The mystical island of Rum has captured the imagination of visitors for many years. Hung out on the horizon with a jagged crown of mountain peaks, it is known in Gaelic as the ‘Isle of the Ridge’ and boasts Scotland’s oldest known stone age settlement. There’s lots to experience and explore, from the faded splendour of Kinloch Castle to the rich abundance of wildlife, including the celebrity stags from BBC Springwatch and arguably the feistiest midges in the western isles.
But now the island—once known as ‘the Forbidden Isle’ because of its playboy owner’s dislike of visitors—has a new attraction which we hope will attract more tourists as well as provide a focus for the community: Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters’ very own Red Stag espresso beans. We recently installed an espresso machine and grinder at the General Store—Rum’s only shop and main community hub—so that residents and visitors to the island will be able to enjoy delicious speciality coffee in a beautiful and mountainous setting.
Inhabited by just 36 residents year round but with a thriving community and even its own primary school, Rum is the perfect host for our coffee. We’ve long admired the rugged beauty of the island—the store is so important to the residents and it’s a huge honour to be supplying speciality coffee to this essential community resource.
Working with new Isle of Rum General Store owners Stuart McKie and Jennifer Thompson fits right in with our goal of supplying great coffee to rural and remote communities in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. We’ve seen how coffee can be an important conduit to help bring people together and look forward to this happening on Rum.
“Like so many places, and so many people, the island has been hurt badly in recent years by the knock-on effects of the pandemic,” says Stuart. “Some businesses have closed, the MV Sheerwater was unable to sustain regular trips and the previous shop owner, our good friend Jinty, decided it was time to move on from the shop.”
In April 2023 the Isle of Rum Community Trust put out a call for new owners to take over the shop, and former medical professionals Stuart and Jennifer were the lucky ones out of more than 30 applicants.
“The community did an amazing job keeping the shop going for months in between other jobs and family commitments but obviously couldn’t possibly keep it open all day,” Stuart says. “Hopefully us being able to work at it full time and keep it open all day every day will be an important step in helping to reverse the trend of recent years. The effects of the island having its traditional gathering place again are already being seen and felt in the community, and conversations around a coffee are an important part of that.”
Our Wholesale Account Manager Lewis took an epic trip out to Rum to install the espresso machine—we had to get a special permit to drive onto the usually-car-free island—and we’re delighted that everything is in place and the flat whites are flowing.
“Right from the beginning, ever since tasting their coffee in Mallaig Bakery we wanted Glen Lyon Coffee to be involved,” Stuart says. “A lot of people might think throwing your savings into a coffee machine in a shop/post office on an island of less than 40 is a crazy idea, but the team at Glen Lyon was on board with it from the start!”
The General Store will stay open to serve coffee to the island’s residents throughout the winter months, and we can’t wait to go back in the spring for a proper visit.