Princess Royal visits Skye and Raasay

October 17, 2022

The Princess Royal visited Skye and Raasay, touring a community company, a school, a distillery, and finally a walled garden. Here Joanie Whiteford, Lord-Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty, recalls the exciting day.

It was our great pleasure to welcome The Princess Royal to Skye and Raasay on Wednesday 7th September, in a day bathed in sunshine. I was most ably accompanied by my Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadet, Sergeant Kai Greig from 1st Battalion The Highlanders ACF Alness Detachment (pictured above).

Our first venue was Broadford and Strath Community Company where The Princess Royal was introduced to Councillor Biz Campbell, Vice Convenor of The Highland Council and Ward Manager, John Finlayson, who is also Chair of The Highland Council’s Skye and Raasay Area Committee.

Broadford and Strath Community Company were awarded a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in June, which is the highest award given to volunteer groups. The Princess Royal was shown around by Directors, Nicholas Kelly and Dr Alison MacLennan, firstly to the campsite, which was full to capacity and set to expand further, then to meet the pigs who were entrusted with clearing the next piece of ground. These community pigs belong to West Highland College and are a successful partnership with West Highland College. We were next shown around the extremely impressive Growers Hub, met Judy and Claire the Horticultural Therapists with their hard-working group from Kyleakin Connections, enjoyed a moment in the Sensory Garden, before meeting those who were busy in the Men’s Shed. Seven-year-olds, Ella and Jac, escorted HRH to Corry Capers Outdoor Learning Area, which was full of very happy children enjoying themselves.

I then invited The Princess Royal to present The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service Crystal and certificate to Nicholas and Alison, before HRH was presented with gifts by Ella and Jac.

As I said in my citation, B&SCC’s strength of character is exceptional, exemplified by their steadfast commitment to achieve their goals without compromising their environmental principles. They had the foresight to envisage a strategic, environmentally aware plan that has transformed their community into an area with strong economic prospects.

Next we flew over to Raasay and the first venue was Raasay Primary School. The Princess Royal was met by Andy Townsend, Deputy Lieutenant, who presented the Head Teacher, Wilma Duncan, who in turn introduced her staff and pupils. HRH was treated to a tune by Calum and Gaelic poetry beautifully recited by Alexander and Hamish and then all the children sang ‘Tobhta Fearna’ a Gaelic song composed by themselves together with Gaelic singer, Anne Martin. Mrs Duncan gave Princess Anne some background to Calum’s Road whilst Eddie Seaman, the school piping tutor, was playing Calum’s Road in the background. HRH was presented with gifts by Hamish, Calum and Alexander, she then signed the visitors book, before being waved off by the children.

Lord-Lieutenant Joanie Whiteford and Sgt Kai Greig wait for the Princess Royal (exiting helicopter in background).

I welcomed The Princess Royal to Isle of Raasay Distillery, where I presented co-founders, Alasdair Day and Bill Dobbie, Operations Director Norman Gilles, and Assistant Manager Chloe Leeman. We were given a most interesting tour of the state-of-the-art production area, malt silo, bottling area and visitor centre, all set under the magnificent backdrop of the Cullins and Dun Caan. Construction of the distillery only began in 2016, production began in 2017, its visitor centre opened in 2018, their Isle of Raasay Hebridean Gin was launched in 2019, their inaugural release single malt in 2020. They launched their signature Isle of Raasay Hebridean single malt in 2021, followed by a second release and a special distillery edition all in that year. The company currently exports to 25 countries worldwide. What a meteoric rise together with an ever-increasing workforce, what a wonderful success story for Raasay.

Our final visit, was to the community owned Raasay Walled Garden, a serene space being beautifully restored to provide locally grown produce and a safe opportunity for volunteers to both help the community and look after their own welfare. I presented Katherine and Anne Gillies, both Directors of Raasay Community Company, and then Katherine proceeded to show The Princess Royal the stunning Rose Garden, which was planted in the former cold frames. En route to the extremely impressive volunteer plots being worked by Simon, we were shown this winters’ ambitious project that is to repurpose the dilapidated Victorian Greenhouses. We walked through the apple and plum orchard, laden with fruit, many of the trees having been dedicated in memory of lost loved ones. We then viewed the polytunnels, the first ablaze with chrysanthemums, dahlias and sweet peas, and the others full of ready to harvest vegetables and salad produce – and the ever important kettle! Volunteers always need a coffee and cake station!

The Princess Royal at Raasay Walled Garden.

We enjoyed a lovely exchange with some of the garden volunteers before Nelly Blair presented HRH with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a basket of produce from the garden.

We escorted The Princess Royal back to her awaiting helicopter, thanked her for visiting us in Ross and Cromarty Lieutenancy, and that we look forward to welcoming her back soon. The final image of the day was the children enthusiastically waving off The Princess who visited their school – a day they will remember forever.

My grateful thanks, as ever, to everyone in the Lieutenancy Team who helped to make this such a memorable and successful day.