Case Studies

New accommodation provides the perfect base for Hebridean Way

The site of a former blackhouse in Berneray has been transformed into a modern, low energy bunkhouse by local residents Mary McCormick and Chris Spears.

10th August 2018

The couple, who have been helped by Business Gateway Outer Hebrides and Outer Hebrides LEADER, took over the tenancy of the croft on which the bunkhouse stood in 2014 and began to think of how to restore it.

After struggling with the ruin they realised the building was too rundown to save and reluctantly had to demolish it. They then ploughed their savings and a £70,000 grant from Outer Hebrides LEADER into constructing a new building which they named John’s Bunkhouse after Chris’ friend John Davies.

Mary said: “Chris had a real connection with the blackhouse as it was the first place he stayed with his friend John when he moved to Berneray in 1976. John then lived in the house for a number of years but sadly died in a kayaking accident off the coast of Berneray in 1983. Because of that history it felt only fitting to name the bunkhouse in his memory.

“We had initially thought of offering self-catering accommodation. After meeting with Business Gateway, however, we realised there would be more demand for an up-market bunkhouse situated right at the heart of the Hebridean Way. The building, with its drying room and bike shed, has been designed very much with walkers and cyclists in mind but we also hope to appeal to young families, older people and people exploring the Hebrides by car and bus. One of the first couples to stay with us were 80-year-old cyclists from London!

“Because we have not run a business before all the advice we’ve had from Business Gateway has been very helpful – from assistance with our LEADER application to its free workshop programme. Social media is going to be an essential tool to raise awareness of the bunkhouse, but my experience of the different platforms was limited. Now, having completed a number of DigitalBoost seminars and benefitted from the 1:1 support through the programme, I feel more confident in this area. I am now using a range of different platforms to create new content and to showcase the bunkhouse and the surrounding area to the wider world.”

Because we have not run a business before all the advice we’ve had from Business Gateway has been very helpful.

Alasdair MacLeod, Business Gateway, Outer Hebrides said: ‘’Right from the start, Mary and Chris used our local knowledge to decide which type of business they should establish that would fit their goals before accessing our workshops and 1:1 support to get started. Further support with their business plan, market research and our introduction to council’s planning and environmental health officers also proved invaluable to them, especially when they were pulling together their successful LEADER application. Digital Boost support also armed them with essential skills that will help them increase awareness of the bunkhouse to potential visitors.”

Positioned just a quarter of a mile from the North Uist ferry terminal, the bunkhouse has two bunk rooms that accommodate two people each and a third bedroom with two sets of bunk beds suitable for four people. There is also a comfortable, well-equipped kitchen/ living room, two shower rooms including one with disabled access.

An air-to-water heat pump has been installed for underfloor heating which is backed up by a peat burning stove in the living room. Throughout the building LEDs have been used and further investment has been made in a hot composting bin for food waste.

Mary said: “We were anxious before we launched, but we have been pleasantly surprised at how our diary has been filing up, especially for later in the season. We’ve had cyclists, walkers and people touring the islands in their cars. Workmen, families and lone individuals have all appeared. It’s been great meeting so many different people.

“A lot of guests have also visited the bistro down the road for an evening meal. We are delighted to be able to support other local businesses and make a contribution to the local economy. Being involved in the new wave of outdoor tourism affecting the Hebrides is very exciting.”

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