Danni Menzies has packed a great deal into her 29 years and loves every minute of it! Having grown up in a Scottish village where she helped with the family property development business she eventually became a model, TV and radio presenter and is now one of the team on Channel 4’s, A Place in the Sun. She talks to Lynda Clark about her exciting career and buying her first home
Danni grew up in the Scottish village of Kenmore, which is very much ‘in the sticks’, and she is definitely a country girl at heart. “My parents took over my grandparents’ caravan park and farm set on a 120 acre estate when I was very young. At that time there were lots of old and derelict farm buildings in need of a great deal of work to make it what it is now. I absolutely loved it. I’ve always been passionate about animals, I gave the cows names and enjoyed being outdoors, up to my knees in mud! My parents were always very busy and have now turned the farm into a 5-star holiday estate with 50 buy-to-let holiday properties, a golf course, riding stables, a bar and restaurant and animal sanctuary. It is called The Mains of Taymouth Estate and I am really proud of what they have achieved. I have always adored horses and from about the age of six I worked at the local yard to pay for rides. Then, when I was nine, I begged and begged my parents to buy me a pony. I had fallen in love with a pony called Satin and I really wanted her but my parents told me that the owner of the horse was moving away and I was heartbroken. When my birthday came they told me that they had bought me a riding lesson but when I went outside, there was Satin with a bow round her neck. She was my birthday present and I cried and cried with happiness.”
Danni has never been afraid of hard work and to pay for the pony’s upkeep she worked for her parents doing anything and everything including cleaning the cottages and working in what was then a camping shop.
“My parents were actually delighted I loved horses so much as it kept me away from going out and meeting boys! My whole life was all about animals and one weekend there was a horse show about seven miles away. I really wanted to compete and everyone had a horse trailer to get there but of course I didn’t have one so I got up at 5am and put on my jodhpurs, which were black at the time and rode to the show. Everyone wears cream jodhpurs when they compete at a show, so because I was wearing my black ones I stood out like a sore thumb, plus my horse was exhausted after riding to the show! Eventually, when I was about 15 I started competing and training properly. My parents saw that I was very serious about it all and eventually I got my own horse trailer and was on the winning team at the Scottish school equestrian championships for two years.”
Eventually Danni moved away to university and joined their equestrian team. Things didn’t quite work at university so Danni moved back home and she began buying and looking after horses that were rescued from going to a meat factory in Hungary. “I rescued 10 horses in all, which meant I could start the riding school on the estate which is still there today. It was at this time that I started to seriously help my parents as they were in the process of building the new holiday houses. My mum, who is amazing, did all the interior design and I helped her with things like choosing fabrics and furniture. I worked with my father in the office to understand how the business worked and also in the sales office where I helped sell and market the properties. I learnt so much and it was a really great experience.”
Danni had some photos taken and she decided to send them to a modelling agency that took her on but it meant she had to move to Edinburgh. “I was 21 and thought it was about time I moved away from home even though I could go back at weekends if I wanted to. I had a little dog called Bo Bo and she came with me. I started by renting a flat but because the dog barked occasionally I was asked to leave. My father came to the rescue and said he would help me out and would buy me a place of my own. I started looking and I knew I wanted to live in the Marchmont area, as that is one of the loveliest parts of Edinburgh. I found a two bedroom apartment but I didn’t think it through properly and that was a major mistake. My mother found out that there was somebody else interested in the place and we both turned up at the same time to view it. The estate agent told us that it was a ‘first come’ situation and we literally raced the other person to the estate agents and bought it on the spur of the moment. It was such a rash and silly thing to do! The place was lovely with high ceilings, big windows and when we pulled up the awful laminate flooring we discovered beautiful floorboards, which just needed sanding and varnishing and were quite lovely. But it had a very strange layout and needed to be rewired, as it hadn’t been touched since the 60’s. We did a great deal of work on it but when we came to sell we didn’t make any profit after working out how much we had spent and coupled with the fact that prices in Edinburgh had not gone up like they had elsewhere in the UK.
After modelling for a couple of years Danni made a commercial, which she thoroughly enjoyed. “It was rather funny because my auntie Julie had always said that I would end up being a presenter and it had planted a seed in my head so I was always very keen to try it out.” Having had a very bad experience when she was modelling in Mexico, she came back and decided to move to London. “I started by sleeping on friends’ sofas, but eventually rented my own place. Now I live with my boyfriend, but we want to buy as soon as we can. It is in Parsons Green in south west London and we love the area and so does our little Jack Russell, Kinky, who enjoys all the green space we have nearby”.
Danni has presented at T in the Park, London Fashion Week and hosted the Walk the Walk charity event to a live audience of 17,000 people. She has also been the co-host of Car and Country. “It has been a very varied and interesting presenting career so far but when my agent said that a TV show was looking for somebody with property experience to present a show I got very excited. It turned out to be A Place in the Sun and I am so happy that I got the chance to be one of the presenters. I have been to Spain and the Caribbean and I am just off to the French Riviera. I have also just signed another contract with them, which is wonderful.”
Not one to sit back and enjoy her success, Danni is working on some ideas for a show and she and a friend are also developing a very special dating app, which she is very excited about.
She has some very good advice for first time buyers: “From my own personal experience, if you are buying an older property then check your wiring as this can be very expensive if you have to replace it. Follow your heart – when you first walk into a home you will know if it is the right one and the home for you. Invite friends and family to view it as well so you get a second opinion, which is always a very good idea. Saving for a deposit is very hard but look at the small things you buy on a regular basis like coffee, bottles of water and lunch. It is easy to take a packed lunch and your own coffee as this will be far cheaper and these small things really add up, so if you are careful you should really see a difference to your spending and saving.”
I am sure Danni will be on our television screens for a long time and with all her hard work, passion and enthusiasm I am absolutely confident that she is going to be very, very successful – so watch this space!
Danni Menzies presents A Place in the Sun, which goes out every Saturday and Sunday afternoons on Channel 4