Photo: Harris Distillery
In the last few years the concept of shopping local has really developed as more and more people are discovering the joys of giving Christmas presents that really mean something. Here are just a handful of suggestions for gifts that have been handmade by craft workers, produce that supports local businesses and souvenirs to make stunning reminders of happy holidays.
Original art need not be the preserve of the wealthy elite. The landscape of the Highlands has been inspiring painters for hundreds of years, so it’s no surprise that some of the most scenic areas are home to a large concentration of artists and galleries. The Outer Hebrides are home to a diverse collection of artists from all over the world who work in a variety of mediums, but it is original oil on canvas which somehow seems to capture the essence of the islands better than any photograph. The cover of the new LHH brochure is a great example of this. It is based on an original work by AJ Barber, a resident of Ness in Lewis where his fabulous paintings are displayed in his gallery. His paintings have universal appeal but for those with any connection to the Hebrides they offer a stunning representations of island life. His gallery also sells limited edition prints and he will take commissions. Taigh Eilidh is just a short walk away and as you sit by the big window in the living room the breathtaking views make you realize just why so many artists are seduced by the light and landscape here.
Balnakeil Craft Village is a collection of artist’s studios and houses in an ex MOD compound just outside of Durness. There is a huge variety of crafts available here from woodwork to stained glass, ceramics, jewelry and printing. Having so many in one place makes it like a supermarket of sustainability with gifts available that will appeal to all generations and tastes. It’s well worth taking a drive up here along the NC500 and loading up the car with goodies. In winter the roads are quiet and the snow-capped mountains you motor past give the whole place a serene and captivating atmosphere. Culkein Lodge makes a great base for excursions such as these, it’s just off the main road so very quiet, but still only a short hop to the many attractions of Lochinver. This is a foodie hotspot and so is a great place to indulge in a different kind of Christmas dinner. Take the opportunity for an indulgent alternative to turkey and sprouts, instead, how about locally caught salmon, hand dived-scallops and lobsters for a sustainable, organic and fresh treat.
Most people like to celebrate new year with a drink. Regardless of whether your tipple of choice is malt whisky, a rum cocktail or an IPA then there is a good chance that it could be sourced locally. For beer lovers, the explosion in the number of microbreweries across the country means that fresh craft ales are available almost everywhere. In contrast, whisky is almost always better the longer it has matured so instead of looking towards some of the newer distilleries that have recently sprung up then check out some of the more established names such as Clynelish Distillery which is just a short drive from Strath Brora View. Along with some John O’ Groats Brewery beers, and some vodka from Dunnett Bay Distillers you can celebrate here in style this Hogmanay.
Harris Gin also has a firm connection to the landscape. In addition to the local water used for distilling, the blend of herbs and botanicals which contribute to its unique flavor are largely foraged from the surrounding fields and waters. This could not be described as traditional but instead it’s at the vanguard of what you could call the New Taste of Scotland, distinctive and very much a product of it’s environment. The lush packaging and distinctive look of the bottle make it an ideal gift, its such a beautiful object that it’s common for people to repurpose the empty bottle as a lamp base instead of putting it in the recycling bin. The Old Post Office is a ten minute drive from the distillery and walking distance from the Harris Tweed Exhibition Centre which is another great spot for some traditional locally made gifts.
LHH is a locally owned company and has been based on the Black Isle for over 20 years. For a Christmas present with a difference that is truly local then call us now to arrange the gift of a holiday or some personalized vouchers for a real festive surprise.