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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 25/03/2024

Ghillie Başan harnessed her intrepid spirit to build a highly distinctive, thriving business at her remote Highland home.

She offers remarkable off-the-beaten-track experiences with food and drink at their core. At her business, visitors savour her unique style of food, Scottish spirits, and a real sense of outdoor adventure.

Read on to find out about how she built this unique destination that draws visitors from all over the world.


Ghillie Başan has steadily overhauled her croft over the last thirty years. She singlehandedly transformed it from a ruin with no water or electricity to a cosy family home with a holiday cottage to rent.

Ghillie’s portfolio career in food and writing has taken her all over the world before settling in Scotland. A Scot who grew up in Africa, Ghillie moved to Istanbul to work as a journalist covering the Middle East, where she travelled extensively for several years.

Her keen interest in food drove her to visit markets and cooks, seeking out what they made and how as she crossed continents. Gathering notes, which later became a vast collection of critically acclaimed food books, included the first book on Turkish food in the English language.

Ghillie shared her expertise in food through her books in the early days, combining publishing and income from her holiday cottage to support her growing family singlehandedly.

How she got started

“Home is part of the experience. I do as much as I can at home.”

With the holiday cottage steadily taking bookings throughout the year, it seemed a natural step to offer cookery classes in her home kitchen.

Drawing on the wealth of knowledge from her travels and food writing, Ghillie developed a range of hands-on workshops with international influences. She was able to establish these with little expenditure, selling spaces to her cottage visitors.

Next, she looked at ways to incorporate whisky into the experience, given that the croft sits on an old smuggling route.

She assigned an old barn to become a tasting space. It was a rustic building with cobbled floors, which she furnished with a reconditioned stove. Visitors loved it for its unmodified simplicity and enjoyed the inspired food and whisky pairings she devised.


Visitors learning about the Scottish ingredients Spirit & Spice use. Image credit: Spirit & Spice

How the business started to grow

“Do what you can with what you’ve got”

Ghillie found that there was interest from tourists looking at alternative experiences whilst in Scotland. She was listed by the Fife Arms as an event provider and by high-end tourism companies and whisky producers, wanting to be able to offer an immersive and informative experience.

Her customers were either individuals, couples, families, or small corporate groups, who booked direct. This allowed Ghillie to offer a highly personalised service.

The demand for this concept led her to establish her business, Spirit & Spice. Events followed three key themes:

  • whisky and food pairings
  • an outdoor foraging cooking and dining experience
  • a foraging walk and tasting

Developing the customer experience

  • A personal family experience

    Ghillie keeps the experiences personal by hosting, teaching, cooking for, and, sometimes, transporting her visitors. Her adult children still help out and run additional experiences for visitors.

    Their hard work in creating a professional experience within their circumstances has been pivotal in building the business. They do whatever it takes to offer as positive and seamless an experience as possible for visitors.

  • Gathering feedback

    Their close and personal interaction with visitors enabled Ghillie to take direct feedback from them. The venues with which she has partnered also send feedback, which is mostly verbal.

    These positive reviews do drive significant word of mouth sales, both from third parties and visitors, who spread the word back home or on social media. Ghillie uses social media but doesn’t advertise or spend on marketing activities.

  • Local and authentic

    A consistent theme from visitors was how much they appreciated the opportunity to spend time in such a remote environment, at all times of the year.

    They also loved how rooted the experience was in the landscape, with Ghillie truly offering a sense of place and stories through the food and drink she offered.

    Visitors can really enjoy a taste of the place on each visit, with a range of local whiskies, venison, pheasant, rabbit, cheeses, and charcuterie, supplementing ingredients foraged at home.

What has been the key to her success?

“I want to inspire and show anything is possible if you believe it is”. 

Ghillie’s business has evolved organically. It relies to a large extent on sheer grit and determination to build a business and support her family and their life in such a remote location, finding ways to expand without spending much money.

By sharing the place she calls home and harnessing the natural landscape, she offers a really special opportunity to experience such a remote landscape.

She offers a taste of its natural larder in the food and drink on the menu, but she also succeeds simply through the experience of being there, in all the elements, with a warm haven in which to retreat.


“Good hospitality is quite instinctive. It just comes naturally”

Ghillie’s affinity for hospitality has also been key. A heartfelt welcome, making visitors feel so comfortable has been crucial to success in offering engaging experiences with real character and leaving a lasting impression.

Collaboration with other business has been important in driving repeat business. Whisky producers are often looking for experiences which allow partners or media to engage with their products in a different context.

Visit the Spirit & Spice website

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