A popular campsite on North Uist, situated at the heart of the RSPB's Balranald Nature Reserve, has been awarded planning permission to expand.
Balranald Hebridean Holidays is set to increase the number of caravan, motorhome, and tent pitches from 20 to 30 this season, with a further 11 added in time for April 2019.
The business will also invest £40k to build a new toilet and shower block with drying room and will then add two further glamping pods, all of which will be operational next year.
Alongside the campsite, owner Anne MacLellan, who has used advice from Business Gateway Outer Hebrides since launching the family business in 2012, has also added a self-catering cottage to the company’s portfolio.
‘Kettle Cottage’, a former blackhouse built in the late 1800s, is believed to be one of the most westerly cottages on North Uist and offers visitors a secluded one-bedroom alternative to camping with unobstructed views of St Kilda.
She said: “We are delighted to have been awarded planning permission, as it allows us to fully utilise the land we tenant on the reserve and helps us provide more accommodation options to an ever-increasing number of tourists visiting North Uist. Up until now, our website and word of mouth have been the main ways visitors come to stay but, with the expansion about to get underway, social media is going to be a really important way for us to attract new customers.
“Right from the start, we’ve used advice from Business Gateway. Most recently, the help through DigitalBoost has been invaluable. Working 1:1 with a digital expert has helped me think about content generation in a whole new way and already we’re seeing a great response to what we now post on Facebook. Advice regarding an online booking system has also made a huge difference, freeing up my time so I can concentrate on other aspects of the business.”
Alastair Macleod, Business Gateway, said: “As the popularity of the islands continues to increase so too does demand for quality accommodation which is why Anne decided to expand the site. But with more pitches to fill, more customers need to be generated and that’s why support through our DigitalBoost programme, which is funded by Digital Scotland, has proven so helpful. By putting in place the advice given, the business is already seeing a benefit both in terms of efficiency and an increase in bookings.”
The idea for the business, which was given an award of excellence from TripAdvisor last year, originally arose after Anne and her husband, John Allan, spotted a gap in the market to provide accommodation to people visiting the nature reserve.
The full-time crofters, who currently have 60 cattle and 30 sheep, then invested £120k into turning nearly one hectare of the agricultural land they tenant into the campsite, offering 10 tent pitches and 10 hook-ups for motorhomes and caravans as well as a toilet block.
With the official opening of the Hebridean Way Cycling Route last year, the business then added a glamping pod to provide comfortable accommodation for cyclists.
From May to August, Anne also operates a mobile catering trailer, ‘The Dunes Catering’, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. She provides home baking, soups, and sandwiches, ice cream, hot drinks and snacks which are enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.
She said: “When we first started, we were really apprehensive about how it was going to go. But, as more and more people look to holiday at home and decide to visit the Outer Hebrides, we’ve seen a real upsurge in bookings. We also love the fact that as the business grows so too does the number of jobs we can provide to locals. This season we’ll have two full-time staff and four casual staff. Other local businesses are also benefiting from how busy we are, with people staying on the site and then visiting the local pub for a drink and dinner.”
Find out how Business Gateway Outer Hebrides can help your business by visiting their local pages or call 01851 808 240.
Outwith the area? Find your local Business Gateway office or call 0300 013 4753.
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