Donnie Montgomery started making his tablet at home before building a shed at the end of a single-track road for visitors to be able to purchase their own.
If you’ve found yourself on the Isle of Skye in the last couple of years, you may have heard of a small shed in the middle of nowhere that, once opened, is found to be filled with bags of homemade tablet.
The confectionery is left there by Donnie Montgomery, who lives at the end of the eight-mile single track where his tablet shed is located, with customers collecting their orders and leaving money in an honesty box.
After he started making tablet around two decades ago, Donnie started selling it online and, on the back of receiving positive reviews, decided to make it into a business.
Donnie says: “I started making tablet 20 or so years ago and I used to start selling it online, such as on ebay and places like that, and everyone who tasted it said it was fantastic. So it’s really been with me all that time, though I’ve had different jobs and different businesses.
“We moved to Skye three years ago and I decided to focus on the tablet side of things and that’s where I am now. I have a wee shed at the end of my road I put the tablet in for visitors, and I send tablet all around the world from here. A lot of orders come from England, as well as Europe, America and Canada, all over – it’s multi-national.
“I’m at the end of an eight-mile single track road and it’s 12 miles to the post office and 12 miles to the nearest shop. The tablet shed has been here for two years now but quite a lot of people that I follow on social media have actually turned up at the end of the single track road, which is a dead end so there’s no other reason they’d be heading this way.”
Once visitors find Donnie’s shed they are then invited to upload a “shedfie” to social media using the hashtag #IFoundDonniesTabletShed to show their findings and the different flavours of tablet Donnie has topped the shed up with on that day.
Donnie says: “On Instagram we have the hashtag #IFoundDonniesTabletShed and then people take a selfie at the box. It’s at the other end of the single track road, and it’s out of the way – people have to come to it.
“I top the box up with new tablet every day and a variety of different flavours. It’s just a selection and can be a bit of a hit or a miss when people come. I tend to have a range of flavours in but I always say that if people are coming especially for tablet, to give me a message first of all and then I will leave a little bag with their order in the box. Then they can just pop the money in the tin and take the bag away.
“Having just a wee money box means I’m relying on people to be honest about the amount they leave – some leave a wee bit more and others leave a wee bit less, though that’s very rare and is usually only about 10p out.”
With tablet only taking a short time to make, Donnie is able to introduce lots of different flavours to the shed, including custom requests from people planning a visit to it.
He says: “The different flavours include the original one, which is the best one I suppose, and has been in for the Great Taste Awards three times and I’ve won two stars followed by two one stars (so four in total) for the original tablet. That’s the only one I’ve entered into the awards.
“There’s also stem ginger, maple syrup, white chocolate and cardamom, Drambuie, malt whisky made with Talisker, Isle of Skye sea salt, and I sometimes do dairy free original flavour.
“The different flavours usually come about through experimenting, though some people do ask for custom ones – I once had a request for Jäegarmeister tablet at the Jäegarmeister conference and they loved it. I thought it was actually very nice.
“We do get special requests quite often. A lot of people ask for gin-flavoured tablet but I find those quite difficult to do because gin doesn’t have quite as distinctive a flavour as some of the other spirits.
“All of them are made in individual batches – one batch will make up to 10 bags or 12 bars, with each batch taking about 40 minutes to make. So I can make quite a few in one day and that keeps me going.”
Ordering from Donnie
The tablet business is a one-man operation with Donnie making all the confectionary he sells.
He explained: “People often get in touch to thank the team at Donnie’s Tablet Shed but it’s just me doing it all myself.
“If people want to order tablet they can do via the website, at the Tablet Shed, and there are two places in Skye itself they can get tablet from – the Isle of Skye Ice Cream Shop in Portree and the Top Shop in Broadford. They’re the two places that stock the tablet on the island, as well as the shed.
“The website is called Loch Leven Tablet Company but it’s still me. Loch Leven is where it all began – I’m originally from Kinlochleven in the West Highlands and originally started making tablet at home there – hence Loch Leven Tablet Company was born and has continued as a brand ever since.”
Along with the tablet, Donnie has set up a hamper business, Highland Favours, which showcases many of Scotland’s small food and drink businesses, and can send these gift boxes out to homes across the country.
He says: “I set up Highland Favours, which was the wedding favour and corporate business, and that keeps me busy in normal years because at weddings, of course, you can have up to 100 people and at corporate events you can have 200 people. That’s all stopped for now.
“A lot of the international orders come through Highland Favours and aren’t just tablet but are the Scottish gift boxes. I create gift boxes and hampers and send little boxes of love around the country.
“People can’t meet each other just now so I stock lots of products from Scotland’s small artisan producers. We had a deli and post office in Edinburgh for seven years so I got to know lots of small producers that make their own products, so with all of these contacts, I’ve used them to build a selection that we can put into gift boxes and send out. We put a selection of treats inside them, they’re about £20-30 each and it can be wrapped if needed.
“I have also teamed up with a local artist, Lynne Forrester, who makes lovely cards, so I can add one of them in with a handwritten note if someone has a message they want to include in their gift basket. So it just comes as if they’ve sent it themselves.
“It’s really satisfying and you get so much good feedback. So many people phone to say ‘thanks so much, I haven’t been able to see my mum all year and she got this lovely box through the post and she was absolutely delighted with it’.
“So I send a lot of boxes of love around the country from the end of my single-track road.”