Responsible tourism: Scotland traditional crafts holiday, dye to hand spin
We live in 100 acres of woodland, which we are managing to encourage native flora and fauna. The woods consists of mainly coniferous pines, however, we have three large cut clearings, where native Silver Birch and Rowan have started to regenerate. Our forestry plan includes planting cleared areas with native trees, which we are continually doing (Scots Pine, Silver Birch, Hazel and Rowan). We have many visitors to the woods, including Red Squirrels, Pine Martens and Red deer. We have used brash from felled trees to create habitats for insects and small rodents, which in turn attract Pine Martens. We have erected squirrel and owl boxes to attract and home Tawny Owls and Red Squirrels. Our clearings also attract butterflies such as Pearl Bordered Fritillaries, which are attracted to the Bluebells and Bugle (both of which we have) and encourage.
All the buildings at Crochail woods are low impact. A few years ago we built a round house with the help of our local community. Round houses have been around for about 4000 years and turf roofs for about 5500 years. We used stone from our own site, our own hazel for the wattle and local dung and soil for the daub. All our small buildings have turf roofs, using waste carpet, a waterproofed layer and moss from the woods - our own unique roofing solution, using what we have and what is plentiful. We run most of our craft courses from our barn, which we have re-purposed, building flooring and shelving from waste pallets. In terms of location we are situated in a beautiful wilderness area, but also only 40 minutes from Inverness, meaning public transport is accessible and miles travelled is reduced. We live off grid, powered by wind and solar and small generator when we need it. We burn all our own wood for heating. We have our own goats for milk, chickens for eggs and a poly tunnel for salad and vegetables. this all helps to reduce our food miles.
As well as running our craft courses and holidays, we are very involved in our local community. The Highlands is a sparsely populated area, which makes community even more important. Our village is small and many of the people who live in it rely on tourism for part or all of their income. We use local accommodation, varying from large locally owned houses to the campsite in Cannich. We always make a point of stopping off at Shelia's café to have lunch or tea and cakes -or stopping off at our local shop if our guests want to buy wine, postcards or shortbread to take home. We are part of our local hall committee, set up to run local events, including; craft fairs, Christmas and summer galas, dances and table top sales to raise money for the local community. We have worked with local schools, youth groups and a woman's groups (run for woman dealing with difficult issues in their lives) and local charities (The Sheiling project) - teaching felting and natural dyeing promoting traditional crafts. Creating these links with other organisations has been essential and rewarding for us. Group work can be very therapeutic and working on a communal craft project can satisfying and relaxing for the participants. Craft can be a wonderful way of reaching people who may have difficulty in responding verbally. One of the highlights of this year was working with young people in care on a felting project. The culmination of their years work is now being exhibited at Eden court gallery in Inverness and the artwork will then hang in the children's hearing court in Inverness. As in most rural areas community links are essential. Traditional craft can be a brilliant way of bringing people together. Becoming a member of the Highland spinners, weavers and dyers guild, meant that we met many talented people when we moved to Cannich. We have since employed many of these (mostly woman) on our courses; spinners, weavers and felters. We also visit craft people on our trips, giving our groups an opportunity to buy their products; including beautiful hand spun yarn and fleeces. Our business helps to support and expand a regional network of like-minded individuals. We help to encourage cohesion and skill-sharing amongst craft practitioners and our other specialists.
We hope that many of our guests will return to the area in the future.