A SCOTTISH country house which had to cancel 2,250 group bookings and overnight stays scheduled throughout this year is adapting amid the coronavirus crisis by ramping up its offering of activities including recycling furniture, watercolour painting and hill walking.

It has secured funding of £200,000 from Bank of Scotland, through the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme to pay for overheads and support its new strategy.

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Gartmore House, a 23-bedroom mansion and activity centre, was prior to the pandemic focused on offering group residential packages and conferences for up to 500 people, as well as providing craft activity workshops including quilting, upcycling furniture, dressmaking, knitting, and lace-making.

In March, the business was forced to close its doors temporarily because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It reopened partially in the summer but had to close again as a result of the latest lockdown restrictions. It now has 10 staff, compared with 30 before the March lockdown.

When it was announced large indoor public gatherings would not recommence this year, it decided to focus on increasing the number of activity workshops it could offer.

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Gartmore House has increased the number of courses it offers on a diverse range of activities. 

Customers can choose from two, four and six-day packages. 

A sharp increase in demand for the activities it is offering means Gartmore House is hiring 30 new tutors on a freelance basis to run courses, with 10 people per class to allow for social distancing.

Gartmore House, built in the mid-18th century, said it had 200 courses planned and tutors contracted for 2022. It has 70 courses planned for next year.

Peter Sunderland, joint director at Gartmore House, said: “When lockdown hit, it hit us hard. All our summer bookings from local groups were cancelled, and soon after we realised welcoming back big groups might not happen again until 2021. We began hearing about more people taking up crafting during lockdown so knew there was appetite out there for our workshops once restrictions lifted. We decided to change our current business plan and focus solely on the activity groups we had to offer.”

He added: “Since bookings for the workshops went live, we’ve received hundreds of enquiries and have had to recruit new staff to cope with demand. Thanks to the support of Bank of Scotland, despite our conference facilities stopping, we’ve been able to introduce a new way of securing income during these challenging times, and begin preparing for a positive start to 2021.”