My Time at Balcaskie – Isla Howells

17 February 2023

For the last 2 months I’ve come up from the Borders to work on the estate as part of my work experience for my university application, it helped hugely with my application to Harper Adams, RAU and Hartpury all of which the courses were land or property based, as my time on the estate helped with my personal statement and experience, as a result I was offered an unconditional to all three.

In this time, I have been lucky enough to experience most aspects of the estate and had an insight into everything it takes to keep it running smoothly, a difficult task at times. From filing cattle passports to scanning sheep I loved every minute of working there and as a student who was looking for a bit of guidance for my next steps in life it has given me a stronger idea of what I find interesting and wish to pursue and what I don’t.

The people who keep Balcaskie running are positive, enthusiastic and always striving to find new ways to improve the estate, enabling it to excel. Being part of such a team is really motivating and inspiring.

On a day-to-day basis I would get up at 7am and go to do my horse down the road before going back to my house and getting ready for work. Each day would be different which was one of the main things I enjoyed. One day you could be filing invoices and the next you could be helping move cattle. Before Christmas I helped with the production of the Christmas market down at Bowhouse, this shed has been turned into the most amazing events space in which a range of things can happen but the most recent being the Christmas market. We spent days dressing trees and making it as perfect as possible for the public to experience. Seeing children and adults faces light up alike when they walked through the door was very special.


My main task over the last month was to review all the properties on the estate, this meant I had to go and take photos of 40+ properties, all of which were beautiful in their own ways. By 2025 all the properties on the estate must have an EPC rating of a C to enable the estate to rent them out to tenants. This meant in my reports that I’d highlight what needed to be renovated and improved to reach this standard and what the costs would be to do this work. I used to live in a property on the estate, Balcormo House, so to go back and see it 10 years later was special and the lovely lady who now lives in it was kind enough to show me round the inside and all the changes that had been made since I lived there. I really enjoyed working with the property manager Ben Silk and watching the process of these renovations across the estate. Years ago, I saw Commielaw as some old cattle sheds which were used for storage, now it’s a hub of creativity for multiple unique businesses to produce their products in a fantastic environment.

 If anyone reading this is a student wondering if the Balcaskie is a good option for a placement year or even just some work experience then I couldn’t recommend it more, aside from the experience you will gain, you will be supported and guided into the best possible route for your future. They also know how to have a bit of fun aside from working very hard which I firmly believe is essential to have a good balance in life.

I thank the whole team at Balcaskie for the last two months but especially to Sam Parsons, the estate director for his support and ever-present sense of humour keeping us all smiling, he has been a real role model for me as I am sure he will be for many people after me.



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