Many of our tourism businesses on Mull and Iona are meeting the challenge of opening safely to protect the community while ensuring visitors who are desperate for a holiday have a positive experience. We have spotlighted five businesses and the measures they have taken to ensure that residents are safe and visitors have a great stay. They include visitor attraction, Ardalanish Weavers, Ross of Mull; Tobermory Campsite, Mull; Glengorm Castle, Mull; and the Argyll Hotel and Staffa Trips, both Iona.
Ardalanish Weavers re-opened its doors to visitors on August 1st. The weaving business is part of Ardalanish Farm and the native breed lamb and beef is for sale, as well as ice cream, home baking, teas and coffees. Farmer Anne Smith said “We have done our best to open up as much of the business as possible while keeping everyone safe. The Mill Shop is well stocked up with our range of tweed and wool products and visitors can self-guide in the Weaving Shed, wearing facemasks and using hand sanitiser”. Unfortunately a new venture planned for this season, Ardalanish Landrover Safaris, is on hold but Ann has identified another opportunity to welcome visitors “We have always been keen on campervanning and had noticed that there was nowhere for tourers to go in the Ross of Mull at the moment because the two campsites are closed. So we have temporarily provided a field for motorhomes with their own facilities for overnight stays. The field has superb views and easy access to Ardalanish Beach and I’m pleased these visitors have a chance to stop and explore this wonderful part of Mull”. Find out more www.ardalanish.com
Born and bred on Mull, Tobermory Campsite owner Angus Williams has introduced the new COVID-19 protocols to all aspects of the business which also includes static caravans, shepherds huts and self-catering as well as camping and touring vehicles. His first challenge was to shield his 82-year-old mother-in-law who lives on the edge of the campsite, by closing out a third of the park around her house. From single usage sanitation units to three day breaks between lets for caravans, Angus has pledged to over-promise on the hygiene standard. Angus has noticed that the lockdown has brought a new type of touring customer to Tobermory. He said “Some people have bought motorhomes for the first time as a safe way to holiday while others who might normally take their motor home to the continent are choosing to explore their own country”. Angus is spending much more time providing help and advice on what it’s like to travel on a Scottish Island. He added, “We are busy but we have space for tourers. It’s important that people book into a managed site as there is no wild camping on Mull for vehicles. We provide all the information and support they need to get the most out of their stay” Find out more www.tobermory-campsite.co.uk
When Wendy MacManaway, owner of the Argyll Hotel, Iona with husband Rob, decided to open on July 15th her two biggest fears were going through the risk assessment and whether anyone would come. The changes to the 17-bedroom hotel, which also welcomes non-residents for drinks and meals, were challenging. Apart from introducing the standard hygiene requirements, the dining room and lounges were spaced for 2 metres, one-way systems and hourly cleaning protocols were put in place, and a separate communications system set up for service in the outdoor seating in the garden which has a fabulous view across the Sound of Iona. Wendy said “the biggest challenge was ensuring people felt welcome and relaxed, as well as safe”. Guests are greeted with an envelope of information, any request is delivered in a sealed bag and their room is their personal bubble for the duration of their stay. The fear of whether people would come was unfounded too. Wendy added “Without exception every visitor and guest has accepted all our procedures. There has been a deep appreciation of us being open and of the measures that we have provided to enable the safest possible visit. We have been overwhelmed by so much kindness and self-responsibility from our guests – it really is a joint effort.” Find out more www.argyllhoteliona.co.uk
Iona based Staffa Trips couldn’t wait to resume their day cruises and were operational and ready to go on July 15th. Owner Sara Tindal said “We felt it was important to offer visitors something to do as fewer places were open. We were also aware that the puffins on Staffa would be leaving in early August and know visitors love the amazing close encounters which is possible with these birds.” Staffa Trips vessel, Iolaire of Iona, has capacity for 67 passengers which has been reduced to 30% to allow for social distancing. Getting the protocols in place has not been too problematic, especially with the support from Mull businesses such as Whitetail Gin supplying hand sanitiser and Highland Services Building Materials distributing bollards. Sara is delighted at the level of demand for the cruises, especially with the recent glorious weather. She said “We expect to cruise until mid-October. Although the puffins have now gone, Fingal’s Cave has been re-opened after storm damage in 2019 and people are delighted to be able to walk inside the cave once more. Our marine wildlife has turned out for our customers too with regular sightings of minke whales and dolphins. It’s so lovely to be back out on the water” Find out more at www.staffatrips.co.uk
Marjorie Nelson, owner of Glengorm Castle on Mull with husband Tom, acknowledges that the sheer spaciousness of the Castle has allowed her to open the bed and breakfast side of the business. She said “We’ve been welcoming guests since July 18th and apart from the standard PPE and protocols, it’s almost like a normal summer with lots of room for people to socially distance. Breakfast extends to 10.30 am which allows for the maximum of 14 guests to have their own individual time.” The self-catering units and cottages on the estate re-opened on July 3rd and Marjorie is delighted to be hosting guests again. “We’re very remote here and without the visitors there’s no-one around. We felt it was important to open and provide hospitality otherwise visitors will go elsewhere and may decide not to come to Mull in the future. All our guests have been lovely and appreciate that we are open”. Glengorm is a working farm and is a regular at the weekly producers market in Tobermory, selling fresh meat and Marjorie’s own home-made pies. She added “It’s so important to provide something for visitors to experience and we are delighted the street market is up and running again, showcasing the wonderful produce of the area.” Find out more www.glengormcastle.co.uk