A family-run business offering pony treks on the golden sands of an Outer Hebrides beach is now operating year-round, after a short move to new premises.
Traigh Mhòr Pony Trekking is taking on four full-time staff and a number of part-time workers as part of its expansion to meet growing demand from islanders and tourists.
Based in North Tolsta, on the north-east coast of Lewis, the venture was set up in 2018 by husband and wife Leigh and Gavin Minion, with a commitment to creating work, training and education opportunities for local young people.
As the popularity of their riding lessons and trips on the mile-long Traigh Mhòr beach increased, it outgrew its original base and the couple decided to buy a nearby croft in the village to expand the business.
Backed by £30,000 funding from north development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), they have built a new all-weather arena, with a reception area and tack room, which opened this month.
Native and non-native trees have been planted to provide shelter belts at the site, which is completely off-grid.
Mrs Minion said: “We are very thankful to HIE for the support and funding we have received during our premises move. It has been instrumental in securing and increasing our youth employment opportunities.
This project for me was never about profit. It is about bringing economic and social opportunities to our area and providing jobs, careers and hope for our local young people.
“It is about training and education and it is about health and wellbeing. This has always been the aim of what we do and will continue to be so in the future.”
The new facility has ensured Traigh Mhòr Pony Trekking, in which the Minion’s daughters Kirsty and Sarah are also involved, can offer greater choice for people of all ages and abilities.
Donald Murray, from HIE’s Outer Hebrides area team, said the project would help enhance the appeal of north Lewis as a tourism destination.
He continued: “It creates a valuable local venue for leisure and wellbeing and the year-round operations will strengthen job security for young employees.
“The environmental benefits of the project are important as we move towards an economy based on net-zero emissions.
“We are very pleased to confirm our support and look forward to working with Traigh Mhòr Pony Trekking as they progress their exciting plans.”
HIE has recently announced a number of tourism funding initiatives in the Outer Hebrides to help the sector recover from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and prepare for the return of visitors.