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Duffus Estate in running for 'Helping It Happen' Business Resilience Award after launching Kula Coffee Hut enterprise

By Lorna Thompson

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DUFFUS Estate is in the running for a national award after its owners' fight-back to stem the financial impact of pandemic closures.

Estate owners Ed and Caroline Dunbar launched their Kula Coffee Hut, at Duffus Castle, in mid-May as a way to off-set some of the losses when pandemic restrictions hit their holiday cottages income.

The enterprise has now made it to the final of the Helping It Happen Awards, managed by rural business organisation Scottish Land & Estates.

The estate, which has been owned by the Dunbar family for 12 generations, quickly recognised and found a way to capitalise on a rise in visitors to the castle, launching the takeaway to offer people a "brew with a view".

The purposely designed shepherd's hut, which offers barista coffee, speciality tea and home bakes at Duffus Castle, is one of three finalists up for the newly introduced Business Resilience Award.

Ed said: "We found ourselves in that period when we weren't able to open our holiday cottages and having to look at other options as to where we could generate some income.

"With the pandemic and people going out into the fresh air and looking for takeaway coffee, it occurred to us that there was a gap in the market at the castle.

"It's been really successful and we've had some great positive feedback from customers."

Over the course of the summer the hut has employed five part-time staff.

Duffus Estate owners Ed and Caroline Dunbar at their Kula Coffee Hut, at Duffus Castle.
Duffus Estate owners Ed and Caroline Dunbar at their Kula Coffee Hut, at Duffus Castle.

Ed added: "Where possible we've tried to make sure that what we offer is locally sourced. We're using Speyside coffee roasters, Stew 'N' Drew's ice cream, we stock local soft drinks from Bon Accord and Summerhouse Drinks, which are Aberdeenshire-based, and our home-baking is from Bijou.

"We are trying our best to collaborate with other local businesses and 'share the love'.

"It's great to get recognised and we're really pleased. It's been a great learning experience for us, moving from self-catering to hospitality and catering, but we've really enjoyed it."

Kula Coffee Hut is open five days a week at present, having wound down from seven days a week throughout the summer holidays.

The Helping It Happen Awards recognise the role of estates, businesses and community groups who are helping rural Scotland to thrive.

Another local finalist, in the Conservation Award category, is the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project.

Led by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, the partnership project includes private estates, volunteer groups, businesses, public agencies and charities working together to help secure a long-term future for capercaillie in the UK.

It is believed that there are now less than 1000 capercaillie left in the UK. Almost all of them live in the Cairngorms National Park.

The award winners will be announced during a virtual ceremony on October 27.

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