Cross Houses have always been a bit of a local landmark. A mile out of Bridgend you turn the corner and there sit those cottages with the big X on the gable. And then the road sweeps around heading towards Bruichladdich leaving the cottages behind. The track from the road is only a couple of hundred metres but standing next to the houses feels like a different world.
We rarely met our neighbours at Cross House East. It was their holiday home. They visited 2 or 3 times a year but, like all part-time houses, it gets our of date and eventually needs an expensive overhaul to bring it up to the present day. An unexpected telephone call to say they were considering selling left us with no choice – to grab it while we could.
Of course, there's the stories of locals not being able to find accommodation or being priced out. On the other hand, tourism is just about the biggest earner for Islay and visitors needs somewhere to stay. We can't expect modern, sophisticated travellers to turn up in Islay just because there are some distilleries and a few beaches. People need comfortable places to stay to give them memorable family holidays. It's a competitive market.
Getting the keys back in September and taking a real look around for the first time was a bit of an eye opener. The electrics and plumbing were from another era, there was no kitchen to speak of, and the lack of heating and insulation made it cold and damp feeling. What to do? Rip it all out! And now, the house looks like the interior of a small chapel with stone exterior walls and no interior partitions.
Well now. What do we do next? That's the big question. Watch this space to see how the final ideas develop. One thing's for sure – that little corner of Islay can remain peaceful and special without the worry of new neighbours who collect old motor bikes or want to keep pigs in the back garden.