Case Studies

In April 2021, Heather Davis took on the lease of The Island Café in Arinagour on the Isle of Coll. She grew up on the island and worked in hospitality on the mainland before returning to Coll 15 or so years ago to have a family. The 50 seat, licensed café is open for breakfasts, lunches and evening meals with the choice to sit-in or take-away. The cafe provides a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and has been very
popular with locals and the many tourists who visit the island in the summer months.

The situation of the café takes advantage of its shorefront location looking onto the scenery in the bay. The business has helped this fragile island community in more ways than one as it has provided jobs for local residents (2 full time and 2 part time) and uses as much local produce as possible, including shellfish from the 2 local boats and lamb and beef from the farms.

Heather has been delighted with the way that things has gone to date as, despite the – or maybe because of it – the island has been very busy with tourists over the past 2 seasons and this has had a very positive impact on the profits of the business.

Kirsty Brady has been in business since 2005 producing glass art for a wide variety of commercial and private clients. She is a skilled glass artist based in Kilmichael Glen in Argyll working from her cottage there. In October 2020 the Trust provided Kirsty with a £5000 loan to allow her to complete her new studio in the garden grounds of her house.

This gave her much more space and allowed her to increase her output on the manufacturing side. It also created space for her to hold glass-making workshops for customers who wanted to learn. Unfortunately, the pandemic came along and this prevented her from holding any workshops this year. However, with restrictions now being lifted, she has started filling her diary for 2022 and demand to date has been excellent.

Meantime the core business continues to thrive and grow with products being sold online, through local retailers and at craft fairs.

This business, which provides horse riding adventures, re-located from Cowal to Kintyre in June 2019 and is now based at Glen Kerran Farm. The SJ Noble and Kilfinan Trusts had originally provided a start-up loan and then provided a further loan to assist with the move and to help set up the new premises.

Since mid-2019 they had run short breaks and full riding weeks, all of which were fully booked, and feedback from guests had been excellent. So things were looking good for 2020 until Covid-19 struck. 70% of their guests are from overseas and therefore they lost most of their trade over the past 2 years. Bookings eventually picked up in 2021, but not at the usual rate as their customers were all UK-based though they did gain a greater share of the domestic market. They also concentrated on “day trade” rather than weekly treks which made sense in the circumstances. Their local Saddle Club has been, and continues to be, a lifeline and this has been very popular with local children and those from further afield. They have also continued to diversify into training horses for owners and are getting a good reputation for this. During the lock-down they have also completed their outdoor arena and this will provide another income stream. Additionally, they are providing a livery service to 3 horse owners with another 3 due to start soon. They are also breeding pigs and lambs and getting income from sales at local markets.

The prospects for 2022 look good with May and June already fully booked and June, July and August filling up. Some of these bookings are from Americans who were unable to travel in the past 2 years. The owners, Nikki and Cara, are confident that the business will get back to normal and continue to thrive for many years.

Erin Murphy and Lyndsay McFarlane both have a wealth of experience in management and hospitality with one previously running a wine bar and one in wedding planning. When the hotel on the Isle of Bute that used to do outdoor catering for weddings and other events ceased to trade, Erin and Lyndsay saw a gap in the market and with the help of a £10,000 loan from the Trust, were able to buy a refurbished horse box which had been converted into a bar. They were also able to establish a working relationship with a new weddings and events business based at Mount Stuart which provides marquees and food catering leaving The Dark Horse provide the bar facilities for these events.

The business started trading in April 2022 and they have had a very busy and successful summer catering for weddings, birthday parties and family events on the island as well as attending the local agriculture shows, highland games and music festivals. The unusual bar in the form of a horse box has gained a great reputation on the island already as can be seen from the comments on their Facebook page and is becoming a popular sight as it travels round the island