From Sheep and Cows to Award-Winning Caravan SiteHow one couple saved their community.
Donald and Lyn Forbes are a remarkable but unassuming couple who have dedicated themselves to saving and contributing to their community.
The picturesque village of Foyers, situated on the stunning eastern shore of Loch Ness, was once famous for producing one third of the world’s aluminium. In 1967, the British Aluminium Company which had employed 500 people in their round-the-clock smelter, shut down. The village plummeted into a rapid decline. Many of the amenities established to service the community began to close, people moved away, and the village school shrank to just ten pupils.
Donald’s family had tenant-farmed the land adjacent to the Loch for three generations. When Donald was growing up, the farm was a dairy with a milk-round that delivered to the local community. After mandatory pasteurisation was introduced, the farm transitioned to sheep and cattle. As this was not bringing in enough income, Donald diversified into selling trailers and other equipment – “anything without an engine”. This proved to be profitable so, in 1994, Donald and Lyn took the opportunity to buy the farm.
Meanwhile, the community had continued to decline. One day, Donald came home with the sad news that the only shop in the village was thinking of closing. As the only people in the village with a significant amount of land – Donald and Lyn felt they had to do something about it. Given the natural beauty of the location, tourism was an obvious answer. The idea of the caravan site was born.
Where sheep and cattle once grazed, the five-star, award-winning Loch Ness Shores Camping and Caravanning Club offers 120 pitches (including 20 for tents) and hosts a range of amenities including a gourmet shop with the best of Scottish food and gifts; a new 36-seater bistro; wigwam glamping pods; kayak and small motorboat hire; and a host of other activities including archery, birdwatching, nature walks and den-building.
Loch Ness Shores has a Green Tourism Gold Award for its solar thermal energy and water pump heating system which, amongst other things, supplies toasty underfloor heating in their award-winning shower block.
And … the village shop survived! There are now three cafes in Foyers, one at the campsite and another as part of the village shop. Lyn and Donald have good relationships with the other proprietors and were careful when stocking their shop to choose a different aspect of the market to avoid competing for trade.
Loch Ness Shores is as popular as it is beautiful. The Forbes employ eight people year-round, with an additional six in the summer.
Donald has gone from being a “one-man band” as a farmer to a site owner who has to talk to people all day long! It was a short, sharp learning curve but, in Lyn’s words, Donald is a “big hit” amongst their customers.
Lyn’s advice on diversifying out of livestock agriculture and into a non-traditional agricultural enterprise: “Find something your area is lacking. Take a little time to see what will fit with who you want to be” – sound advice.