Isle Of Skye, Isle Of Skye, IV45 8RS
- Tel: 01471 844217
JEWEL OF THE ISLE
23/08/2008 by Louizalass
Famous for its mountainous and breathtaking scenery, The Isle of Skye - situated off the West coast of Mainland Scotland - is the largest and best known of the Inner Hebrides. Renowned for its natural beauty and therefore a magnate for climbers, artists and photographers, it is perhaps not the first place one would think of to visit for a glorious shopping experience. Seek and ye shall find. The island looks tiny on the map but you'll need your entire holiday and more to discover even a small proportion of some of the area's hidden gems. I'd like to share one such shiny jewel with you. Ragamuffin is situated on the pier in Armadale, Sleat (pronounced 'slate') on the south western peninsula of the island. The little shop (strangely like a sheik's tent, it is actually bigger inside than it appears outside) sits overlooking the sea (Sound of Sleat) over to Mallaig. On entering the shop my first impression was one of a glorious visual feast of colour and textures. Closer inspection revealed clothes in fabrics of softest wool, silk, tweed, velvet, lace, denim and cotton in a wide range of styles from quirky and funky to casual chic. Rails and shelves held skirts of silk, velvet tunics, trousers, dresses, hats, scarves, gloves, wristlets, necklaces of silver and glittery beads, bangles and belts, soft toys so cuddly they cry out for adoption .... the list is huge. Here is possibly the best collection of designer knitwear and accessories under one roof. The designs are from all over the world (Oska, Clemente, Respond, Flax, Out of Exile) and are unique and beautiful. Most are in multi sizes so the larger lady is well catered for here. But these clever clothes, functional and fun, will appeal to all shapes and sizes. I am petite and I couldn't resist the purchase of an Out of Exile outfit of the softest green velvet skirt, with matching fitted tunic and waisted jacket. . The fabulous displays are so cleverly put together, the colours and fabrics so tempting and unusual, that when you see an 'outfit' on display you realise the possibilities immediately. My own taste tends towards the tonal in colour. I like my outfits to 'match'. But once I saw how a simple outfit could be enhanced by the casual touch of a glorious Salt scarf - I was reborn . The day I visited was fairly quiet in mid-winter. The atmosphere in the shop was welcoming. All the staff were warm, friendly and knowledgeable about the stock. If a customer is unsure about an outfit, help is at hand where you can be advised of the possibilities of your chosen outfit. If there is a down side to the experience it is that there isn't a formal changing room. I have never liked communal changing rooms and prefer to take my business elsewhere rather than submit myself to the indignities of such an experience. At Ragamuffin, there isn't so much a communal changing room as a sort of party atmosphere in a friend's house. The shop has a spiral staircase at its centre and if you want a little privacy to try on your garments, you take yourself off upstairs where you share space with the rest of the stock (which is probably clever retailing when you consider you will see even more 'stuff' and are able to try that on as well). Obviously, this changing area is not accessible to someone who finds it hard or impossible to negotiate stairs. Perhaps the management should re-think this and offer an alternative changing area. My next item is a plus and a minus. On the plus side, I earlier mentioned the welcoming atmosphere. Indeed, the staff fairly buzz with bonhomie and I was offered a cup of coffee and a biscuit before I was halfway in the shop. As it was a chilly day, the offer was welcome. However, on the minus side, if you have a weak bladder forego the coffee because the shop doesn't have toilet facilities. One customer had to pop over to the Caledonian Macbrayne ferry offices not far from the shop. Perhaps the staff would have let her use their private toilet but as there was a customer already upstairs trying on a garment .... you get the picture. The garments sold are mainly for women but there is a happy little section in a far corner where men have discovered jumpers by Scott Officer and Fishermen of Ireland and soft fleecy shirts. There are no children's clothes save for quirky jester slippers but the huge selection of gorgeous Jellycat soft toys should keep little ones amused whilst mum shops. I should know, I bought two Jellycat soft toys and I don't even like soft toys much. How do you get to Sleat? Just two hours from Inverness Airport, the Isle of Skye can be reached by car. You can go via Fort William to Mallaig and from Mallaig get the ferry over to Armadale. Once you leave the ferry look immediately to your left and there's Ragamuffin. Head straight for it, don't stop till you get there! The ferry operates all year round but has reduced sailings in winter and only sails on Sunday in high summer. You can also take the other route: turn right at Spean Bridge, take the A82 towards Invergarry. Turn left at Invergarry onto the A87 until you reach Kyle of Lochalsh. From Kyle, cross the Skye Bridge continuing on the A87 for 8 miles until you reach the left turning for Armadale. From here, you are 15 miles from Armadale. Follow the signs for Armadale Pier. There is little or no public transport on the island so you'd do well to an internet search for local hire car facilities. Ragamuffin has a great website which includes one of those whizzy panoramic cameras where you get to see the whole of the inside of the shop and its contents as the camera slowly moves around. The site includes substantial information on how to find the shop on Skye. Whether you are flying, sailing or going by train, Ragamuffin is reachable. One negative about the website is that it isn't up to date. The opening times are not those as stated (they are now open 9-5 Mon-Sat and 10-5 on Sundays, during the winter and then during the summer months they stay open until 6 or later) All the other information on the website regards travelling is relevant. I might just say here, that there is ample parking at the rear of the building. Lovely views over to Mallaig... perfect place to sit and contemplate after your shopping feast. However, there is little or no public transport on the island so you'd do well to consider hiring a car. There are taxi services if you don't drive yourself. Finally, I asked a member if staff if their stock was available for sale over the internet but unfortunately this is not a service they offer. Probably because the stock they carry is quite small. Huge on choice but perhaps only a handful of each size. But should you see something you absolutely covet and you travel home feeling virtuous because you didn't treat yourself ... and then realise you just really have to have it, you can phone up the shop and the item will be sent by post to you. Ragmuffin also has a shop in Edinburgh and I am told that they carry much the same stock as their shop on Skye but there was something exciting about shopping somewhere that is so unusual given its surroundings. I stood in that light and airy shop of many colours, cup of coffee in hand and stared out of a majestic window at the rolling sea and admired the full arc of a rainbow cutting a swathe across the mountains and beyond. I then turned to survey the fabulous clothes on display for my consideration. Yes indeed, deeply cool shopping experience." © Louise SaundersReport this
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