He Tangata: A chat with the manager of Kinross Cottages in Gibbston Lizzie Ross

By Elisabeth Easther

Multi-tasking globetrotter Lizzie Ross, manager of Kinross Cottages in Gibbston, talks to Elisabeth Easther about her adventures.
Lizzie Ross taking to the slopes in Cervinia, Italy.
Lizzie Ross taking to the slopes in Cervinia, Italy.

I was brought up in a beautiful place in the countryside, in the Borders of Scotland, the sort of community where if somebody grows something they share it. Most of our holidays were spent camping. We'd go with a large group, make camp and take day trips to places like the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands. The boat trips were memorable as not everyone had sea-legs, but the wildlife was beautiful - it's a bird-watchers paradise. We used to wear bike helmets to protect us from nesting birds. You've got puffins, razorbills, tarns, eider ducks, things you don't see anywhere else. It's David Attenborough's favourite place in the UK.

As I grew up, I developed a massive passion for languages, French in particular and at about 15, my best friend and I spent summer in the Dordogne volunteering in an old folks' home. We'd help with "gymnastics class", race their wheelchairs, read out menus and play cards. It was a magical experience.

I have a BA in Business and Marketing in French and did three of my five years of university abroad. One year I ended up in the French Caribbean, in Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, placed as a language assistant at a huge high school. I had the best mentor who arranged my classes from Tuesday to Thursday, then me, my surfboard, my hammock and bottle of rum would head to the beach for the weekend, catching food, eating coconuts and surfing.

Another time I did an exchange to an amazing business school in France, near Antibes. It was there I discovered superyachts and started temping as a stewardess or cleaning engine rooms to pay for school.

When I finished my degree, I returned to France to work on superyachts, first as a stewardess, then as a cook. From there, with a partner, I started a luxury concierge and event-management company, based out of Cannes. We had an exclusive contract with a royal family whose second residence was in the Riviera. We would manage their properties, arrange staff, yacht trips and anything else that needed doing. From last-minute parties with fireworks to celebrity weddings or brunch for hundreds.

It's amazing what you can do with unlimited budgets.

Being such an active person, all my trips revolve around snowboarding, surfing or nature. There's a wonderful little place in Sri Lanka called The Green Rooms in Weligama. It used to be a fisherman's house, the kids from the fishing family were massive surfers and during the tsunami that wiped their world out, they saved a 3-year-old German boy. They recognised the conditions and climbed to the top of a coconut tree with this infant. Once everything had cleared, the dad came back looking for his child. That man later sent them money to build the first cabin and it's so beautiful, everything is made totally naturally and they're wonderful people.

One year at the Monaco Yacht Show I won two Business Class tickets to anywhere in world and we came to New Zealand for the first time. Adam's family were so welcoming. His parents took us to their place in the Marlborough Sounds where penguins relax under the bach. On our first morning there, we were having breakfast on the balcony, a pod of dolphins cruised past and I fell in love. We made the decision right then to settle in New Zealand.

We arrived intending to set up an eco lodge near Queenstown. We took on several contracts including the management of Kinross Cottages - boutique vineyard accommodation with a bistro and cellar door in Gibbston, Central Otago. We have such an eclectic awesome bunch of guests, people from all over world and Kiwis too. The Gibbston community is also wonderful - the people really make the place.

We have 16 vineyards with cellar doors within 10 minutes of us - you can visit them all on a bicycle. We have a hot-tub beside the pond, a wine garden, lots of fitness classes and Friday nights are amazing. Everything we do is as homemade and local as possible, which means a lot to us.

Having recently got married, Adam and I are going to take the time to enjoy New Zealand. We like that we're putting down roots; it's lovely to know you're going to be somewhere for many years.

More information: see kinrosscottages.co.nz.

- NZ Herald

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