EU Desk Officer visits two Scottish LEADER funded projects

Hannah Downey

This week, we met with colleagues from the LEADER Delivery Team (LDT), Tyne Esk LEADER and the Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) team to support the EU Desk Officer, Egle Puosiunaite, from the European Commission on her visit to Scotland. Ms. Puosiunaite was here to attend the bi-annual Rural Development Operational Committee (RDOC) meeting being held in Edinburgh this year, and was keen to see first-hand the benefits of EU funding in rural Scotland. At the request of the SRDP programme team, the LDT liaised with Tyne Esk LEADER and arranged for two LEADER funded projects in the Tyne Esk area to host our group for an afternoon.

Our first stop was The Chalet in Dunbar, a farm diversification project by James & Kay Gilchrist. The Chalet provides one of the only holiday lodges in the area to feature a ceiling hoist system, making the lodge fully accessible for even severely handicapped people whilst still providing stylish and comfy accommodation. The project launched 2 years ago with help from funding from Tyne Esk LEADER, and has been booked at nearly full occupancy since providing a steady source of income to the farm business.

The holiday lodge is based on the Gilchrist’s 400 acre farm dealing with pedigree Limousin cattle, sheep and grain. After being treated to homemade scones and treats we were lucky enough to get a tour of the farmyard, and meet some of the farms livestock! Speaking to the couple, it is clear that they felt there was a strong need to diversify if they wanted to increase the resilience of their business, and the income generated from the holiday lodges has been invaluable to the success of their farm.

Next, we travelled to North Berwick to visit Drift Café – another farm diversification and LEADER funded project. The café is based at Castleton Farm, an accredited farm in the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme and also a newly launched Agri-Tourism Monitor Farm. Speaking at the launch earlier his year, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Mr. Fergus Ewing said, ““We want farmers and crofters to become more productive, profitable and sustainable, adapting to new practices and willing to innovate in order to secure business viability for future generations.”, which is just what the McNicol’s have achieved on their farm through this project and their other venture ‘Castleton Events’.


Drift Cafe is constructed out of disused shipping containers, and has been built with minimal impact on the environment on a site which was already very popular for its stunning views of Bass Rock and (on a clear day) the coast of Fife. Stuart and Jo McNicol opened their doors to the café in June 2018, and have run a very successful business since with plenty of scope and ideas to expand. Lynn Douglas from the LDT, said, “It was fantastic to see these two innovative farm diversification projects which LEADER is funding within the Tyne Esk Local Development Strategy area”. We couldn’t agree more, and can’t wait to see what’s next for these projects!