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Amid concerns of limited available houses being snapped up as second homes and people cashing in on the need for holiday accommodation in Lochaber, leaving communities filled with holiday cottages but no actual residents, Resipole’s Steven Marshall is finding ways to give back and boost the local economy.
Five years ago, Steven and his wife Lynne were regular visitors to the Highlands seeking respite from busy city lives and high-powered careers.
Steven worked as a freelance management consultant after a career with Scottish Power, taking charge of high profile projects. He explained: ‘We both travelled all over the place for our work so on days off and holidays the last thing we wanted to do was get on a plane.
‘Instead, we would head north and visit remote places in the Highlands and Islands. We’d been to Ardnamurchan twice and loved it here.’
Like so many city dwellers with two incomes and no children, the Marshalls had an ambition of a second home here in the Highlands and were on the look-out for the perfect property.
However, as they both worked from home, they realised that they could just base themselves up here full-time. Steven explained: ‘We chose to look out on Loch Sunart rather than an old railway line in Paisley from our home office.’
While initially commuting regularly back down to Glasgow after first moving up, it was not long before the lure of the bright lights and big cities began to wane completely.
‘The more time I spent here, the less inclined I grew to leave. There is something about this place that just gets under your skin.’
What began as a hobby soon became the reason to stay put here all the time and now if Steven is not in his photography studio he is out walking with his dog, Fergus, across the landscapes he loves to capture on camera.
‘I’d always taken photographs and often shared them on social media but I was getting more and more inquiries about buying prints of my photos, or requests to run courses and teach people about photography.
‘I also got involved in the tourist association for the area. Along with the apartment [the Marshalls have a self catering holiday-let apartment next door to their house and plan to open two B&B rooms in their house eventually], I found I had more than enough to keep me busy here.’
Sitting in the purpose-built studio at Resipole where Steven displays his photography as prints, postcards, mugs, calendars and gifts along with working on his processing, it is clear to see he has found his happy place.
With views out across Loch Sunart and two big computer screens for photo editing, social media and holiday booking orders, he said: ‘This is a perfect lifestyle. We have three or four things bringing in money, all of which we enjoy, instead of one all-consuming high pressure job. I also have time to give something back and volunteer with the tourist association.
‘As vice-chair of Sunart, Moidart, Morvern, Ardnamurchan and Ardgour Tourist Association, I am able to give my time and use those skills from my old life of communications, project management and, of course, my photography to work with other local tourism businesses in the area.
‘And offering accommodation, holiday souvenirs of photographs and courses on photography means I am now in the business of helping make other people’s holidays in the area I used to take my own.’
Steven is very aware that not everyone who has dreams of a second home in the Highlands is able to turn that ambition into a whole-life move as he has done but urges anyone who does to get as involved as they can in the community they have a property in.
‘Joining the tourist association and helping to support the other small businesses in the area all helps to make sure the services supporting these areas and the people who live here are able to carry on making these places the amazing locations that mean folk want to come here in the first place – on holiday, as a second home, or indeed like myself and Lynne a full-time place to be.’