Kirkennan Estate Holiday Cottages Green Tourism Policy
We believe that addressing Climate Change is the issue of our time and that it is essential that governments, businesses and individuals all do their part. We were pleased to join Green Tourism in 2017 and to receive support and advice from them on how to improve the sustainability of Kirkennan. In March 2019 we were proud to be awarded a Gold Green Tourism Award. Then in 2021 we were delighted and somewhat amazed to be one of only 35 businesses from across Scotland awarded a VIBES Scottish Environment Business Award for Good Practice. These are intended to 'reward and recognise organisations that have demonstrated significant business benefits from good environmental practice'. . This page summarises the steps we have taken to date and what we are looking to do in the future.
Reducing our carbon footprint and water usage
When we moved to Kirkennan in 2013 it was clear that much needed to be done to reduce the carbon footprint of the Estate. This has been a top priority ever since and we are steadily making improvements whenever we have the resources available:
- We replaced the double glazing windows in the upstairs of The Mews where the seal between the layers had failed (2013), then replaced all the remaining windows and the door with double glazing in 2023. All cottages are now fully double glazed.
- We installed a district heating biomass system which supplies The Mews, Woodsedge, The Yard and Kirkennan House with hot water and central heating (2014). This runs off logs of wood which we season for a year on site and then get a mobile chipper in to chip them directly into the hopper of the biomass. The wood is mainly sourced from poles rejected by the sawmill in Dalbeattie and is grown locally - Dumfries and Galloway is the major timber growing area in the whole of the UK.
- We put thermostatic valves all radiators (2014). We turn down the temperature in bedrooms that are not being used and explain to guests how to adjust the temperature in the cottages.
- We sought and received advice from Zero Waste Scotland to help us plan next steps in improving energy efficiency (2018 & 2020).
- We replaced all lighting in the holiday cottages and Kirkennan House with LED lighting. LED light bulbs use less than 20% of the electricity of a conventional lightbulb. We also installed motion sensitive outdoor lights in both The Mews and Woodsedge as we were finding some guests would turn them on on arrival then forget to turn them off again (2018), The Lodge already had these.
- We added under floor insulation under the sitting room and double bedroom of The Lodge and a thick layer of foam under new carpets in The Lodge (2017), The Mews and Woodsedge (2018) and added wall insulation when carrying out repairs in The Mews (2018). We replaced the wood paneling in part of the sitting room in The Mews with wood fibre insulation and lime plaster as recommended for stone walls (2021). We also put down cork insulation and cork flooring to replace the worn carpet (2021). Cork is a good insulator and a sustainably sourced material as it is harvested without cutting down the trees (2021). We insulated under the floor in the dining room and the kitchen at The Lodge and improved the insulation around the pipework (2021).
- We replaced the energy inefficient fridge-freezer in The Mews with a more efficient one and replaced the washing machine in the central laundry . We replaced thermostatic control to the hot water tank at The Lodge (2018) though this has now been superceded by the ASHP installed in 2020.
- We had the Energy Peformance Certificate of The Lodge redone (2018). This cottage, which was rated F before we purchased Kirkennan, is now rated D (this was before we put in solar power and an Air Source Heat Pump). Those for Woodsedge and The Mews were redone in 2020 and are now rated C and D respectively having been F before.
- We installed solar panels on the roof of Woodsedge to provide power to the biomass district heating system and in the field adjacent to The Lodge to provide electricity there (2019). Between them these are estimated to save over 1700 Kg of CO2 emission per year. In 2020 we installed another set on the roof of the house connected to an i-boost which means that any spare electricity is used to heat hot water. In 2021 we added batteries to the solar PV panels at The Lodge and the barn and upgraded these the following year.
- We moved electricity supplier in The Mews , Woodsedge, The Lodge and The House to Bulb and Octopus and the biomass electricity supply to Scottish Power, both of which provide electricity produced by 100% renewable means (2019). Bulb has subsequently been taken over by Octopus.
- We replaced the open fires in The Lodge (2019) and Woodsedge (2020) with DEFRA approved 81% efficient stoves Open fires achieve only 15% efficiency and furthermore even when the fire is not being used the open chimney makes the central heating of the cottage less efficient. Modern efficient stoves are estimated to reduce particulate emissions by 90% compared to an open fire and are virtually carbon neutral when used correctly with dry wood.
- We put in an Air Source Heat Pump in The Lodge to replace the oil boiler (2020),
- We replaced our diesel car with an electric Nissan Leaf (2020), then got rid of our diesel van and upgraded the leaf to a Kia Nero so we now only run electric vehicles (2021).
- We put out cards to encourage guests to indicate whether or not beds and towels need washing and line dry all our laundry the vast majority of the time.
- We monitor all equipment on a regular basis to ensure it is working efficiently and take action when it is needed.
- All cottages have showers installed with flow of less than 8 litres per minute.
- We collect rain water for use in the green-house.
- In 2019 we estimated the carbon footprint of the cottages using Green Tourism's Carbon calculator and intend to do this on a periodic basis to track progress in reducing CO2 emmissions and energy consumption.
- Jenny has given a number of presentations and been interviewed for a case study for Zero Waste Scotland on the work we have done to reduce our carbon footprint and our experience of installing an ASHP in an old building in the hope it will encourage other businesses to do likewise (2020).
- We installed a zappi car charger for use by ourselves and our guests (2021) and a second one in 2022. These link with the solar panels meaning it is possible to set it to charge using energy generated by them.
Future plans include extending our rain water collection and doing more to increase insulation.
Supporting biodiversity and nature
Kirkennan is a wonderful place with many mature trees, a range of habitats and is rich in birds and wildlife. We are actively working to enhance its potential to support biodiversity and nature and encourage our guests to appreciate the environment.
- We manage the gardens and woodlands organically as we believe that biodiversity starts with micro-organisms and soil health. We compost our own organic waste and encourage guests to add theirs to our compost heaps.
- We leave standing deadwood and branch cuttings in the woodlands to provide habitat for insects and ground nesting birds.
- Every year we put up additional bird boxes and ensure they are cleaned out. We did have a barn owl box in the barn but had to block it off as it was causing problems with pigeons nesting in it. We have a kestrel box which had also been taken over by pigeons but was used in 2021 by barn owls who succesfully reared one chick, a swift box and 8 boxes for small birds such as tits. Our son has built us a number of bat boxes which will be put up soon.
- We planted a new woodland of 5000 native broadleaved trees selected to encourage wildlife. The new wood is predominately willow, alder and oak but also contains bird cherry, downy birch, holly, hawthorn, guelder rose, elderflower, rowan and blackthorn and native roses. In 2019 we cut paths through this new wood so it can be enjoyed by guests. In 2021 we planted a link wood of 400 trees to connect the new wood with our existing woodland.
- We consider pollinators when purchasing new plants, particularly trying to ensure we have flowers that are blooming at difficult times for these insects. We have moved to only buying peat free compost.
- We keep bees in the walled garden.
- We have sown wildflowers in three sections of the Arboretum including yellow rattle and intend to expand this section year by year (2017, 2019, 2021, 2023)
- We encourage the enjoyment of nature and wildlife by guests visiting Kirkennan. We have bird feeders outside all the cottages, red squirrel feeders and have built a photography hide in the woodland made from our own wind felled timber preserved with pine tar, a non toxic wood preservative. All cottages and the riverside hut contain a bird identification books and there is an identification poster and log book for recording nature sightings in the hide.
- We liaise with Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels to protect Kirkennan's red squirrel population and work to inform our guests of the issues involved.
- We linked with the local bat group who carried out a bat survey in August 2017. We were pleased to find that Kirkennan has at least 5 kinds of bats: Soprano Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus), Noctule (Nyctalus noctula), Myosis (either Whiskered M mystacinus or Natterer’s M nattereri) and Brown Long-eared (Plecotus auritus). The survey concluded that Kirkennan has 'high potential for bats to roost in all buildings. Trees in the policy grounds also provide roost sites in holes and raised bark. We have a bat detector that guests can borrow.
- A local expert has carried out a moth survey in August 2018. This found 28 different species including the Clay Triple-lines which is an unusual moth to be found locally. It was first seen in Scotland (in Dumfries and Galloway) in 2011 and this was only the tenth recorded specimen since then.
- Since 2019 we have started to monitor the wildlife at Kirkennan including with the use of a trail camera. We took part in the Glen Kens Nature at Home project in 2021.
- In 2019 and 2020 the Border Fungus Group carryied out surveys at Kirkennan and in the surrounding area. In 2020 they reported that had some particularly nice finds both on the estate and in the area and highlighted the following: A rare white form of the scarlet elf cup (Sarcoscypha austriaca); ypoxylon cercidicola a very rare fungus found only on ash trees possibly the first ones recorded in Scotland; Wentiomyces sibirica – a small but curious fungus of which there only a couple of records from Scotland; and Stypella grilletii – a type of jelly fungus that no-one in the group had seen before.
Future plans include: adding a garden bench in the bluebell wood, installing bat boxex, digging a large wildlife pond and extending the wildflower sections in the arboretbum
Social Responsibility & Ethical Sourcing
- When obtaining items for the holiday cottages we consider sustainability and look to reduce waste, to support local businesses and to purchase ethically.
- Where appropriate we re-use or upcycle items for the holiday cottages. For example a number of the upgraded interior doors for the holiday cottages were sourced on Freecycle - an online community with the purpose of reducing usable items going to landfill. The new curtains in Woodsedge sitting room were cut down from quality second hand curtains (2021). When we get rid of items from the holiday cottages that are still usable we likewise offer them first on freecycle. Many other items have been purchased second hand. Since 2020 all new pillows and duvets are made from recycled bottles.
- We purchase consumable items such as hand soap, washing up liquid, washing powder and cleaning fluids in bulk and refill containers with the aim to cut down on the use of plastics. We use items from the Bio-D range which uses ethically sourced ingredients and has been rated highly by The Good Shopping Guide in it's ethical rankings. We use eco-friendly disinfectant. We provide recycled toilet paper. You can read more about how we try to cut down on the use of single use plastics in our blog. In 2021 we took part in Plastic Free July and used this as impetus to take a close look at how to reduce plastics further. Substitutions made include purchasing wooden and natural bristle toilet brushes and natural fibre compostable dish sponges.
- We use fairtrade coffee beans, tea and sugar which we purchase in bulk to reduce packaging. Since 2019 all new bedlinen and mattress covers have been organic fairtrade ones from Fou Furnishings. Some of the bedside lamps, bedcovers, rugs and cushions are also fairtrade. Since 2023 new towels have been bamboo as opposed to cotton.
- Wood used to build the riverside hut, the photographic hide and to edge the vegetable beds is largely sourced from our own wind felled timber which is treated with non-toxic pine tar as a preservative.
- We support local small businesses and artists when we can. We buy our milk from Roan's Dairy; we commissioned a local artist Pamela Grace to do the artwork for our logo, got a local designer to design our leaflet which is printed locally and use a local company to host and design our website. We commissioned a stained glass window from Auchencairn based Caro Barlow which guests can enjoy in our riverside hut and a mosaic in the walled garden by Scottish artist Helen Miles. We have a woodcarving by Dalbeattie based chainsaw carver in Jock's Wood. We display art work within the cottages from artists with local links which are for sale at no commission. In 2021 we commissioned a map of Kirkennan from local artist Ann Butler.
- We both volunteer in Palnackie Village Shop which is run by the community for the community and in 2020 Jenny joined the Board where she arranged for a survey to be carried out by Zero Waste Scotland. She has been chair of the committee since 2022. We have opened Kirkennan's gardens for a shop fundraiser and the house for a charity auction for MacMillan's Nurses. We both volunteered during the COVID-19 pandemic to support people who were shielding and Jenny volunteered with Touch Base to make regular telephone contact with isolated individuals, one of whom she continues to telephone. In 2021 Jenny joined the board of Buittle Quest, a charity set up to promote the wellbeing of local residents and in 2022 joined Buittle Parish Community Council as Treasurer.
- We provide guests with a welcome pack of healthy seasonal produce from the Estate and encourage guests to make use of fresh herbs from the gardens. We also highlight the responsible collection and use of wild foods in our blogs. For example ones on wild garlic and elderflower cordial and foraging.
- Flowers for the cottages are grown organically on the Estate.
- Since 2022 we have been hosting a Ukrainian refugee family in one of the cottages of the Estate.
Future plans include becoming more systematic about our ethical sourcing and developing a directory of suppliers that we can share.
Encouraging responsible tourism
We wish to attract guests who are interested in green tourism to Kirkennan and also encourage other guests to think about their effect on the environment.
- We encourage guests to turn off lights when not in use, to indicate when beds or towels do not need changing and to use the eco-setting on washing machines and dishwashers. We have cards in place to indicate items that should not be flushed down the toilet.
- We encourage guests to recycle glass, cardboard, paper, plastics and compostable materials.
- We provide information on local buses and how to holiday without a car. We provide cycle storage and highlight local walks including ones that can be done straight from the cottage. We provide two electric vehicle chargers/ EV chargers which can be set to charge from the solar panels and do not charge for the first 30 kWH of charge.
- We encourage guests to shop locally: we provide a £5 voucher to use at Palnackie Village Shop to encourage guests to visit it, in 2021 we provided a £10 voucher to use at the local pub which was hard hit by the COVID crisis. Guests who make themselves known at the Old Mill bookshop and art gallery in Palnackie are able to choose a free card which is charged to us. We also provide information on local markets and specialities.
- We promote local businesses through our facebook page and blogs - see for example blogs on Crafty Distillery Mostly Ghostly Tours, guided foraging walks with Galloway Wild Foods and Nocturnal Wildlife Experience.
- We provide information on local cultural activities or events related to nature or the environment.
- We ask guests to turn off outside lights when not in use to avoid light pollution. We provide information on stars and the night sky in the cottages.
- In 2023 we signed up to FairBnB and nominated Palnackie Village shop as our good cause. We also joined ECOSY in a project to develop an App to support people in making green choices when selecting their holiday accommodation.
Future plans include improving our marketing to green tourists to attract them to Kirkennan.
Tourism for All
We believe that everyone should be able to enjoy a holiday and within the constraints of old buildings have worked to make Kirkennan accessible to those with limited mobility. We welcome dogs to Kirkennan.
- We have worked to make our level access cottage Woodsedge suitable for guests with limited mobility by installing a wetroom with a widened doorway, purchasing an electric adjustable height bed and a riser-recliner armchair. As a result of guest feedback we have added an additional fold down support by the toilet in Woodsedge (2021). Please see our access statement for full details.
- We offer the free loan of a mobility scooter for guests to enjoy the landscaped gardens and the use of a portable ramp if required.
- We have made links with the local day care centre where guests can borrow a wheelchair or can visit for a day.
- As we live on site we have been able to take delivery of, and arrange collection of, additional items such as oxygen, air mattresses or hoists to enable guests with particular needs to have these available before arrival so that they can enjoy a holiday at Kirkennan.
- We provide information on accessible local attractions.
Future plans include additional benches around Kirkennan and learning about how we can work to make Kirkennan welcoming to people with other special requirements.