Thistledowne - A House through Time (if somewhat only a short time)

The BBC’s interesting new series A House through Time, presented by David Olusoga, follows the residents of one house from the time it was built in the 1850s up to the present day. Although Thistledowne is far too new to attempt the same type of research it did occur to me that it may be interesting to look at why our guests booked a stay in Sunderland. I am sure that plenty of students on Sunderland University’s tourism course have done much the same investigation as to what brings people to Sunderland, the difference being mine is anything but scientific and is specific to one holiday home - Thistledowne.

We began our holiday rental venture in May 2016 as complete novices. We had no idea if anyone would book our house and if they did whether they would be happy with what was on offer. We were totally ignorant as to who would rent a holiday home in Sunderland other than exiles, such as ourselves, who needed somewhere to sleep whilst visiting family. It appears however that reasons for visiting Sunderland are as varied as the nationalities that have stayed at Thistledowne.

Our first visitors booked within four days of us ‘going live’ on Airbnb and arrived four days after that. They stayed just over three weeks, were a delight to deal with and made our first foray far easier than we had anticipated. To date they are, disappointingly so for us, the only guests we have met.

From the two Bulgarian fitters who were our first guests and working in Blyth to families of graduating students from Malaysia and Italy; from other EU nationals curious to see the city which was first to declare its opposition to remaining in the EU to those businessmen with work interests in the area; from actors and musicians appearing at the Sunderland Empire to local exiles returning albeit fleetingly to their birthplace, the reasons for visiting Sunderland are numerous and diverse.

Without a doubt the most compelling reason to stay at Thistledowne is to visit relatives with the purpose of almost half the bookings being family related. Many obviously are for more important milestones in life such as a family member’s birthday, wedding or the inevitable funeral. Others are for no other reason than it has been a while since the last get together.

This still leaves over 50% of guests who do not have relatives in the north-east; their reasons for staying are very varied. Some of our renters did not tell us why they wanted to book Thistledowne – which is a pity because I am nosey!! Some trips to Sunderland were work related, some for leisure purposes such as swimming meets or football. Some parents were either settling a son or daughter into university or attending their graduation. Locals who were having major work done on their own property and those moving abroad for good or those up to take part in the Great North Run – Thistledowne has hosted them all.

The house is not yet old enough for a BBC series but the guests who have stayed in the last couple of years or so have each played their part in making Thistledowne the house that it is. A big thank you to our guests and we look forward to discovering yet more reasons for visiting Sunderland and Thistledowne in particular.

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