I felt I had to share this little story from last year (scroll down to September 13 2011 for pictures) and which I’ve updated today – just to make everyone drool!
Not that far from Leverburgh, in the south of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, is the turning to the remote ‘township’ of Northton. I noticed a hand-written sign “Croft 36, Seafood” or words to that effect on the side of the road. It sounded intriguing so we investigated. …
On the right hand side of the road, heading towards the beach at Northton, one of the remotest spots in the UK, a Hebridean entrepreneur had produced a bit of food heaven. They had parked a wooden voting booth-type construction just outside their house and were selling all things fishy. And fish is my passion. Everything beautifully displayed on packed ice. What a brilliant little idea. A price list was pinned to the wall, and payment was by way of an honesty box. The whole concept was bound to appeal to anyone who loves fish (like me)and loves exploring in this part of Harris. The owner of Croft 36 displays a sign inside the booth saying they will also deliver to your self-catering cottage or camp site, if you’re within a certain radius of Northton. They deserve to be successful. And win prizes for ingenuity. I love this sort of simple idea. We bought the most delicious home-baked crab quiche. Best I’ve ever tasted and baked with local free range eggs and crab caught locally by the man of the house. What a brilliant little idea. The simplest ideas are often the best.
As we drove past Croft 36 today the small wooden kiosk beside the road from last year had been replaced with a rough, bleached, pine shed with a sign on the outside stating: OPEN 10 AM till 9 PM?? On the inside walls were hand-written comments from satisfied customers and to my surprise was a printed out copy of my Blog post from last year. It made me feel very humble that someone should think it was a good read.
This is Dragon’s Den entrepreneurial spirit, Hebridean style. An ‘Honesty Box’ for simple, quality food: knotted loaves of bread at £1.50; £4 or £5 for a perfectly dressed crab sitting on ice; gleaming, cellophane-wrapped, homemade scones,; and kippers; freshly dug potatoes from Northton’s machair. While we stood there dithering about what to buy a young member of the Croft 36 family replenished the almost sold-out bread from a huge delivery crate filled with fresh, warm bread – more perfectly formed, sweet-smelling dough.
Who needs expensive perfume when there’s fresh bread to tantalise the senses!
We decided to knock on the front door. The lady of the house, Julie, greeted us as she sorted through a box full of fresh crabs and said she would introduce us to the fisherman, Steve her husband, although he was spending most of his time now baking bread. We walked through the hall festooned with children’s paintings and drawings, bold, sequined and colourful. The smell though!! Ooh ooh ooh, the smell of home-baked bread filled the air.
The kitchen with a round wall, lighthouse style is like no other. I looked around the huge living space, sofas, computer, toys, stuff, with the baking area at one end. To me it was the feeling of Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory, only this was all about bread. Can you imagine watching the TV, working at your computer, playing with Lego surrounded by the aroma of cooking, and freshly-baked bread….Heaven on earth.
Julie took me down the back garden, like a wild glen which backs on to the grey, rocky and purple heather-clad Maodal (251 metres high), where in 1991 a Shackleton aircraft crashed on a routine flight on a winter’s day of fog and rain. Steve and Julie’s garden is a forest of willows where fattening chickens with big feet run free, almost wolf whistling as we stepped carefully through the family’s paradise on the Isle of Harris.
This is Croft 36, crofting 21st century-style.This is life on the edge. Making the most of what is available locally. Julie and Steve have lived on the island for just 14 years. But they welcomed us into their home, a hive of baking industry, in true Hebridean style. go there if you can.