Glamping Snowdonia with Sarah Heyworth from Graig Wen, who shares her experiences of running a successful unique holiday rental business as part of my new complementary sub-series, ‘A day in the life of a glamping business owner’. Sarah shares what it’s really like to live and work in a place of outstanding natural beauty, Snowdonia National Park while running camping, glamping, holiday cottages and a bed and breakfast (B&B).
John and Sarah packed up their lives in Brighton in 2006 and left town with their dogs in an old motorhome. Not phased by adventure, they soon found themselves in Snowdonia National Park as owners of a multi-accommodation business that also included glamping.
Glamping Snowdonia National Park
When they first started glamping Snowdonia escapes there wasn’t even a word for it but they knew they had found the perfect spot for yurts. They started with two yurts hand-built from their own ash trees and the business grew from there.
Sarah and John are a perfect example of a highly skilled couple following their dreams and making them a reality. While most of us simply talk about it, they actually get on and take action.
Graig Wen’s Wild Snowdonia Escapes
In this inspirational episode, Sarah talks about how the health crisis helped her confirm an important decision about expanding one offering while reducing another element of her holiday accommodation business. Find out which one did she choose to reduce and why in this new inspirational set of interviews, which spills the beans on what it’s really like to run a unique holiday rental or glamping business.
Today’s episode is brought to you by The Start-Up And Grow Club, which offers an accelerator program and support group for those who want to set up their unique holiday rental or glamping businesses quickly.
The Glamping Business Podcast Shownotes
Additional Resources And Links Mentioned
- Graig Wen – Glamping Snowdonia
- Contact Sarah Riley here at Inspired Courses
- The Ultimate Glamping Business Start Up Guide
- Tools and resources in the Glamping Academy
- How To Start A Glamping Business
Listen to the podcast here:
- iTunes (Apple)
- Stitcher (Android)
- Libsyn (App for smartphones)
- Spotify (Smart Player)
- Soundcloud (Smart Player)
Want To Feature On The Business Of Glamping And Unique Holiday Rentals Podcast?
If you have something inspiring to offer the world of Glamping and Unique Holiday Rentals then get in touch with Sarah Riley and share it on the Podcast. For more information contact Sarah here.
Listen to previous episodes here:
The Glamping Business Podcast – Transcript, Episode 47
Sarah Riley: I’ve been in this industry now for over a decade. And in that time, I have worked with some amazing people who are running some stunning businesses, and I want to share their stories with you, but I want to share what it’s really like to work in a glamping business or unique holiday rental. What does he own I have to go through on a daily basis. What does that day look like from the beginning to the end and everything in between What do they do during the winter when they have a bit of downtime or don’t they have some downtime, these are the kinds of things I’m going to be talking about with my guests in my new series, which is called a day in the life of, so this is where it begins in episode 47.
I’m really pleased you’ve joined me and look forward to seeing your comments and the reviews on whichever platform you listened to this podcast on. And definitely, if you are listening to this and you’d like to share your stories from your perspective as a glamping business owner or someone who runs unique holiday rentals do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. So over to the episode, glamping and unique holiday rentals or surging in popularity with the growing desire of customers to book holidays, that deliver an experience, they are also the new business of choice for those wanting to improve their work-life balance.
Sarah Riley: How do you build a strong business like this that gives you the life you need and a great investment. I’m Sarah Riley. And I want to share what I’ve discovered after being immersed in this industry for over 20 years, to inspire you to find out more about what’s going on. Welcome. This is the business of glamping and unique holiday rentals
Sarah Riley: So this is a different element, a different angle of my usual episodes. You could call it a complimentary sub-series. Really. I’ve been thinking about this for absolute ages, and only now just started to make recordings. And this is about what it’s really like to be a host, to be able to accept guests into your accommodation and what really happens on a daily basis. So I’ve decided to have some honest banter with a few people who have been amazing, and they’ve allowed us to look behind the scenes, dishing the dirt on what it’s really like to be a hospitality owner in this decade. And you know, what people expect of you, those funny stories of what they’ve done. And so if you’re really thinking about being a host yourself, this is a place where you’ll be able to get an honest view of what it’s like, but also to have a little bit of light banter, all those funny stories and the things that you can expect to happen to you too if you start to run your business.
Sarah Riley: So if you’re aspiring to be an owner in this industry, then it’s going to really give you some regular inspiration. So make sure you subscribe. And the other thing I won’t say is that these owners are giving their time for nothing, and it would be so amazing if you would just drop a comment into the reviews, say thank you to them for the time. But also maybe the thing that you felt resonated with you, the most, something that you learned, something that really stood out to you from what they said, for sure, I will make sure that they get to read your comments and, you know, it’d be really lovely to hear from you what you think of this new sub-series. So without further ado, I’m going to move over to the interview where I’m having my first chat with Sarah Hayworth. And this is all about a day in the life of her and her partner in their amazing accommodation, wild Snowdonia escapes at the base of the national park in Snowdonia in Wales, North Wales, and the things that they do on a daily basis.
Sarah Riley: They have camping glamping, holiday cottages. They used to have BNB. They have an immense amount of experience in all of these areas. And Sarah chats to me now about some of the experiences that she’s had since she’s been running her business and also what they do to, every winter, they look at what they need to do to refresh what they’re doing for the following year and how they go through that process. So I’m really happy to share this with you now and look forward to reading your comments afterwards. Enjoy. I was just trying to think this morning. Gosh, when did we first meet and kind of get together I was trying to figure it out. Was it at a glamping show I know I saw you at the glamping show?
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah, I think we, we saw John, my partner and I came to the glamping show, however long ago it was, and we saw you give a presentation and we kind of thought, Hmm, she knows what she’s talking about. And then I say, yeah, I got invoked in, in one of the first courses that you were doing. And then, we hooked up a further future glamping show after that, I think. Yeah.
Sarah Riley: Yeah. I seem to remember. Yes. it’s just so much time has gone by. It’s just stunning. Really How progressed.
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah. Yeah. It just seems like a world away. We haven’t been to the glamping show, you know, since COVID happened and it just seems a world away, all that stuff now in terms of what’s happened between now and then, you know
Sarah Riley: Yeah. And who would have known back then when we were all kind of chatting at the show that this was going to happen and we’re going to have COVID, we’re all going to be locked down all the businesses we’re going to be forced to shut. I mean, that was just something no one ever could have thought of. I mean, how has it been for you the last few years Because your business is a big business and to shut that down, that must have been really quite heart-wrenching.
Sarah Heyworth: Well, it was a big decision for us because we actually decided to close before the lockdown, before the official lockdown. Because we’re hearing in Snowdonia and North Wales. And you may remember in a week or two before the official lockdown, there were lots of news reports of people kind of flocking to Snowden. it seemed like there was this feeling in the ad that we must go out and climb a mountain and get out into the world before the lockdown that everyone could kind of see was coming. And it caused a lot of problems and a lot of bad feelings in local communities. so, so we actually took the decision to, to, to shut, I don’t know, a week or so before the official lockdown, which was a huge decision, really difficult. And then soon after our local council, we sort of had emails from them going, please consider shutting down, which, you know, it just seemed crazy, you know, but, yeah, once we’ve made that decision, then the world started changing completely and you just have to get on with it. but no, we’re, we’re good. Thank you. we’ll leave, like many businesses, I guess, who offer this kind of outdoor unique type of holiday experience that is in very beautiful and wild and coastal locations in the last couple of years when we’ve been able to open, it’s been the kind of place everybody has wanted to come to the UK. so when we’ve been able to, to open, we’ve been, we’ve managed to do that safely and unhappily. so we’re okay. Thank you. Yeah.
Sarah Riley: Well, when, you talk about your local area Snowdonia and everything there, I’m, I’m so desperate to visit. I’ve been to Snowdonia before I’ve climbed the mountain and I loved it, but it was a long time ago and I am pretty desperate to come back again, as I’m sure a lot of others are. Tell me a little bit from your perspective, why it’s so amazing in Snowdonia and the area where your business is based. Say a little bit about the local area.
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah, well, we’re lucky to be in a really beautiful location in the south of Snowdonia national park. so we’re on the mouth are Kasturi. So as I look out the window, there’s, we’re on a kind of Rocky slate ledge above the So I can see the water below me and sunshine on the mountains opposite and just a few scattered farm on the mountains, opposites. And, we’ve got mountains all around us, but we’re a little bit quieter in this part of the national park than Snowden itself, which is the kind of icon or within Welsh. It’s the icon that everybody, everybody wants to go to. So there’s been a few, hot spots, with, almost over-tourism in some places in the north, in the last couple of years. Whereas here, yeah, we get busier in the summer, obviously, but it’s still super chilled.
Sarah Heyworth: You can still walk up cutter address our local mountain and you don’t have to queue to get to the top. You don’t have a huge issue with car parking. you could go to the beach chairs and we’ve got, Barmouth beach just over the ashtray from us, which is, you know, a very popular beach and you can go and do all the fish chips and ice cream stuff with a lot of other people there. Or you can go to our local beach, which has got everything the Bahamas has got, but just a little bit less of it. So it’s a much quieter place as a result. so we kind of feel lucky here that we’ve, we’ve, we’ve got the mountains, we’ve got the coast we’re near to all those attractions, like the world heritage castles, like the zip wire experiences, like the mountain bike trails. but it’s just not kind of overrun, you know, it’s yeah, we’re very lucky to be here.
Sarah Riley: Yeah, no, absolutely. I’m going to, so I definitely, and I think that it’s a really lovely mix. The fact that it’s not overrun, but there’s still lots to do, and there’s still lots of beauty. It’s not, you know, completely covered by houses and buildings and everything else. There’s still this sense of what it really is at its core, which is this natural beauty.
Sarah Heyworth: Yes, I think so. I mean, when people come and visit us, they’re a little bit sometimes if they’re from the city and they don’t, they don’t know the area very well. They’re a little bit like, oh, I just feel so remote. And where do you go to the shops and all this kind of thing? And I guess we made the experience on a little bit when we moved here 15 years ago. but, you know, there’s, there’s, there are good local independent shops. You might not have a 24 hour massive Tesco or whatever, but it’s nice of the local independent shops. There are nice communities here, but yes, there are a lot fewer people. It is properly, still quite a wild place. And I guess when we travel to other places where it is a lot more built up and go into the real world as we call it, that it is a bit of a shock to the system, how commercial and built up it is compared to where we are here.
Sarah Riley: Yeah. Yeah. We have that at a little bit where we are in this part of Devin, really rural and coastal, and you still got the dark rocks and, you know, lots of places where you can get away from people. but you, you do have to drive into the cities and so on, and it’s a little bit of a shock to the system when you’re not used to it. Do you think that people go to you for, mainly the mountains and walking and hiking, or is it a general just love being in that area in the national park as a whole
Sarah Heyworth: We definitely get lots of people who were coming to, to walk in the mountains, or we’re very lucky because our campsite gate opens directly onto the mouth trail, which is a disused railway line. It runs all along the side of that, the estuary, to the beaches, which is a lovely flat trail.
People come cycling along with that, or they come walking along that, so people aren’t necessarily, you know, really kind of gnarly hikers that, that they’re, they’re just people who want to get out into beautiful scenery on all sorts and all sorts of different levels. and then we get, you know, the thrill-seekers who are come in because they want to go down a zip line across a quarrier 90 kilometres an hour or whatever. And, yeah, people who just want to really relax somewhere, very unspoiled as well, and listen to the bird song and, just do things we’re quite lucky where we are in that. You don’t have to get in your car to go to places to do stuff. You can just walk through the fields and onto the trail and walk across the famous bridge, across the S3 to Barmouth and do all that CSID stuff. And then walk back again, you know So, it, it really is, a place to unwind as well.
Sarah Riley: One of my favourite, campsites is exactly the same as that, that you actually drive to you parked your car and you don’t get in your car again throughout the whole holiday. You’re constantly walking to the beach, walking into the park, walking into the restaurant, you know, walking to go and do something on a day out. And yeah, it’s lovely. It’s nice to be able to put the keys down and not think about that anymore. It really makes the holiday for me, for sure.
Sarah Heyworth: And I’m trying to do a little bit more promoting, green travel here as well. Cause you can get a train here and you can get a bus from work, train nearby, and then a bus here. And there’s a bus from the gate and, you know, you can get bike hire and stuff like that. So we do get people coming on holiday to us, particularly to some of our clumpy accommodation. They just get the train up from London. They change once they have an incredible train journey around the coast to get here and then they’re fine. They can, they can manage with, without a car here for, you know, four or five days. we have a little shop onsite as well.
Last year for the first time we started doing barista coffee and croissant in the morning. So People spoiled that they could come along and still have a really good, flat whites or something and their crust on orders of sausage rolls to take away for that pub lunch, that kind of thing. So yeah, we, we try and make it so that people don’t have to go how an awful all the time in the car, they can just cause just high out here and chill. But yeah.
Sarah Riley: So Sarah, tell me a little bit about the accommodation that you’ve got because you mentioned that your accommodation, I know that you’ve got a bit of camping and glamping and pods or wooden cabin, something like that. Tell us a little bit more about what you offer.
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah, well, we’ve, we’ve got a big building which, used to be a Victorian slate cutting shed for the quarry that just down the road. so within that building, John and I live, there are four-holiday lets, one of which we own and three of which we manage for their owners. And, in this same area, we’ve got about half a dozen camper band pitches.
Then we’ve got a much wild, rare area of about 40 acres of land, ancient Oaks and wild Meadows and streams and beautiful dry stone walls and things and dotted around that area. We’ve got more kind of wildest style, tent campaign that people can bring their own tents and have campfires. And we have, we built two traditional yurts when we came here. So they’re kind of nestled in a silver Birch Glade. And then over time we’ve added, Shepherd’s huts, which we built, which is called Jones Jones.
Sarah Heyworth: The Shepherd’s huts after the shepherds, the Jones family that used to keep their sheep here. And we’ve got two more modern style yets address, which is a very remote location, named after our local Manton and then a year called Tommy, which is named after, famous Taylor who was born just over the Austrian bomber who made the suits that the Beatles are wearing on the Abbey Road album, and lots of really flamboyant suits.
So we try to like give a sense of place to people who come here. So we’ve got all four Tommy, and then we’ve just built two new wagons, which we call our quarry wagons because in there in the area where the old slate quarry was a man named after the size of riffing slates that the miners would cut. So they had different names for different sizes, of roofing slate. The biggest ones were called empiricists. So our biggest way in which she’s got a love beyond sweets and stuff is good and press. And then a slightly smaller one is called small Duchess because they had kind of duchesses and small duchesses and broad ladies and all these quirky names. So we kind of thought they were a bit fun. And so we called back what were you I can stop.
Sarah Riley: I love that. I love the fact that you’ve named it after so many elements of the story of where they’re located. And for me makes it so much more memorable. And do you actually share that with your guests and in some way, do you, did you tell them the background and where the names come from
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah, yeah. It’s on a web site in the marketing and then if they want to delve a bit more deeply into, into those stories, then, that’s in the information they receive when they book the accommodation, we, we use, a kind of app to give people a lot of information. So there’s a story associated with that. Yeah. Yeah. And, and some people can pick up on, I said other people too, but, it, it helps with the marketing, I think as well to have that story, to tell, and with the quarry likens, it also helped differentiate the areas that they were in. Cause they’re in quite a different area from our more kind of remote glamping options. So we wanted to try and convey that to people so that they, they, they made sure they book the right place for them really.
Sarah Riley: And he used to do a bit of bed and breakfast as well as the cottages.
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah, we used to have, or when we first came here 15 years ago, we did some renovation work and in our first year I had no idea how we managed to do it, but we did, B&B for 12 people to have six rooms. then we did some more renovation work and made some rooms on suite and a nicer. So for about 13 years, 13, 14 years, we did B&B for five rooms, 10 people. but last year when we kind of honoured all our existing commitments, after having to shut and postponed people for COVID and stuff, we actually decided to hang up our oven gloves. And after doing about 25,000 breakfasts decided that we would focus more on the self-catering and the glamping options and expanding that rather than the really hard work to Airbnb.
Sarah Riley: Yeah. So, so this was it for that reason because it’s hard work doing the B&B. It’s a little bit more hands-on, you’re having to cook a lot of breakfast and do a lot of rooms and it’s often a quick turnover. So you’re having to do the change over within 24 hours, 48 hours at a push maybe. but with the glamping, they’re slightly longer stays and they’re much more, they prefer their own space and to do their own food and all of those things. Is that the reason you did it
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah, there are a few reasons really. I mean, when we first decided to go into this business, we were really looking for a campsite that we could put yurts on. That’s what we wanted to do. And that’s what we used to bore or our friends at parties with the, about how we were going to do this. Even though at the time we were in a small house in Brighton and do completely different jobs. They’re like, yeah, yeah. So anyway, so that was the game plan. And then we found it grey wet and then we completely fell in love with the location. And the only way it would, it was much more than a campsite. and the only way it would work really is doing the B and B and we embraced that.
Sarah Heyworth: But I guess the aim was always to perhaps do more on the self-catering side because yeah, it is, it is, not quite so intense and it is a little bit more, at arm’s length for people we used to live in amongst our B&B guests. And that was, that was quite full-on, it’s, it’s important to have your own space. I think we’ve really valued that. but also I think when COVID happened, B&B guests were the most nervous in terms of rebooking, their perhaps slightly older, markets. They were a little bit more nervous about rebooking. It was harder to deal with all the COVID procedures, with, with, with the B&B, as opposed to people in their self-contained, accommodation. so, and then people booked, but then it was always the first that had to be shut down the first hat’s it to, they were the first to cancel because they were nervous about it or because they weren’t going to be able to go out and get meals because hospitality was, was shut down.
Sarah Heyworth: So that meant it was the weakest part of our business really during COVID. and, you know, we were also a bit more nervous about that close contact with people during that time. but it, it’s also, just, a hard business decision. the profit that you can make on five B&B rooms compared to the profit that you can make on glamping or self-catering accommodation, that the margins are just so much smaller with B&B and your costs are going up, up, up with food, with wages, with electricity, but the seems to be a bit of a ceiling about what you can charge, certainly in our area and with the kind of B&B that we’re offering. so it was just becoming, not, not profitable. So that’s when we decided to invest more in doing our, Cory walk-ins, which kind of like be like Shepherd’s huts rarely. and they nearly paid for themselves within, within a year, you know
Sarah Riley: Wow. So tell me a bit more about that building project then.
Sarah Heyworth: So we did that in the winter lockdown. so this time, last year we were, working on those and, we funded that through the COVID loan scheme, the one that you pay you back over three years, whatever. So, we decided to use that to build wagons, and we were really lucky that we’ve got a little, local team of, people who are good at building and maintenance just from it from the next village.
John and I both very much had a vision about what we wanted to create. And then, we worked with Phil and his 14-year-old son who wasn’t at school. So who came along and got stuck in with the bills. We got the timber for them from the Dubby forest. So forest just over the mountain. So kind of getting the labour and the materials. Wasn’t, wasn’t really a problem. And it was really nice to have that focus during that winter lockdown to be doing something productive and creative and exciting because it was kind of a long dark time wasn’t that
Sarah Riley: It really was for a lot of people. And I think some people are still finding it adult time, especially as now we’re having to, we shifted our lives, as you said, everything went full stop. And then suddenly we’re all expected to go back to life as normal, but with this thing hanging around, making our lives very inconvenient and for some, unsafe. And, and so, and so, my daughter has COVID at the moment, so we’re going through that. So, you know, it’s a struggle for everybody, but it’s not having a focus on something positive that you know, you’re going in the right direction. You’re excited about what that’s going to bring you for the future. You know this is something that’s brilliant hold onto.
I was so pleased when I heard that you did this lockdown build. I was so pleased to hear about it because it really does help to refire you and get you re-energized and back into your business again. And especially as you moved away from something that you felt wasn’t quite working for you anymore for your particular business model and the lifestyle that you want and everything else, and you decided, okay, we’re going to do something else. And, yeah, it’s a fantastic decision you made there and you got in there as well before all the prices of the materials went up too badly. Cause that’s the other thing that a lot of kids are suffering from at the moment.
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah. Yeah. I’m sure it is. Yeah, no. I mean, when, when we’ve done things like that, we’ve always been quite focused on really cracking on with them and getting them done over the winter well, but quickly so that we can open and they can start earning money as soon as we can reopen in the springtime. You know So, with, with the weapons, we started building them and the December, and the en suite while we were able to open the following April, we couldn’t open the one with shared facilities due to the COVID regulations until, later on in May, but then that was open and then they would just book pretty much solid right through till the end of October.
Then the other nice thing about the wagons is it’s that Sarah and a part of the site that we have a license to open, to right through until early January, whereas other parts of our site, because we’re in a very sensitive location here in the national park, our license is limited until end of September or end of October where the wagons, we can keep those open until early January.
Sarah Heyworth: So they, they were full right over Christmas, New Year when two weekends and things as well, which is, which is great for our business.
Sarah Riley: Absolutely. And how many Kevin’s do you have in total now
Sarah Heyworth: so we’ve got, sort of three shepherds targets, for your S and we have a bell tents during the summer that we put up as well. So kind of eight glamping options, I guess. Yeah.
Sarah Riley: as well as your cottages as well. So you have holiday cottages and so on camping, your normal everyday camping, wild camping. And, oh, I love this. The idea of well camping in amongst silver Birch. That’s one of my favourite trees. Yeah. So I’m going to have to definitely come and try that out. I do love back to basic camping. I love that as well as,
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah, we, we, we have a friend who’s a bushcraft expert and he’s done about Birch tapping with the silver birches.
Sarah Riley: I haven’t heard of it now.
Sarah Heyworth: when, there’s only a really small window, but when the sun is rising in the book in the Birch in silver Birch in, in March time, which is usually when we’re putting the yurts back up again for the season, if you, if you tap in with a kind of like a cook to the trunk of the silver Birch tree, and then you put a flexible pipe, you know, like a brewers pipe, then, then you can siphon off a little bit of sample from it, you know, couple of bottles and it’s really supposed to be a real rejuvenation drink. So we’ve done that occasionally as a little ceremony to get the setup for the year.
Sarah Riley: What does it taste like
Sarah Heyworth: Sort of Woody water
Sarah Riley: Is it sweet Is it, does it have like a sweet,
Sarah Riley: Oh, I’ve never, ever heard of that No, we, the only thing that I know about the silver birches that they seed really easily. So we have a few silver birches in our field and they would drop seeds and all these babies, silver Birch would come up and if you didn’t take them out, then you just would have a forest of silver Birch. And it would be at the detriment of the larger, older trees. We were often going around taking out these smaller ones that really shouldn’t have been there. But yeah, I love, I love that, leaf, how they are so beautifully silver on one side and then just a normal, a normally on the other. And it’s, yeah, there’s just something about it. Something about the name of that tree and its beauty. I really love it.
Sarah Heyworth: I think in, especially in the winter as well, those, these, you see them at a sort of dusk and that trunks are just shining and the winter low winter sun catches them. The branches, even out of the leaves, you know, they’re all sort of purple and beautiful. We are.
Sarah Riley: I’ve had a little bit of a, a thing about trees recently because I’ve been reading a book, the secret life of trees.
Sarah Riley: I can’t remember the author. I’ll have to put it into the show notes. Yeah. It’s just the whole way that they communicate with each other, through their roots, through the ground. And there’s this other life versus otherworldly thing going on that we’re not aware of until you dip into the book and it tells you about it, it’s really quite stunning. So I see trees in a different way. Yeah. It’s extraordinary. I love that.
The fact that you know, what we do and where we’re so lucky to be based for our work is around all of this, this nature. And you learn so much from being in it. And it’s just, it’s very good after you’ve been depleted after so many years of what we’ve all gone through, it really does help to build back your strength when you’re back in nature again. So, do you find that people do that when they come to you That is, especially if they’ve come from the city, they’re a little bit wired, a bit fast, you know, their life is still on the, in the fast lane. Do you find by the time they leave, they’re very different.
Sarah Heyworth: The next day they’re very different, you know, or four hours later, that very different. It’s, it’s something I really like seeing. And sometimes, you know, people have driven a long way in a car with a child who’s been sick on rest that’s stress, and you gotta think I’m just gonna, I just to leave you to just go and find your settled down and then we’ll have a chat later, either they come back and the look on their face is completely different. And, especially when people go down to the Astraea and they come back and they’re kind of spaced out. I think it’s so beautiful. And I know that that feeling because when we came to see the place where we were, first came to see Greg when, and by the time we walked from the top where the building is down to the ashtray, that’s it, it was sold to us, you know, we were in love.
Sarah Heyworth: And, it, it, it, it really does have that effect on people and, and not just, I think just the quiet as well, the peacefulness, and, we’re in one of the core areas of the Sonya dark skies reserved here as well. So if we’re lucky with the weather and the stars are out at night, the night skies are awesome and we get people covering who will I never pin anywhere. Here is darker than anywhere else. And I’ve never seen so many stars. And, it is hard to find a sense of wonder in life, I think sometimes, for, for many people. And I think that sense of wonder where it just literally takes you out yourself, you know, it’s lovely. See that happening here. And it’s something that I treasure definitely.
Sarah Riley: Yes, because you will gift it to them, the ability to be able to stay in that such an amazing place because that kind of thing isn’t available to everybody. And so I think it’s amazing that you know,
Sarah Heyworth: That’s really important to us actually, and we’ve, we’ve fought planning battles, on, on the basis of that, that that’s really important that this, these kinds of places aren’t just for the privileged few, I feel very strongly about.
Sarah Riley: Yeah, absolutely. And I do hope that we start seeing more of that actually through our national parks, that they begin to open up and allow people to share their spaces a little bit more frequently. And with maybe a little bit less difficulty getting there, jumping over the barriers and through the hoops.
Sarah Heyworth: It’s been a fantastic opportunity in the last couple of years for national parks to reach out to a whole different, sort of people, you know, younger people, a more diverse lot of people coming. We’ve, we’ve certainly seen that here. And that’s a fantastic opportunity to, welcome those people and give them some knowledge and skills about how to operate in this kind of environment, because it’s a very different environment to what some people are used to. Now, we have people coming to us last year and going, what’s an ice pack. What do I do with this And I’ve no idea got to light a fire, you know, and all these things. And, you know, it’s nice to be able to not be patronized into those people, but so it’d be welcoming and embracing of that, you know
Sarah Riley: Yeah. How amazing and you’re giving them experiences. They’ll never forget as well, especially those memories of the first time that you had that experience are, those are the memories that you’re going to take through life with you, that you’re going to tell your children about. And then you’re going to hopefully teach them about when they get older. And we all know that if we love something, we will really fight hard to protect it. So if we love nature, because we spent time in it and we’ve really connected with it, we’re going to fight hard to protect it. And we all need to be doing that.
This whole ethos of keeping people out of national parks, because we need to protect it. That’s not how to protect it. The way to protect it is to allow people to connect with our national parks, more, love them more, and then want to protect them themselves. And so that’s certainly where I come from and hopefully, others do too. And it certainly sounds like you do. and so that’s amazing. And so you’ve gone from, was it, Brighton, that you moved to become to where you are now And, so you’ve done that, and now you’re an award-winning. So you recently won an award. How was that?
Sarah Heyworth: It was really exciting. We, we went, we won the go north Wales, tourism, best camping, glamping caravaning sites, awarded a big glitzy do in fronted though, back in November with, you know, performers, a big tables and everything. It was, it was very exciting and lovely to be recognized because we were in really good company with some other, quite big businesses that have developed very nice glamping Snodonia sites or very, very high-quality kind of campsites.
It was nice. Yeah. We’ve always done everything ourselves on a shoestring, so it’s nice to be recognized. I think they were impressed by our links with the local community as well. And, we’ve been lucky to have guests. They’ve been very kind enough to give us lots of lovely reviews in the last couple of years as well. So, yeah, it was, it was, it was nice. It’s nice to have a little Phillip like that sometimes isn’t that
Sarah Riley: Yeah, it certainly is. And that’s a lovely way of being recognized for the hard work that you put in every day and the soul searching that you’ve done in all those decisions you’ve made over the years since you first dreamed up your idea probably of let’s move away or leave the city, let’s start with something really different. And now you’re winning awards. So, I mean, that must be incredibly rewarding for you. It really,
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah. Yeah. Well, wait, when we left Brighton, we literally sold our house and left in a camper van and travelled around the country for about a year looking for the right place. And I had my own little business before doing maxing and things, and I think some people just thought we completely lost the plot, you know, and now they’ve said it’s covered state and God. Yeah. I can see why he did it. And then, you know, having the kind of credibility of civil war, which is it’s nice to have.
Sarah Riley: So you’ve got so many, different types of accommodation and to me having run or help to run a business for years, I know how much is involved in all of that. So do you have an army of staff helping you and tell me a little bit about what it means every day, what’s your day When do you start, when do you get up in the morning and what’s the kind of first things that you normally have to do it on a general kind of a seasonal tourism season day, not today now? Cause we’re in a, you know, in February and it’s, it’s very quiet. but on a normal day, what would it be for you in your business What would tell, talk me through your day
Sarah Heyworth: Okay, well, so the John, if my partner and we work full time on the, on the business, we play to our strengths like ass. So he’s definitely the early bird in our partnership. So he’s, he’s up super early at like six, o’clock going round to campsite and checking everything is okay. and I sort of come to gradually and maybe
Sarah Riley: have a few coffees,
Sarah Heyworth: Yes, coffee, and check the social media and maybe post something first, first thing in the morning. and then John and I get together to open up the Reception at about 8.30. So, so when I doing barista coffee and croissants for, from about 8.30 in the morning, till about 11, so we’re, we’re there doing that and John’s making coffee and I’m sort of chatting to the customers. It’s a really nice time of day. Actually, people come down for coffee and talk about what they did yesterday and what they’re going to do today. And you can give them some tips and that sort of thing. And then at the same time, I’m checking, checking the emails that have come in, looking at what the arrivals are looking like for that day. and then we’ll have, two members of staff come in about nine or 10 o’clock.
Sarah Heyworth: And, one of those might then be going down to the 10 competing fields too. So we offer because you can’t drive onto our tent company fields that all car-free. but we have this service where we’ll meet campus at that pitch. The day they check out at a certain time and they stick all this, that kit onto our little off-road vehicle and we drive it to their car for them.
We sort of offer a lift on and lift off service. Yeah, a member of staff come in to start doing that. And then another member of staff will take over reception for me and I can go and get my breakfast and they can deal with emails and things. and yeah, I might have a bit of time in the morning to do some deal with inquiries from groups or tricky ones that the staff can’t deal with or I’m doing some marketing work.
Sarah Heyworth: and then about half-past 11, I’m usually involved in going off to do some cleaning around this, around the site, whether that’s the campsite or whether that’s helping to a change over in the yurts. John and I usually catch up about one for lunch and talk about things that need to be done, for just refuel. and, then after lunch, if we’ve got a lot of our Bibles that day in our holiday accommodation, I’m the super fussy one who goes through and double-checks it all and makes sure that it all looks perfect and the flowers are nice. And if it’s somebody’s birthday, there’s bumps and all those little extra things that help make that wow factor when people arrive, we hope. and then we might be involved in welcoming people, see accommodation, we do reception again between about four and six.
Sarah Heyworth: so I might be helping with that or I try and grab a bit of time to go and sort of depressurizing and walk down through the fields and along and take the dog for a walk or just kind of distress sometimes. Don’t you and then yeah, receptionist shots at six and they got the, wash it off the line and put the wash in a way, do a bit of a check around the site, then a bit of family time dinner, and then I’m the late shift person always share that with a member of staff when we’re super busy.
So about half past 10 at night, I have a wander around the whole site and just make sure everything’s okay and nobody’s being noisier than they need to be. And again, that’s quite nice timing as you walk around the dog and I might have a chat with people and look at the moon and just chill for the end of the day, really, and then get up and do it all again. Especially the last two years there wasn’t so much a lull at times, you know, like sometimes between the bike holidays or just before the school holidays, there’s usually a bit, a bit, a bit more of a low, but the last two seasons, it just is like bang, bang, bang every day. Really. So yeah. You need a bit of time off.
Sarah Riley: Yes, yes you do. well this is the thing, isn’t it That you’re so much of the year is, is, quieter in terms of, you know, the winter autumn, and early spring. And then when it really kicks off, it’s, it’s busy all season. And I know from speaking to many owners, they say that incredibly grateful for the quieter time in the winter.
A glamping Snowdonia business is hard work. You know, a lot of people may say, but how do you survive And it’s well, you know, well financially you make all of your money in those bigger seasons. And then you’re really grateful for that quiet time that you can rest to recuperate and recharge your batteries ready for a new season. so it’s definitely the conversations I’m having in September, October are very different to the conversations that I’m having with owners in the spring. They have a different head on their shoulders after a season working with tourists.
Sarah Heyworth: Can you quickly over the winter, especially if you’re doing a big maintenance job or a building project. So before you know, it’s February and, you know, you’re looking at getting open again quite soon.
Sarah Riley: Exactly. But you give yourself all these projects in the winter. I’m the one I like protects in the winter as well. I think it’s a really brilliant time to do it. And I often when I do a project, I think back and I go, oh, thank goodness I did that last winter. And I’ve got that sorted now. So you’ll, you know, gather the fruits from your labour of doing all of that during the winter, and now you’ve got fully booked cabins. but how do you actually work out your work-life balance? How do you decide to, or when do you decide to take a break and, get some downtime Cause you obviously need some downtime and if it is the two of you together, how do you both take time off
Sarah Heyworth: We’ve always been, once, once we managed to start taking on some staff, we’ve always been quite religious about taking a day off together, day off a week together. so we usually try and take a Tuesday off together, and get off-site for a bit, go for a walk or go and do something. I mean, I say we take a day off, you know, we always used to cook breakfast before we had that day off, or we might be doing reception for a bit before we go out.
Then we’re back for five to take over from self or something like that. So it’s not like, you know, we don’t get up until 11 o’clock in the morning. And then we make the rounds all day. It’s kind of a part-day off, but it is a day where we get out together, you know I think that’s important for your relationship and, your sense of perspective and to go off and see what else is happening in your area, or go off and see what other people are doing. And yeah, just enjoy the reason that you’re living here.
Sarah Riley: So do you take a holiday
Sarah Heyworth: we do try and take a bit of time yet. So again, again, either we do that in January, or we do that once we’ve got our staff for the season. cause John’s birth is actually in, in, in June. So we usually go on a little camping trip in June before the season kicks off in full. We have a little busman’s busman’s holiday cause I love campaign. I found out recently that, my great-grandmother, they had a, like a traditional Bardot gipsy caravan, but the family or, or used to go to hang out in at the weekends and like to share, I mean, God knows what happens for it. So I think he was probably in the blood,
Sarah Riley: In the blood by the hands of it.
Sarah Heyworth: so, so yeah, we, we do try and get, you know, four or five days it, the tense it Jude sometimes. And again, it’s you, you know, you pick up a lot of inspiration as well as go and have a nice time really. And so, yeah, that’s, I guess that’s how we did it. And, and John goes and does yoga one evening a week and I do agility with my dog. I train my dog and we do a kind of agility training with a local club, once a week as well. So that helps you switch off.
Sarah Riley: Yeah. More than anything. I think that is the thing, isn’t it, it’s not necessarily about getting a break from the physical side of things. It’s about getting a break from the mental side of things and not having to think about all those things to do. You’re switching off. You’re not having to think about the next job for the next, however long it is. You’re having a break. It really does make a massive difference.
So as part of your time, since you’ve been running your business, I’m intrigued. I always know that someone’s got a funny story somewhere. They’ve got a really juicy bit of a, you know, an experience that they had or you know, someone’s behaviour or something that they didn’t expect. And it happened that, that they thought was hilarious. So, or the, you know, just kind of tickled their fancy a little bit. Here’s if you got a story of something that’s happened to you since you’ve been in the world of holiday accommodation, glamping beam being, and holiday cottages. Tell me, about that.
Sarah Heyworth: You know, so, so many people just never cease to surprise me what they do or you know, that they suddenly turn up with ferrets or a cockatoo or we were doing, when we were still doing the B&B, we had, a couple who are actually staying on the campsite and a motorhome. And they turned up in their pyjamas at about nine o’clock in the morning on the doorstep.
I find, you know, it’s very, casual, grading inspector is coming around to, in about an hour and a half to, to greet us. But you know, now that we’ve locked ourselves out of our higher motor home, they literally locked themselves out of their boats to home and couldn’t get back in. So we do have to kind of like look off to them until the hiring company could sort this out in their juncture, Jim Jones wandering around round the people that Jim Jones, one time we had Country File, BBC Country Files, staying with us because they were filming in the Snowdonia area and I’ve been organizing it for weeks, with their, their fixer because about 14 of them were coming to save for a couple of nights across all our accommodation. And it was hilarious because, the local ladies at the market where we get our jam, ask about Matt Baker.
Sarah Heyworth: But it’s, that’s a big question mark.
Sarah Heyworth: And that it was like the fixer said, oh no, he’s not coming now. He’s got to do the one show and he’s not going to be able to come up here. So he’s not coming. So like, oh, nevermind, well, you might as well have the best room in the house then that we were going to give to, to, to the celebrity, which so nice, just so she has the room with the lucky few and the lovely bath, the blah, blah, blah, best trip.
And that about two o’clock in the morning that night, there’s the emergency Intercomm coast and John who doesn’t usually to be front-of-house. It’s usually my strength, you know, but as I say, he’s the, he’s the one who could get up at early hours through the day, shuffles down the front door, in his dressing gown to find my doorstep, Matt Baker. So sorry there’s been some sort of mix up, is there room for me to stay?
Sarah Riley: What happens to you got the celebrity on the doorstep and somebody from his production team had taken his room.
Sarah Heyworth: So we had like a cold room that we hadn’t had the heated off. He was very complimentary about our sausage sandwiches the next day. He was lovely and it was fine, but it was just like, oh, could you,
Sarah Riley: I swear, there’s definitely a book in this. There’s a book idea in all of this to be able to get all of these funny stories from everyone who’s ever run a tourism accommodation business. Cause there’s so much,
Sarah Heyworth: somebody if about just not repeatable as well. Well, what I love about doing this is you meet all sorts of people and people never cease to surprise you. Yeah.
Sarah Riley: And I always find that the honeymoon is quite entertaining as well.
Sarah Heyworth: Oh gosh. Yeah. Yeah. We’re not really, I mean the yurts and things. Yes. Honeymoons, but for the spare bedrooms, Tiki mock as houses, like a honeymoon destination. But I do remember what somebody requested that partner’s name would be spelt out in rose petals. Right Hilarious.
Sarah Riley: Oh my goodness. Me. So what is next for you then Sarah, glamping Snowdonia, where will it take you? What are you planning to do? So you’ve got your cabins and that’s going to keep you very busy. Are you just going to run things as they are and look to enter in some more awards or are you going to be doing something else if you’ve got another project on the horizon?
Sarah Heyworth: Well, we’ve invested a lot of, money over the winter in, drilling a borehole because we’ve always been a private water supply. And with climate change, even in North Wales, which has very different weather now, long, long dry periods, so kind of to secure our water, we’ve just invested this borehole. So we’re sort of connecting that up and then the other new accommodation that we’ve just come online is a cottage actually it’s five miles down the road in dog XII. that we’ve just started letting out that, belongs to John’s dad, but he no longer lives in.
So we’re renting out a sweet little cottage into a gadfly and Saddleback challenge cause it’s, it’s not on-site and it will be a slightly different market, for the people who want to go and stay in that to the people who want to come and stay here at Greg lands. So that’s my next little marketing, work that I’ve got to do. but that’ll be fun. And, you know, w w we’ve got less, less availability in, in, holiday cottages. And so it’d be good to have this, this new choice that people can go to.
Sarah Riley: oh, it sounds great. And as you say, another project for you to get your teeth into something, to look forward to doing and flex those creative juices in your mind. So if anybody wants to come and check out your website, where do they need to go And obviously, it’s, I’m not very good at pronouncing the name, Greg Greg, when
Sarah Heyworth: Right Greg. So our combination is called gripe,
Sarah Riley: Graig Wen
Sarah Heyworth: Like Craig, but with a G, Graig Wen, and it means white rock because there’s a lot of quotes around our site from the slate quarrying. So Graig Wen means white rock and our website is https://www.graigwen.co.uk/
Sarah Riley: So for anyone out there with a pen and paper, it’s https://www.graigwen.co.uk/ Is that right?
Sarah Heyworth: That’s correct.
Sarah Riley: Yep. Perfect. Oh, it’s been so amazing to speak to you today, Sarah, and you know, it’s, I’m looking forward very much to seeing where you’re going to go in the future and I’m definitely going to come and visit because when, when my husband’s come up to see you guys, because he did some of your pictures, your lovely pictures, he just hasn’t stopped talking about it. And since then, of course, COVID hits. We haven’t been able to get away. It’s just crazy busy as well in between. So, but, I’m certainly looking forward to coming to see you very soon. It’d be really,
Sarah Heyworth: Really welcome.
Sarah Riley: I’d love to, I’d love to, and Roy keeps saying to me, I’m going to climb up the mountain. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it. So I might even join him for that as well. So glamping Snowdonia here I come!
Sarah Heyworth: Yeah. Slightly easier mountains. This, this punchy a choice. Yeah.
Sarah Riley: Yeah. Oh, I look forward to it. Thank you so much, Sarah, and speak to you very soon.
Sarah Riley: Well, that was amazing. Thank you so much, Sarah, for sharing all of that with us. And I know that you would have benefited so much from that behind the scenes view of a day in the life of someone who runs glamping, camping, BNB business, or unique accommodation of some description in the tourist industry.
Now, if you would like to be featured on the podcast because you have a story or two you’d like to share, maybe a funny thing happened to you as a host, running a business with your guests coming and visiting. If you’d really like to share what happened to do, please get in touch. I’d love to make that wider so that people can benefit from what you share and you know what, this is something that I’d really like to do more of in the future. So please don’t hesitate to get in touch to kind of things I’m looking for are, you know, your experiences during the health crisis, if you’ve had any Eureka moments recently or something that has encouraged you to think differently about a part of your business, obviously a day in the life.
Sarah Riley: So the kind of things that happened to you and giving you an opportunity to spill the beans and give a bit of a funny story, something unexpected that happened to you in your daily business. And you know, where you might be thinking about you changing up your services and why you’re doing that. So others can benefit from your inspiration, but also personally, how do you find that whole work-life balance that is so important for all of us, and then anything else that you have found really interesting and you’d like to share.
So get in touch. And also if you’re listening to this, do please leave a review. I read every single one of them, and I’m so grateful for everything I receive. I’m looking forward very much to sharing this new complimentary subseries with you a day in the life of, and look forward to sharing more with you soon.