For many years we ran a successful dairy farm near Shieldhill, Dumfries milking 150 cows. However, seeing the way the dairy industry was going, we decided to change direction but stay in touch with the industry we knew so well. Not only is Mabie Farm Park in a beautiful setting surrounded by trees and a bluebell wood, it has the added bonus of a stream running through the grounds, and a large pond teeming with wildlife. Despite there being up to a 1000 visitors a day, there is plenty of space in the Park for both humans and animals.

We had always wanted to work in tourism, and had a clear vision about combining our expertise in farming with a child-friendly tourist attraction. We liked the idea of a farm park and realised there was nothing like that in the area. Our own farm was not the right site for such a venture but after a long search Burnside Farm at Mabie provided us with the right criteria for diversification – the right farm in the right place, near an already established tourist attraction in Mabie Forest, and with a large flat area for play, fields for animals, a typical stone-built Scottish steading and outbuildings ripe for conversion to indoor play areas and so Mabie Farm Park was created.

Getting the new business venture off the ground was very much a family affair. Our three children, Zoe, Zelda and Darrin worked with us on a full time basis. Initially receiving support from Forest Enterprise, Dumfries & Galloway Council, the Dumfries and Galloway European 5b programme and Dumfries and Galloway Enterprise, we started making alterations to the farm on 19 March 2000 and opened to the public in May 2000 and our dream became a reality attracting over16,500 people in its first season.

However Foot and Mouth Disease dealt us a cruel blow in 2001, and
46 of our prize animals who had almost become pets had to be slaughtered. So great had the link become between the local children and the animals that Noblehill Primary School in Dumfries raised money to build a cairn to the memory of the animals culled. The clearing up operation meant closure for 6 weeks, but the support was tremendous and letters from visitors urging the Park to keep open prompted us to carry on. The surviving animals were complemented with more play facilities.

During the following years we responded to customer demands for more under cover play areas and all weather facilities. We then built a 5000 sq. ft. Playbarn with soft play equipment including Bouncy Castles, Trampolines, a Traversing Wall and two Party Rooms. The Party Rooms helped us develop the parties business and double up as extra school rooms during term time. We have converted an old byre into a new entrance and shop stocking a wide variety of toys and gifts.

Between 2005 and 2012 we continued to add to the park’s equipment with swings for Disabled visitors, an Aerial Runway, Slides and a large Strawbarn for indoor play amongst straw bales, Henry’s Fort adventure climbing area, and a large covered sandpit. Over the years we have also increased the variety and number of rare breeds of animals, and by improving their housing they can now be seen more easily by the public. Our aim of creating an experience of being close to animals in the great Scottish outdoors, combined with fun and excitement has proved very successful. Underpinning the whole enterprise is the notion of offering entertainment for the whole family, with just as much to do on a rainy day as on a fine day. With three children and eight grandchildren, we know what children and parents like!