When the Isle of Harris Distillery launched their “mainland” ceilidh at The Ubiquitous Chip in Glasgow last year, organisers could not have foreseen that it would be one of the last major events before lockdown. 

While life has changed drastically as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not deterring those at the Isle of Harris Distillery from giving a taste of island life, even if it requires a virtual audience. 

The team has worked together to host a virtual ceilidh this weekend in a bid to lift spirits, support local artists, and bring folk together, with over 200 registering an interest in the event.


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Guests will be able to enjoy live music, hear spoken Gaelic, and share stories from the island as well as the history of the Isle of Harris Distillery which was opened in October 2015, in the harbour village of Tarbert.  

Virtual party-goers will have the chance to ask the head Tour Guide at the distillery questions about the products with sign-ups from around the world with guests registering interest from Texas, New York, Melbourne and Amsterdam.

Speaking exclusively to The Herald, Calum Barker and Iona Cairns, brand ambassadors for Isle of Harris Distillery, who will also be hosting the event, gave insight into the reasons behind the virtual ceilidh. 

Callum said: “The concept of hosting cèilidhs stemmed from our desire to re-create a traditional Highlands and islands house cèilidh, bringing with it all the warmth and welcoming atmosphere that we were so used to growing up. We wanted to offer folk a slice of island life on the mainland (or in this case, online).


 “Our lives were thrown upside down by the pandemic. The distillery had to close its doors to visitors and as the Brand Ambassadors based on the mainland, we have not been able to visit the island since last January. 

“However, the current situation has given us the opportunity to reach out to our community online. With us being on the mainland, we were wondering what we could do for folk during these challenging times.”


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He added: “We also wanted to offer musicians, many of whom are close friends of ours an opportunity to perform to a live audience. Equally, it gives our participants the opportunity to hear live music, something which has been very hard to come by over the past few months. 

“We have three fantastic musicians joining us on Saturday, composer and songwriter Josie Duncan, fiddle player Shona Masson and accordion player Graham MacIllinnein.”

On what would be a success for the event, Iona added: “Success is simply seeing so many smiling, happy faces on our screens as they listen to traditional music, Gaelic songs and island stories from the comfort of their own home. 


“During such a difficult period, it has been so important for us to be able to reach out to our supporters and to offer them a wee escape from all of the pressure this pandemic has inflicted on people. If we can offer folk even a small release then it will have been more than worth it in our eyes.”

Last year, the Isle of Harris Distillers secured funding to support a planned expansion into Asia and the US as well as moves to boost its presence in European markets and Canada.

The event will take place on Saturday 30th of January at 8pm UK time, with hosts, Iona Cairns and Calum Barker, joined by three musical guests – composer and songwriter Josie Duncan, fiddle player Shona Masson and accordion player Graham MacIllinnein.

To register an interest in the ceilidh email mike@harrisdistillery.com to receive a Zoom invite and details on how to join.