Tech entrepreneur launches corporate retreat and luxury holiday space at historic East Lothian site

A Scottish tech entrepreneur has launched “corporate retreat” and holiday accommodation at an historic East Lothian site as the world gears up for a post-pandemic future.

Friday, 13th August 2021, 12:30 pm

George Mackintosh’s Papple Steading aims to tap into both UK staycation trends and an increase in corporate away days amid an expected boom in hybrid working.

The corporate and holiday retreat facilities consist of four properties – the main farmhouse, Grieve’s Cottage and two self-contained bothies, all restored to retain original features.

The adjoining properties, which sleep up to 20 and have a total of 11 bathrooms, sit in six acres of lawns and an open field with another 20 acres of ancient woodland and a wildflower meadow.

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George Mackintosh at Papple Steading and the surrounding area, near Haddington, East Lothian. Picture: Stewart Attwood

The site includes the ruins of the 15th century Papple Convent, and Papple Steading originally sat within the Whittingehame Estate, whose laird was Arthur Balfour, the British prime minister between 1902 and 1905.

Mackintosh bought Papple Steading – an example of the model farms of the agricultural improvement movement – in 2017, and will develop the historic farm into a business and visitor destination, community centre, while an agricultural heritage museum is set to open in early 2024.

Mackintosh, director of Papple Steading, said: “We have strong demand from the staycation market with groups and families enjoying some peace and quiet in the countryside. At the same time, on the corporate scene, we’re already seeing increasing demand from a full range of businesses who are finding it hard to adjust to new modes of hybrid working and want to find ways of bringing their teams together in a meaningful way.

“Executives, partners and managers want to find escapes which create a positive, peaceful atmosphere respecting the wellbeing and safety of their colleagues.”

Features at the new accommodation include William Morris wallpaper, Harrison Spinks beds, hand-crafted oak kitchens and Aga ovens, underfloor heating, Georgian and Victorian antiques, original modern art mixed with maps and drawings from the 19th century, a grand dining room with a large Edwardian table, library, exercise studio, shower room and TV lounge, BBQ terrace, and super-fast broadband throughout.

In June 2020, Eggplant, the software testing business Mackintosh founded in 2009, was acquired by California-headquartered Keysight Technologies in a transaction value at some $330 million (£241m).

Edinburgh-based Mackintosh previously founded 3i-backed audio, video and web conferencing business Geoconference, in Glasgow in 1996, with the company being sold to Global Crossing – now CenturyLink – in 2000.

The entrepreneur was also the chairman of shellfish exporter Laeso Fish, vice-chairman of the CBI’s SME Council, and remains an associate and former entrepreneur-in-residence at the University of Edinburgh Business School.

Mackintosh set out his ambitious plans for Papple Steading earlier this year.

At the time he said: “Scotland’s agricultural built heritage is being lost and as the son of a farmer, it’s always been a subject close to my heart. In fact, the ruins of my father’s first farm, Seafield of Raigmore in Inverness-shire, now sit at one corner of the Inverness Retail Park.

“I have a passion for conservation and restoration, and a vision to explain our agricultural heritage.”

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