When in the summer of 2018 a few stallholders at the Lochinver Craft & Produce Markets first talked about ideas to open up our workshops and studios for a day outside the Market days, we quickly realised that there is quite a number of artists and makers living and working dotted along the main roads of Coigach and Assynt.
The initial meeting to discuss how to join together all these studios, shops and businesses in one initiative was held in late 2018. The group constituted itself formally under the name Assynt and Coigach Creatives early in 2019 with Lesley Muir appointed Chair. The steering group Lesley Muir, Clare Hawley, Sue Jack, Jan Kilpatrick and Louisa Potter put a lot of volunteer hours in, so that funding for a professionally designed leaflet could be obtained in April 2019 and in July 2019 the trail leaflet was ready for distribution in tourist offices, shops, holiday accommodation etc. in the local area and further afield in the north of Scotland.
In a press release for the launch of the Creative Trail leaflet, the group wrote:
Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, Quinag – just a few of the magnificent mountains that dominate this land – form an impenetrable barrier to anyone trying to travel in a straight line. The hardy communities that live here are strung like pearls around the edges of that mountain mass, with some people living on the edge of the sea and some hidden in the slopes and valleys inland. This means that, as the road wends its way around Achiltibuie, Lochinver, Stoer, Kylesku and Elphin, among others, it forms a natural circle, and it is almost impossible not to pass the homes and workplaces of the painters, ceramicists, textile artists, photographers, writers, musicians and more who form this group. The Trail features artists’ studios, craft shops and galleries, as well as the thriving local craft and produce markets, all marked clearly in a handy folding leaflet, with all the information a visitor might need, by way of directions, opening times and contact details.
Part of the initiative was the Assynt and Coigach Creative Trail Open Studios, the first event of this kind in the northwest Highlands, which took place from 10th -13th September 2019, including both the Wednesday market in Elphin and Made in Assynt Market in Lochinver. Seventeen artists and businesses opened their doors to visitors to have a look behind the scenes, see and buy exhibited work or to take part in a workshop and learn some skills themselves.
The year 2020 saw all Craft Markets cancelled and life generally disrupted by the Coronavirus crisis and like everyone else, Assynt and Coigach’s artists and businesses had to adapt to the changed situation. Although life will probably not return fully to how we knew it before Covid this year, the artists and businesses featured in the Trail leaflet are still there, working and creating and hoping to be able to meet customers once again sometime this year. In the meantime, please have a look at the leaflet and check out their websites or online shops. Once travel is possible again and shops are allowed to be open check for updated opening hours with each venue.