URGE and Saxa Vord Shortlisted for Highlands and Islands Tourism Award

by Deborah Leggate -

The finalists have just been announced for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards and for the second year running Saxa Vord appears in the short-list, this time for the "Best Supplier Partnership" Award. The application was based on the close partnership between URGE, Britain's most northerly market garden, headed up by Sarah McBurnie and Saxa Vord resort. Both organisations were set up just over four years ago and as URGE has become established it has been able to produce the products that Saxa Vord needs during a busy summer season. The logistical problems of the remote location of Unst and sourcing lesser quality salad, vegetables and herbs have diminished and the quality of the offering in the restaurant has increased.

Sarah McBurnie, who is just back from speaking at the Nourish Scotland Conference in Glasgow said:

After producing 92 types of chemical-free fruit, herbs and vegetables on Unst we have proved that you can grow just about anything on the UK"s most northerly inhabited island! But from the outset we wanted to make sure that we produced the fresh produce that the restaurant actually needed so would confer in the spring and purpose grow for the menu. Other seasonal produce would be introduced as it became ready which meant a changing menu as well. We are also supplying produce to the local hotel, café, shop, gate sales and monthly Farmers' Markets. Our motto ' Changing your food miles into food inches' has become a true statement and certainly very pertinent as in the past customer's food had travelled as far as they had, possibly a lot further.

Neill Seaton, General Manager said:

Our partnership with URGE goes beyond a normal supplier/customer relationship and we have made every effort to raise awareness with our guests. If they haven't tasted the produce in our restaurant we encourage them to visit the Farmer's market where they can buy it direct, or visit the site and speak with the volunteers who do such a marvellous job. As well as delivering the produce Sarah has spent time with Chefs discussing menus, and with the waiting staff telling them about the growing and harvesting processes so that they can pass the information on to guests. "Shell-on king prawns sauteed in garlic butter served with a mixed leaf Unst salad" might seem a simple addition to our menu, but this would never have been an option a few years ago.

Saxa Vord's owner, Debbie Strang said:

One of the highlights this summer was providing the base for Simon King"s first ever Shetland Safari, where 24 guests had a visit of a lifetime to Shetland. In addition we hosted other wildlife tours including Shetland Nature, Island Holidays, photography groups and walking groups from home and abroad. We really believe that whilst these groups are attracted to Shetland because of the way it caters for their own particular activity (wildlife, photography, walking etc), it is the high quality meals using local produce like that supplied by URGE that can make their holiday truly memorable.

But as ever, our guests from Shetland continue to make up nearly 40% of our visitors and as a thank you we are offering a 20% discount on the self-catering houses until 31 October using the code OCT11.

The winners will be announced at the ceremony and gala dinner in Inverness on Friday, November 18, and it is hoped that representatives from URGE and Saxa Vord will be able to travel to attend. Debbie Strang went on to say:

At Saxa Vord we have a strong belief that the only way that tourism on Unst can continue to grow is by working together, and being short-listed for the Highlands and Islands Award is a fantastic endorsement of Saxa Vord's joint working with URGE.

Posted in: News