Wigan couple welcome back visitors to their Scottish B&B
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Susan and David Barker moved from Standish to the small southern Scottish town of Moffat four and a half years ago to open Dell-Mar Guesthouse.
But they could not have predicted that they would have to shut their doors when a global pandemic began just a few years later.
The couple were on holiday without a telephone signal when the first national lockdown was imposed last March and only realised something was amiss as they travelled home.
Susan said: “David said on the way home that he thought there was something not right. We knew about the pandemic and we had to nip into a shop and stock up on food before we came home.
“We completely shut down last March for four months.”
It was a real blow as the business had been going from strength to strength, but they were determined not to give up.
Susan said: “It was going really, really well. We took the business over on a very low occupancy level and we started to build it up.
“Obviously then Covid hit. That was quite sad but these things happen.
“During Covid I did lots of stuff on Facebook and kept myself visible to let people know we were still here.
“We did renovations and we did lots of exploring. We have walked the length of Moffat and all the surrounding areas.”
Fortunately they were able to secure funding from the Government and while it was not as much as they would normally earn, it did help them to pay the bills during that time.
They opened the doors to the B&B again in July and were “quite busy”, but unfortunately local restrictions imposed in October had an impact.
Susan said: “English people couldn’t come to Scotland and the areas around us were in level three, so they couldn’t come to us. That was quite difficult.
“We went into total lockdown again on Boxing Day.”
Normally the couple would use the quieter winter months to visit their family and friends in Wigan but the restrictions meant they could not do that.
Instead, they turned to social media to ensure as many people as possible knew about Dell-Mar Guesthouse and the town of Moffat.
Susan, 51, said: “It’s been really hard, but we have been building our Facebook presence up, doing lots on Instagram and getting our website up and running.
“I created a Facebook group called Marvellous Moffat which is open to anyone to join and we post pictures of Moffat and how marvellous it is to live in this lovely area. We have over 1,000 people now in the group.”
Using social media has allowed Susan and David to tell people far and wide about their B&B including people from their former home town.
“I can’t believe how many people we have got from the North West,” Susan said. “It’s been really good.”
The couple were able to open the B&B again in April, initially just to visitors from Scotland.
But once the border opened in May and people could travel from England, they found customers flocking through their doors once again.
Susan said: “As soon as the borders opened on May 17, that’s when it started to get busy. We have been busy since then.”
It is hoped this will continue as people holiday in the UK this summer, amid continuing concerns about trips abroad.
Susan said: “June has been quite busy. We have got a lot more of the older generation coming. I think because they have been in total lockdown for so long and a lot of them have probably been isolating as well, so they are keen to get out. The first thing they say when they come through the door is that they have had their vaccines.
“We have got quite a lot of the older generation coming, but also the younger generation who can’t go abroad and just want a couple of days away. We are just two hours from Wigan, so we get a lot of people just coming for two to three days and exploring how beautiful the area is.
“I think staycations will be here for the next 12 months.”
Among those coming to stay are bikers and walkers hoping to enjoy what the area has to offer, as well as plenty of Wiganers.
Susan said: “We have had quite a lot of guests come from the North West and Wigan. We had people at the weekend from Abram and last week from Leigh. We do get a lot from our local area.
“People come and say, ‘You’re not from Scotland, are you?’ This couple came and said we sounded like we were from their neck of the woods and we were.”
She loves being able to reminisce with visitors from her home town, talk about the places she used to go and hear that familiar accent.
And fortunately Susan and David were able to visit Wigan and be reunited with their relatives at last, following the coronavirus restrictions in place.
It looks like it could be a busy summer for the Barkers, as they already have several bookings, including some longer stays of several days.
And with many people choosing to take their holidays in the UK this summer, the Wigan couple could soon be introducing more visits to the delights of “marvellous” Moffat.
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