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Visitors to Clachtoll Beach Campsite guaranteed first-class customer service

L-R Tom Lochhead & Andy Dyson at Clachtoll Beach Campsite.
L-R Tom Lochhead & Andy Dyson at Clachtoll Beach Campsite.

Every Monday, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Tom Lochhead, owner of Clachtoll Beach Campsite near Lochinver in Assynt.

How and why did you start in business?

I was a police officer for thirty years in Fife and loved it. Policing is customer-focused, and when I retired in 2013, I decided that I wanted to work outside in a completely different environment, but one that retained the focus on customer satisfaction.

I initially set up a landscaping company in Fife, which enabled me to employ a number of people, including my son, Connal. He was leaving school and it was the perfect opportunity to be with him. We formed a great bond, one that continues today.

Andy Dyson and I first met many years ago and our two families become very close. In 2019 we had the opportunity to acquire the campsite here at Clachtoll together as business partners, and we jumped at it. Connal joined us and he is very much a part of the team.

How did you get to where you are today?

I thought starting a business would be easy. It wasn’t! But then one of my suppliers advised me to join the Federation of Small Businesses to take advantage of their pooled knowledge and expertise, and it helped enormously.

Andy’s and my families had camped at Clachtoll for almost 20 years and knew what we were taking on, but we didn’t want to make mistakes so FSB was again called on for reassurance and advice.

Tom Lochhead and Andy Dyson.

While we only have two fields in the Northwest Highlands, we are totally focused on our customers, and we try to surpass their expectations and give them excellent value for money at all times. Most of our guests return every year, and we have made many great friends.

We’re always on the lookout for new ideas to make us that little bit different, be that providing outside hot showers, herbs walls or nightly firepits, and we’re really proud of our 19,000 Facebook followers.

Who helped you?

Local businesses have always made us feel very welcome. They and our neighbours could not be more supportive, and we all work really well together. Also, our suppliers bend over backwards to get stock to us – it’s not easy.

Support from our families was essential too, and while we did get “what on earth are you doing that for” looks when we told them we were buying a campsite, they quickly came round to the idea, and they’ve been fantastic.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?

When teaching me to drive when I was 18, my father warned me to look up and out at what I was about to drive through as we approached a set of traffic lights, and also to check my rear-view mirror. To keep out of trouble you have to know what’s coming at you from every direction.

A lesson for life in general – one that is always on my mind as I look forward in business, reflecting on the lessons of the past and on the pitfalls that may lie in weight at any time.

What is your biggest mistake?

Not keeping hold of any of my old cars from the ‘80s!

What is your greatest achievement?

Being lucky enough to be able to provide for my family. Hard work pays off.

If you were in power in government, what would you change?

Make it mandatory for everyone to do nothing at some point in the week. Doing nothing is actually doing something for yourself, and after the recent testing times we all have a need for that.

What do you still hope to achieve?

A double figure salmon from our local river, the Inver. Oh, and 20,000 Facebook followers!

What do you do to relax?

I love days fishing on the Inver, and trips on the sea with Andy in our boats. Assynt looks fantastic from the sea.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?

‘My Name is Doddie’, Doddie Weir’s book about his battle with MND – and we have chosen to support his charity this year.

Rugby legend Doddie Weir.

What do you waste your money on?

Well, with a tight Yorkshireman as my business partner, spending money is hard to come by, but perhaps I don’t need quite as many fishing rods.

What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?

Coffee, but not any old coffee. It’s got to be Inverness Coffee Roasting Co’s – it’s a real treat.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

A 2010 Land Rover Discovery. A money-pit it certainly is, but it ticks all the boxes for our lifestyle. My wife, Denise, tells me that I want a black Wrangler Jeep next…