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Business / Plans for new cafe and accommodation in Whalsay

An image of what the dining area could look like. Credit: Malcolmson Architects

A NEW cafe is set to open in Whalsay this summer as part of a project to revamp a historic manse on the island.

Sister duo Julie Williamson and Andrea Huntley are also making three self-catering rooms, complete with mini kitchens, upstairs.

Work is already well underway on the property in Marrister.

Also in the plans is a function room, which could be hired out for events like parties or workshops.

Williamson said the idea has been in the pipeline for a few years.

“There is currently nowhere in the island to come and meet up with friends and family to have a cup of coffee,” she said.

“We often get asked by people who come in to visit the island for the day where they can go and get a meal. It’s something that the island is been lacking for quite a long time.”

The menu is not set in stone yet, but the team are hoping to use a much local produce and seafood as possible, with coffee and cake also likely to feature too.

In addition to a lack of catering Williamson said there is also not much accommodation available in Whalsay for people visiting the isle.

What the exterior of the building currently looks like.

The sisters are not fully clued-up about the history of the building – they would “love to hear” if anyone knows more about its origins.

“It was probably a merchant’s house and we think it may have existed since the 17th century,” Williamson added.

“Originally three stories high, the top floor was taken down and built out into the front in a L-shape.

“Possibly this was done much later when it became a manse for the minister.

“After the new manse was built up the road in the early 1900s the auld manse become a private dwelling house sometimes with folk renting individual rooms. Most recently it was a family home with dog boarding kennels at the back.

“It stood empty for several years before our family bought it with a seed of an idea that it had potential to be something fine. The walls are thick built stone, but the windows are fairly big for an old building so it’s both cosy and bright.

“Sadly there weren’t any original interior features like fireplaces or woodwork left and the floorboards and stairs we had hoped to save were too rotten.

“When it was stripped back we thought some of the stonework should be left visible as an original feature.”

The family has worked with Malcolmson Architects on the plans.

There will also be craft cabinets to display their own work and pieces from local makers too.

Williamson said McKay & Sinclair are doing a “lovely job of the building work” ahead of finishing up in early summer.

“There’s a lot still to do,” Williamson said. “It’s a bit overwhelming sometimes but we’ll get there in the end.

“It’s encouraging to be getting an enthusiastic response from the local folk.”