordon Shedden, 37, 2015 British Touring Car Championship for the Honda Yuasa Racing Team and business development manager at Knockhill Racing Circuit

“I have the best two jobs in the world. I am still professionally racing but combining that with building the commercial side of Knockhill and bringing people in to enjoy the sport.

“It is great to see people come through Knockhill and head into the sport professionally, but it’s just as rewarding to see people who come here for a birthday or Christmas present. There are so many people with driving licences and we have so many types of cars here, from single seater race cars to the Ferrari and an Aston Martin.

James Findlay, right, and Paul Maden of Cocoa Mountain

“Sometimes, it’s not about going fast. It can be just be about the experience and doing something you have always wanted to do. We had a gentleman, 93, who came to Knockhill to drive the Ferrari. He didn’t go above 30mph but he absolutely loved it.

“For me, racing is just a buzz, a shot of adrenaline. Everyone gets their kicks out of different things and I am delighted to be driving at 160mph, sliding about, an inch away from the car to the side of me. For me its about taking the machinery, taking a team and moulding it together for a great performance.

“For people who come to Knockhill, they can achieve something they might have thought they would or could not do. I love to see the expressions on their faces when that happens.”


Gary Gilmour, 50, manager at Blair Drummond Safari Park

“Last Sunday was my 30th anniversary working at the safari park. I started out here after going for a dishwashing job. They said I wasn’t qualified, so they put me in the park to work. I stood at the gate by the lion enclosure. This gate was massive – it opened and closed on a wheel and a pulley. I was quite scrawny but by the end of the first season here I was like a muscle man.

“One of the full-time guys later left and I got kept on as a tiger keeper. That has probably been my favourite section. The tigers are so majestic but I like the giraffes, too, they are so beautiful.

“One of my favourite animals here is Blossom the chimpanzee. She is possibly the oldest resident at the park and in her early 60s, so she has 10 years on me. I worked with her for three years and if I haven’t seen her for a while I go into the chimp house to say hello. She always runs up to the bars and starts shrieking with excitement.

“I have done every job here, from a digger driver to a labourer to chief game warden, which I was made in 1996. I have seen how the park works from every angle and its good to hand that down to the younger ones.

“I feel very lucky and very blessed to have this job. It shows you if you stick in with a job, you can go far. I have had good people above me to teach me and they taught me well.”


William Florence, 68, licensee of the Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow

“When I was about 14 or 15 I would come up to Glasgow from Renfrew with my friends to go to the Barras Market. I always remember getting some whelks to eat on the bus back. I had never heard of the Barrowland Ballroom then but that changed when I was about 18 and started going to the dancing to meet the girls and get a lumber.

“I had always worked in engineering but things got difficult and I was looking for some part-time work. I became the supervisor at the market and then got the opportunity to work upstairs in the ballroom. The ballroom closed but re-opened as a rock venue. I was working in the bar but went on to become the licensee around 2011. It just shows what happens when you show a bit of enthusiasm.

“There are a lot of laws and restrictions you have to meet but really, working at The Barrowlands is like a party atmosphere. You are meeting the bands, all the public and all the different types of fans. Everyone loves the Barrowlands.

“One of the nights that really sticks in my mind is Amy Winehouse. It was one of the last shows she did for us and it was touch and go whether she was going to turn up or not. But she turned up and she was absolutely fantastic.

“We always give the musicians their space. We don’t want to intrude on them but you might say hello if you bump into them in the corridor. We don’t like to intrude on their privacy.

“I still have a lot of energy to give and it’s the young people who enthuse you as well. I feel very honoured to be part of the Barrowlands and to be its licensee. It’s an iconic place.”


Tim Keyworthy, 28, head gardener at Brodick Castle on the Isle of Arran

“I wasn’t overly academic at school and I was encouraged to get into gardening. I just love being outside, growing things and getting the chance to do something a bit creative.

“I trained at the National Trust for Scotland school at Threve in Dumfries and Galloway, which was amazing, a very practical course that led to my first gardening job.

“There is a great history to the garden here and we have a chance to preserve the past but also to do something new. At Brodick you can grow quite tender plants that will only grow in a few gardens in Scotland and that’s because of the unique climate here. Before I was in Aberdeenshire and the coldest it got was minus 21 degrees Celsius. Here, we barely get a frost.

“Spring is my favourite time of year so it’s quite exciting at the moment, walking around and seeing the first signs of colour.

“It’s a nice community here and I just feel lucky to be gardening for a profession. I work with a great team and every one has a different skill to bring to the table.

“If I wasn’t doing it as a job, I’d be doing it as a hobby. It doesn’t really feel like I’m coming to work.”


James Findlay, 43, co-owner of Cocoa Mountain chocolatier and coffee shop in Durness alongside his partner, Paul Maden

“I used to work in IT at IBM in Greenock so my life was completely different. We just really wanted a lifestyle change, to move somewhere remote and escape civilisation. Chocolate was always going to be part of it.

“When we lived in Glasgow we would always throw dinner parties and experiment with chocolate and making truffles. We wanted to set up something together so we took the idea and headed north. That was 10 years ago and then you couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee here, but we’ve helped to change that.

“The chocolate world is such a brilliant world to be part of and it is such a brilliant product to work with. You can add savoury, sweet, fruits – there are so many different combinations. You are always looking to experiment with new flavours and ideas and then once you have, work out if anyone else has done it. I do taste a lot of chocolate but it’s just a nibble to make sure the batch has worked.

“On a Sunday though, I like to have one of my favourite truffles with a coffee after a roast lunch, and just really sit back and savour it.”

Pat McConnachie, who runs Huntly Castle in Aberdeenshire
Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire. Picture: Wikimedia/CC
Racing car driver Gordon Shedden
Gary Gilmour, Blair Drummond Safari Park manager, with a tiger cub
James Findlay, right, and Paul Maden of Cocoa Mountain