Thrifting in the Outer Hebrides

Luskentyre Beach, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland. I know, right?

My husband and I recently visited Scotland for the third time, this time focusing on the Outer Hebrides and the Isle of Skye. I knew from previous visits that Scotland is a haven for charity shops, with even the smallest places having at least one shop and this trip was no different.

I had a couple of things in mind before we even left for Scotland. One of the things John and I always do before a trip is try and read novels set in the place where we are visiting. We find this gives us a unique look into the culture and character of a place. For this trip, we read Peter May’s trilogy: Blackhouse, The Lewis Man and The Chess Men and we fell in love with his writing and the setting. I also read Seasons on Harris: A Year in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides by David Yeadon – not a novel but a travel memoir that was also a good read. I had looked for several other books as well but found that they were either out of print or not available even through amazon, so I knew that I would be looking for some books at thrift shops. Once again, thrift didn’t disappoint!

i noticed that bunting is a common way to decorate things in Scotland

My first thrift shop was the Harris Charity Shop in Tarbert, Isle of Harris. The lovely, wee shop is housed in a mobile home adjacent to the parking lot of the tourist info centre – great location. It’s small, as you can see, but the shop supports many organizations that help elderly people and those living with developmental disabilities (which interested me, since I work for an organization that does the same.)

i also collect rocks and shells from every beach we visit. does anyone else do this crazy thing?

I found one of the books I had hoped to get – Sea Room, an Island Life by Adam Nicolson. Cost me a whopping 75p (about $1.30).

Blythswood was the largest of the three shops I visited

A few days later we visited Stornoway, the largest town on the isle of Harris and Lewis. I had done my research and discovered several shops. We visited three: the British Red Cross, Blythswood Care, and Save the Children.

This shop had the most provocative sign.

Like many charity shops in Scotland, these were all located in the heart of the tourist area in Stornoway, which always surprises me. Each shop was tiny but beautifully arranged, tidy and staffed with friendly volunteers.

The British Red Cross Charity shop overlooking the harbour in Stornoway

I didn’t find anything that I was looking for in any of the shops but I took note of one thing in the British Red Cross shop that was unique.

such a smart use of a tag!

One of the things that all the British Red Cross shops does so well is use their price tags to convey a ton of information to shoppers. Why all shops don’t make better use of this little piece of real estate is beyond me. It’s such a simple way of reminding shoppers that their purchase supports a charity.

This time around, I noted that some items also included this giftaid tag and asked the volunteer what it meant.

What I learned was that as a person donating an item, I can indicate that I want the British Red Cross to act as the agent to sell the items I’ve donated and indicate that they can collect an extra 25p for every 1 pound that is paid for an item. It’s a unique way to donate a portion of your taxes back to a charity. What a great idea!

Next week: Thrifting on the Isle of Skye

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