By Roz Skinner
Creating warm relationships with the customer is the main aim of the insurance agencies of NFU Mutual in Skye, Lochalsh and the Western Isles.
Senior Agent, Jake Sayles, says: “We care about people in the areas that we live and work. If someone phones or visits the office, they are made to feel welcome. We want to take the time to explain the options to people and help them understand the risks, rather than just take their money.
“It's great when we can form personal relationships with customers. I get people who pop in the office just to tell us a joke! It's lovely.”
NFU's two Hebridean offices are based in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis and Portree, Isle of Skye. Currently run by Duncan MacIntyre and Jake Sayles respectively, the offices have been a familiar sight to locals in Stornoway for around 40 years and to Portree residents for around 50 years.
With their signature colourful knitwear and relaxed, natural clothing, Ragamuffin have been delighting locals and visitors to their store in Armadale, on Sleat, for nearly 40 years.
Whilst owner Lesley Robertson once used to make everything herself on Skye, these days you are just as likely to find a hand-pintucked Japanese shirt or a beautiful Indian Kantha-work jacket amongst the Scottish Fair Isle and Icelandic style knits.
"We pride ourselves on looking forward and evolving the collection year on year," explains Lesley, "I'm interested in textiles and influenced by design techniques from all over the world and the shop reflects that."
Alongside Scottish and Irish knitwear and accessories, Ragamuffin stocks clothes from all over Europe, America, Japan and India. "We try to buy what other countries do best, Californians do effortless casual separates so well, we have chic timeless coats from Paris, hand-appliquéd dresses from Łódź - the textile capital of Poland - and intricate textiles from India's Jaipur region.
By Roz Skinner
What normally attracts you to a hotel? Vanessa McPhail, co-owner of Broadford's Hebridean Hotel, says that guests often come to her for quite an unusual reason – the view from their car park!
"Our car park is one of the few places in Broadford where you can park near the water," she explains. "We have even seen otters visit the car park!
“We also get beautiful sunsets that streak across the Cuillins and sometimes we see shooting stars or the Aurora Borealis. " Sea views are also available from part of the dining area and many of the rooms.
Vanessa, who has been holidaying on the island since she was five years old, took over the Hebridean Hotel in 2013. Along with her husband, Geoff, they run a cosy, family-orientated hotel.
By Roz Skinner
Lisa Nisbett, who took over the Isle of Skye Lighting Company in February 2017, has plenty of action planned for the Kyleakin-based shop.
Part of that action involves a brand new consultation service. Says New Zealand born Lisa: "We won't just be a lighting store where customers come to us. I have begun offering a free consulting service for anyone building a new home or renovating their existing property. I will come to you so I can get an understanding of what you would like to achieve, and together we can create a lighting plan for your home. I am happy to help commercial property owners too."
Along with the new management, the shop has a brand new name and identity: Handley & Co. Lisa's dream was to supply customers with homeware, gifts, scented candles, cushions, throws and upcycled furniture.
By Roz Skinner
What do whisky, seaweed and nettles have in common?
They are all ingredients in the beautiful soaps lovingly handcrafted by Fiona Meiklejohn, founder of the Isle of Skye Soap Company.
Fiona's shop, tucked in at the northeast corner of Somerled Square, Portree, opened in 2001 and is crammed full of scented soaps, bath bombs and gifts.
Fiona remembers creating soap during her high school years and although she went on to work in IT, her love of crafts and chemistry never left her. Her soap-making skills resurfaced when she became a mother as she sought a purely natural product – one that would be soothing for her children, who suffered from eczema and asthma.
“My son had especially bad asthma and I found that the less chemicals we used, the better,” explains Fiona. “I began to look into aromatherapy and discover what plants and herbs worked best to soothe the skin. I started selling the soap at craft fairs and the business took off.”