A couple who left their comfortable city life behind to dedicate their time and money to renovating an inn say they will never regret the decision in spite of the difficulties.
Alice and Jade sold their Croydon flat in 2016 and moved to Scotland where they bought a derelict inn, allowing Channel 5 to film their progress during their first year of business.
In tonight’s episode of Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Country, airing at 9pm on Channel 5, the presenter meets the couple in Loch Tummel, near Pitlochry, where they work up to 80 hours a week to keep their business afloat.
In their first year, the couple, who sold their London flat for £290,000 and bought the inn for £236,000, dedicated their remaining savings of £70,000 to paying their new mortgage and renovating the inn.
Three years on, in spite of the many setbacks they’ve faced – including going through eight chefs in three years, the long hours and having their first baby – the pair are still convinced they’ve made the right choice.
Jade (left) and Alice (right) left London in 2016 to buy an inn in the middle of the Scottish Wilderness. Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Country, followed the couple during the first months of their venture. The adventurer (middle) then meets with them three years on
A look at the outside of The Inn at Loch Tummel, which is run by Jade and Alice who work 80 hours a week to keep their business ticking over
However, they got off to a difficult start making just £2,600 in their first four months of business, in spite of working tirelessly.
‘I think I’m learning that you use have to keep moving forward, you just have to keep going,’ Alice said.
‘We don’t know that’ we’re going to make the money next year, but I do know that if there’s any hope of making it, we just got to put the staff in place. You just gotta take a punt, you just have to do it,’ she went on.
‘It’s a very luxurious feeling, being so content with what you do, and I now understand what people say when they’re like “I’m doing my dream job”, she added, while folding sheets on the floor.
One of the rooms at Loch Tummel, which has been renovated by Alice and Jade look after. Alice admitted she’d wake up with cramps in her hands after spending hours scrubbing and restoring old floors
A quiet dining table awaits guests at the Inn. Alice and Jade said at the beginning of the programme that they hoped managing the inn would give them a better work-life balance
The restaurant and bar of the inn sits 40 patrons. Alice and Jade cannot afford staff, and have to deal with customers by themselves
‘And it sounds ridiculous, I’m cleaning toilets every single day and I hoover a lot of floors and clean up after a lot of messy people,’ she said, ‘But what it gives me back from meeting wonderful people and spending time with Jade and running my own business, literally I would do it ten times more than I’m already doing.’
Meanwhile, Jade, a born and bred city boy, admitted: ‘I feel like I personally fit in, which is really bizarre.
‘I wouldn’t give this up, I wouldn’t go back, we’ve survived four months, against all odds I may add.’
The first portion of the programme follows Alice and Jade from the early days of renovation until six months into their business venture.
‘I’m hoping it will give us the work-life balance we are looking for,’ Alice said, before the renovations started.
Back in London, Jade used to work in PR and Alice in finance. But the pair grew tired of the rat race and started to dream of a new life managing a small hotel.
Ben helps Alice in her tasks. She looks after the rooms and the cleaning upstairs as well as cooking in the restaurant’s kitchen
Jade explains in the programme that he fits in in the country, which he thinks is bizarre because he was born and bred in a big city
After losing her eighth chef in three years, Alice took over the restaurant’s kitchens, meaning she works a staggering 80 hours a week
However, they soon found that their dream did not come cheap, and had to spend £18,000 on eight new windows just weeks into their renovations, because the old ones were rotten.
With very little money to spare, the couple took on most of the work themselves, painting and assembling furniture, revamping the floors and unclogging the plumbing.
The renovations were hard on the couple, who were left exhausted and in pain from their hard work. Alice explained that she woke up with a cramped hand every day after hours spend scrubbing the old wooden floors.
Once the inn was ready, the couple opened the restaurant first, which proved popular with locals.
The couple could only afford a chef, and were left to deal with the service, payments and bar by themselves.
After looking into their finances, Alice and Jade estimated they needed to spend £8,400 on their mortgage, £36,000 on salaries, £14,000 on food and drinks, £7,000 on gas and £5,000 on electricity, meaning they had to earn £70,400 a year to break even.
But on their first night of business, they made just £300 profit, and a total of £2,600 four months down the line.
Ben learns to serve a pint behind the bar under the guidance of Jade. Looking after the bar is another responsibility the father has to look after
They also had to move on to the renovations of the inn’s six guests room, to create the modern and cosy aesthetic they’re hoping to achieve.
Three years after opening the inn, Ben came to visit and met the couple and their little boy Selby, who had arrived along the way.
He learned that they still look after the inn’s rooms, bar, restaurants and kitchen, dusting, cleaning the rooms and doing all the odd jobs that need doing.
The restaurant’s last chef has quit, meaning that Alice has had to take cooking on.
She now works 80 hours a week, on top of looking after her son and family.
Ben helps with the service (pictured) during his time at the inn with Alice and Jade. The couple cannot afford staff
The hard work and pressures of the job heve also had repercussion on their relationship, with Alice and Jade bickering over their respective attitudes.
Jade admits he is ‘short’ with people, which is something he did not experience in the city. ‘Before I came up here I thought I was a very nice person,’ he says.
‘In spite of it all, they are still confident they made the right choice.
Jade tells Ben: ‘I think yes it’s scary at time and yes we could have taken a safer options, but I would have regretted not doing something like this,’ Jade says.
‘I can’t imagine not doing it. Can’t imagine going back south, going to an office,’ Alice agrees.
‘I don’t really mind how much stress I get with something like this because it’s ours, and that is the massive difference,’ she says.
Ben Fogle: Make A New Life In The Country airs tonight on Channel 5 at 9pm.