From life in Carloway to the US world of whisky... 

By Katie Macleod  

It was January 2016 when Gemma Paterson received the phone call that would change her life as she knew it. 

Gemma, who moved to Carloway with her family as a child, was working as a senior distillery guide for William Grant & Sons in Speyside when she was asked if she would be interested in applying to be a US Ambassador for Balvenie. Five months later, she was living in New York City. 

“I’d never thought about moving to the US, but it’s not an opportunity anyone’s going to turn down,” remembers Gemma. “I went home in a daze and sat down and was like, ‘Is this real? Is this actually happening?’” 

In her first six months as the Balvenie Ambassador for the east coast of America, Gemma has already travelled to twenty states – some more than four times – and is set to clock up even more miles this year as she promotes what she describes as “the most hand-crafted single malt whisky.”

Read more: From life in Carloway to the US world of whisky... 

Community strength supports local shop

An Clachan – the community shop run by Co-Chomunn na Hearadh – has gone from strength to strength in recent years.

Chris Ross, who chairs the board of Co-Chomunn na Hearadh, said that first he would like to thank the management and staff for their input in achieving another successful year in spite of the constant threat from online home delivery shopping super giants Tesco and Amazon.   The shop achieved annual sales as high as £1.3m and has remained in profit since 2013.

“We are fortunate to enjoy good support from local customer together with great participation from an ever increasing tourist trade, the latter being absolutely vital to the long term viability and survival of CCnH.  

“Today, An Clachan is one of the few community shops to, not only, survive but to flourish.  Speaking of the tourism, we are uniquely and strategically placed at the southern gateway of the Island, being the first and last shop to purchase groceries and fuel for arrivals and departures gives us a great advantage.  

Read more: Community strength supports local shop

Precious keepsake returns to family hands after 100 years

Colin Scott Mackenzie presents the historic locket to Mandy Darling

By Eilidh Whiteford

For more than 100 years, a Victorian locket waited to be reunited with someone called Darling in a story that spans three generations and two continents.

“It’s left me with wonderment and a sense of awe and mystery of the universe,” said Stornoway resident Mandy (Amanda) Darling, as a quest, which began long ago on the plains of Patagonia, reached its end when she was given her great-aunt Maggie Darling’s sweetheart keepsake.

Read more: Precious keepsake returns to family hands after 100 years

Hotel looks back at history that started with a school

By Eilidh Whiteford

A truly island location – with the Carloway Broch nearby and the Callanish Standing Stones just along the road – a historic building and a warm welcome are what awaits visitors to the Doune Braes Hotel in Carloway.

Originally housing the local school and headmaster’s living quarters, the Doune Braes Hotel has been under the stewardship of owner Eileen MacDonald since she moved to the Isle of Lewis in 1982.

“In 1966 the local school stopped and the hotel was opened in 1967 and was probably the first major licence outside Stornoway at the time,” said Eileen.

Read more: Hotel looks back at history that started with a school

SoapmakIng proves a natural route for Linda

The latest skin-care range launched by the Hebridean Soap
Company, named after the first Greek goddess,
Mother Earth Gaia

Photographs and story by Eilidh Whiteford

Step into the world of Hebridean Soap Company and you step into a world of all natural ingredients and fragrances as owner Linda Sutherland and team create an array of soapy delights and lotions from the Breasclete-based business.

Established in 2002, and the first commercial soap producing company in the Western Isles, Hebridean Soap came about as Linda, a former IBM systems programmer, looked for a new challenge in life.

Read more: SoapmakIng proves a natural route for Linda