A Croft is a particular type of small Holding which is governed by the Scottish 1886 Crofting Act & subsequent acts in order to maintain the population in remote & marginal areas. It is thought that Balaclava Croft was originally gifted to a soldier returning from the Crimea war in 1854 when Major General Colin Campbell led the 93rd Highland Regiment against the Russians at Balaclava. The link to Islay was Colin Campbell's mother Agnes Campbell of Islay & it appears the original croft house was built to resemble the Garrison buildings at Balaclava Hill in the Crimea.
Rob became the tenant of Balaclava, a registered Croft, in1978. It was classed as a bare land Croft on entry as it had no fences, no fields, a ruin, no electricity, just 600 acres of rough grazing ground & heather hill with lochs. With a burning ambition to farm his own land Rob set about draining & improving the ground & rebuilt the old ruin into an agricultural workshop to generate income to develop the Croft. Rob & Gill married in 1983 & brought up their 2 daughters, Samara & Rebecca Fawn in a caravan until they completed building their new Croft house high up on the hill. Over the years as more fields were fenced, drained, reseeded, the sheep flock grew & improved by crossing the original Blackface ewes with Cheviot, Lleyn, Texel & Beltex Tups. Breeding & improving the flock has given us a real buzz & is full of rewards as well as many ups & downs.
Lambing starts mid April & due to the wonderful tool of scanning we know how many lambs the pregnant ewes are carrying so the triplets get special treatment. During the summer ewes are dosed, feet checked , the wool is shorn within minutes by the 'fit' New Zealander Contractors, lambs are weaned in August & September & then the cycle starts again when we select Tups & get the ewes in rising condition for tupping. The ewes graze the hill from New Year to April among the many wild red Deer. In the winter we feed Draff from Laphroaig Distillery & Malt Pellets from the Maltings to our cows & ewes. This is a Biproduct of Whisky production but is a good feed made on our doorstep. We hope our Lambs & Calves are as good a quality as Islay's famous Malt whisky.
In 1994 Gill became the Islay, Jura & Colonsay National Farmers' Union of Scotland Secretary working from a spare room in the Croft House. The farm business also grew as we had taken on Cornabus Farm increasing our Suckler Cow & sheep numbers.
Views from Balaclava Croft
In 2009 we undertook our biggest ever project & with financial grant assistance from the Scottish Rural Development Programme we rebuilt the original Croft House with a brilliant team of local builders to produce a stunning, luxury & comfortable Holiday House & a small office for Gill to run her growing NFU business.
Though this is a working croft we invite you to explore the beautiful hills at Balaclava but ask you to please avoid all fields where there are young lambs & calves. Please take care , close gates & if you go on the hill advise someone of where you are heading & take a phone. If handling any of our sheep, our working Collie dogs, Mick, Jess or our lovable Jack Russell, Ozzie, please wash your hands thoroughly & avoid all farm machinery & the farm sheds.
We look forward to welcoming you to our Croft & if you wish to participate in any farm activity or wish to learn more about Crofting please just ask us any time. We will also have our own naturally produced grass fed Lamb & wild Venison available in the Freezer. If interested please just ask. Large Roasts for special occasions can be cooked & provided on request.