Over the winter I’ve been making notes to write a visitors guide to Skye.
Unsurprisingly, it won’t be much use whilst we’re in the current COVID-19 lockdown!
So I’ll save publishing that until we get to the other side of the outbreak.
By then I’m sure we’ll all be craving the opportunity to stretch our wings and explore new places!
I hope that by the time we reach the end of this we’ll have an increased sense of appreciation of all the things we took for granted before. It’s been too easy to forget how lucky we are to have the health, wealth and freedom to travel.
There are uncertain times ahead, and I’m aware that the pre-coronavirus Guide To Skye could be very different to the post-corona one as the loss of trade takes it’s toll on our wonderful small, independent businesses.
So I want to publish a little blog post about some lovely things you can still purchase to support Skye-based companies.
Now, I know that times are tight and a lot of us are going to have less money to spend over the next few months but if you’re looking for a special gift or a treat to cheer yourself up then look no further!
At the time of writing, all the businesses mentioned are conducting online orders or selling gift vouchers. This is subject to change in accordance to government guidelines/postal services so please contact the seller to check postage/availability details.
A hand-woven ‘Elishadder’ throw
From Westcoast Weavers
Being stuck indoors means that it’s time to appreciate the things that brighten up our homes.
My first choice of homeware treats would be one of these gorgeous throws.
Hand-woven by Maggie Williams (of the former Elishadder Gallery) from ‘supersoft’ lambswool on a 200 year old loom, these pieces are inspired by the colours of Skye.
The throws make a beautiful investment piece. For those of us who are watching the pennies at the moment, check out some of the smaller but just-as-lovely items in the Westcoast Weavers online shop.
Elishadder throw, £130, http://www.westcoastweavers.co.uk
Lunch at Edinbane Lodge (gift voucher)
Edinbane Lodge by Calum Montgomery
The hospitality industry was one of the first economic victims of the outbreak and, of course, that’s had a massive effect for many people on Skye. One way of supporting businesses like restaurants and hotels is to buy a gift voucher for use at a later date when they have reopened.
Skye is famous for top-quality produce and award-winning restaurants and the place that’s been on everyone’s lips over the last couple of years (both figuratively and literally!) is Edinbane Lodge.
Skye-born chef, Calum Montgomery, has a stellar CV and his latest venture has been racking up the awards since opening in 2018. The food is skilled and innovative but my favourite thing about his menus is the emphasis on locally grown, fished or foraged ingredients. If you’re curious about the taste of seaweed or wild mushrooms then this is the ultimate place to try them. Highland hospitality and top Scottish produce all in one bundle, not to mention the fact that it’s more affordably priced than most other restaurants of a similar calibre.
3 course lunch £40, http://www.edinbanelodge.com
A knitted sheep hat
By Isle of Skye Art Studio
I get a lot of comments on the sheep hats I wear in my Instagram photos. The most common is the question, “Where did you get it?”
My ones come from my artist friend, Marion Boddy-Evans. Well, to be precise, it’s her Mum who knits them and they’re sold here from Skyeworks Gallery in Portree.
Because they’re handmade and they take a long time, they’re quite limited. However, now that the world is going into lockdown we’ve all got a bit more time, it’s worth enquiring to see if you can get a special commission (like the one I’m wearing in the photo -I asked for an extra big bobble!)
A traditionally hand-tanned sheepskin
Perhaps an unusual recommendation from someone who avoids eating meat, but Skyeskyns sources their skins as a by-product from the local abattoir thus helping to use up all parts of animals reared on Skye. This family business usually invites visitors into their tannery to see their master craftsmen at work using traditional techniques but for now you can buy online instead. Check out their Mimosa Collection which uses tree bark as a natural tanning agent to reduce environmental impact.
Social distancing means that many of us won’t feel human contact for a while. In the meantime, snuggling into one of these traditionally-tanned sheepskins might be the closest thing we can get to a cuddle!
Mimosa small white Highland rug, £79, http://www.skyskyns.co.uk
Railway poster art print – ‘The Storr’
By Peter McDermott at Aird Old Church Gallery
Skye is an island filled with artists. If you’ve visited here you probably won’t be surprised by this… the light and colours of the landscapes here provide endless inspiration.
There are so many talented creatives that it’s hard to choose just one to write about.
But Peter McDermott is a personal favourite. His contemporary watercolours are gorgeous (I especially like ‘A blustery spring day’ -The Quiraing).
If you can’t afford an original artwork or print at the moment you can still buy a little piece of Skye with one of his graphically retro railway poster prints.
If you can’t gaze at The Storr for real this summer at least you can have one on your wall to enjoy instead.
A3 Railway poster, £9.95, http://www.airdoldchurchgallery.org
A wild fishing, foraging or wildlife-watching walk with Skye Ghillie
By Mitch Partridge AKA Skye Ghillie
Like the hospitality industry, outdoor guides have also taken a big hit from cancelled bookings. Luckily, many are offering gift vouchers. Not only will that help keep businesses afloat, it also gives the buyer/recipient something to look forward to at the end of the crisis.
No nature-lovers visit to Skye would be complete without a trip out with Mitch from Skye Ghillie. I was very lucky to go on a nature walk with him before I even moved to Skye and he started me off on my own foraging journey. From woodland foraging to fungi hunting, deerstalking, fishing or wildlife spotting -there’s not much about wild Skye that Mitch doesn’t know. Give him a shout and he’ll tailor your trip to suit whatever it is that you’re interested in most.
Mitch is currently offering 20% off guided activities with ‘Look Ahead & Book Ahead’ vouchers, http://www.skyeghillie.com
Isle of Raasay Gin
From the Isle of Raasay Distillery (not quite Skye but we’re siblings!)
And last but definitely not least…
If everything gets too much you can always pour yourself a giant glass of wonderful Raasay Gin from an award-winningly pretty bottle!
(The giant glass is my reccommendation, not theirs. I’m sure the distillery would advise you to drink responsibly…)
70cl bottle, £34.95, http://www.raasaydistillery.com
This is just a small selection of the amazing local businesses we have on Skye.
Many of my personal favourites, such as the fantastic Skye Baking Company and Inside Out (outdoor gear), are fully closed at the moment and not taking online orders.
You’ll see them in my Skye Guide later on in the year instead.
Keep safe and thank you for supporting our local businesses!