The owners of the award-winning firm behind Rock Rose gin are pressing ahead with plans to create a new visitor centre.
Their new cafe and shop in the grounds of a one-time grain mill in Castletown, near Thurso, is designed as a stopgap, while Martin and Claire Murray prepare for a wholesale redevelopment of the site.
The B-listed three-storey building and four acres of adjoining land, overlooking Dunnet Bay, are earmarked for an expansion of production.
Mr and Mrs Murray bought the 200-year-old mill building off the A836 road between Tain and John O’Groats, via Tongue and Thurso, last year.
The couple intend to convert it into a distillery, bottling plant and three warehouses.
They continue to work on their longer term scheme, which is expected to deliver new jobs.
But in the meantime they have applied for planning consent to put up three shipping containers to accommodate a temporary cafe, shop and visitor centre.
Oral history project
The Murrays launched Dunnet Bay Distillers on its current site a few miles north of Castletown in 2014, and have since built up an international order book for craft gin and vodka.
They are keen to get feedback from the public on their plans to revitalise the mill.
People will be invited to contribute their own memories and experiences of the building as part of an oral history project.
Mr and Mrs Murray would be interested to receive, on loan, photos, drawings, plans and film footage, which will be used to develop text panels and display cases for the future permanent visitor centre.
Dunnet Bay Distillers’ products have won a raft of drink industry awards, including last year’s chairwoman’s gong at the Highlands and Islands Business Excellence Awards, hosted by the Scottish Council for Industry and Development and Industry.
The firm’s Rock Rose gin was hailed as “something of an icon on the shelves”, while its Highland vodka and Freepost refillable pouches received plaudits as just two examples of its “drive for innovation”.
Growing demand for their products and an increase in tourism in Caithness, driven by the popularity of the North Coast 500 road trip route, led to the Murrays unveiling a £248,000 expansion plan in 2017.
The project included the installation of another still, as well as development of a visitor centre, shop and new warehouse.