A.M.A.N.D.A. June ’12

24th May 1998 was a memorable day here at Ballintean: we welcomed our first guests to the only-just-finished-in time Steading. For those of you who are not familiar with ‘The Steading’, it’s our converted barn, which plays host to our photo-tour guests here in the Cairngorms and it was 14 years ago – almost to the day – when we opened its doors for the first time.

10th May 1998 was another memorable day but for very different reasons. Seemingly every tradesman north of Glasgow was on holiday, had fallen sick or had a more lucrative job on at the time.  Our own house was stacked full of furniture, cushions, bed linen, pictures, ornaments – you name it, it was there, all ready to take its place once the work was complete. There was even stuff crammed into our bedroom and although it’s a bit of a blur now, there may well have been a night or two when I parked Pete in the corner bolt upright, coffin-style, to get his sleep. Sam was two and was as demanding as two-year olds inevitably are.

We called in reinforcements. Pete’s favourite helper, aka my mum travelled north with her intercooled, turbo-charged iron and The Irish Sea provided safe passage for Aunty Helen and Uncle Pat who came from Dublin complete with toolboxes in hand. Believe me, we desperately needed their help. Anything at The Steading that is now fixed to anything is thanks to Uncle Pat. Aunty Helen worked wonders with her rubber gloves to clean every surface and mum’s infamous ironing skills took care of 11 sets of curtains and 11 sets of bed linen (Pete’s underwear remained full of creases that month!).

One night I remember looking around the place at midnight and listening to the resident tawny owl sat on the newly completed roof. It wasn’t like this on the telly and I can recall feeling absolute dread at the prospect of definitely (in my mind) not being finished on time. But we managed it…just. Uncle Pat was rewarded with a game of golf and I took mum and Aunty Helen to every tearoom within 20 miles!

In the last 14 years we have welcomed many people from all over the world and from all walks of life. They bring with them stories and more often than not, the foundation for great friendships. That dining table has seen (and heard) many a tale and if it could laugh, I’m sure it would, in the same way that so many other people have laughed sitting around it. It’s a great source of pride for me that not only have we made great friends with many of our guests, but also they have made friends with each other. Here’s to the next 14 years – are you listening Uncle Pat?

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11 thoughts on “A.M.A.N.D.A. June ’12

  1. A truly fantastic place to stay, full of laughter and interesting people apart from some excellent photographers and beautiful photo opportunities. All that hard work and heartache certainly paid off, may it continue for many years to come.

  2. Anyone who has stayed at the Steadings or experienced your amazing grasp of travel needs and arrangements knows how much hard work you have done to create the laid back photo-ops you and himself conjure up. Long may you continue!
    Annie & Bob

  3. After the long drive from Leicestershire arriving at the Steading never fails to give me that home from home feeling. The building and the accommodation within it are superb and as if that wasn’t enough, the meals are great and there’s always tea and shortbread available too. A fantastic place to base your photography holiday and to meet old friends and make new ones too. Amanda and Pete you have every reason to be proud.

  4. Great memories – I remember our very first visit to the steading was actually with Speyside Wildlife, there very first Wildlife Photographers special in 1998. It was led by Pete and Mark and while we were there they took us aside and asked if we would be interested in trips with a new company called Wildshots they were setting up. We came on the first one held at the Steading, when we photographed a Golden Eagle on the bank at the back of the house while Pauline played with Sam in the heather. Since that fatefull date Pauline and I have trevelled far and wide in their company including Tanzania, Yellowstone 3 times, the Arctic twice, Norway, Finland, Alaska etc with more visits to the Steading that I can remember. Great memories from each and every trip, and with Iceland in June and then Yellowstone again in January 2013, this time for a whole month!!! Still great trips to look forward to. Thanks for the memories and the excitement of many more to come.
    Chris and Pauline – now officially a pensioner – Wallace

  5. From the experiences I’ve had with you guys, I can only say that all the hard work has been worth it. A fantastic place to come and visit and as you rightly say, some great people met along the way!!

    Long may it continue.

    Best Wishes

  6. Crikey, was it really 14 years ago that i was invited over to rake the drive of rubble and toss it in a skip? Sure was a hive of activity and became a wonderful second home for 6 years

  7. I honestly believe that the will to go and go and go again is most certainly the best return the Cairns can have. Whether they liked me or not, (sorry about that) they will sure have to keep up with me again (as soon as I gather some mon.. errghhh “time”)
    All the best for you!!!

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