Friends of Culzean

Supporting the National Trust for Scotland's Culzean Castle and Country Park

A Charitable Company Limited By Guarantee

Company No: 317093  Scottish Charity No: SC037983

The Shops at Culzean

Linda O'Brien took charge of retail operations at Culzean Castle and Country Park 10 years ago after 10 years experience in retail management with Safeways. She originally studied Art and Design and although at first glance that seems a big difference between art and design and the retail world one only has to look at the shop displays and layouts at Culzean to see that her talent in art and design is being put to good use. Although building on her experiences at Safeways, Linda told me that working at Culzean has been very different both from a management and artistic point of view. During her time at Culzean, she has overseen a considerable amount of change in its retail activities.

When she first arrived, the only shop was situated in the castle kitchen, and it was not long before she moved the shop to the coach house, opposite the castle, allowing the kitchen to be restored into its current splendour as the Victorian kitchen. The next move was out of the coach house and up to the Country Park shop, a short way down the path from home farm, where the major problem was that none of visitors could find it! It then moved into one of the buildings around the home farm courtyard, opposite the information Centre. A second shop was opened in its current position near the castle. A few years ago the kiosk near the ruined arch was converted into Candies@Culzean specialising in a wonderful range of traditional candies, boiled sweets, flavoured liquorices and other classic traditional sweets to, very successfully, entice visitors, young and old alike, into sampling its delicious treats.

Candies@Culzean have an increasing range of products with their own labelling and adorned with an image of the castle, making them an even more attractive and relevant gift. Just recently, the shop at home farm has moved into the information area with far more space, a bright glass frontage, and has incorporated the information Centre and NTS subscriptions into the shop's activities. The exhibition upstairs, and the auditorium are of course still fully operational. The vacated area has become a food shop specialising in a wonderful range of quality produce with a particular emphasis on Ayrshire products including for example, Arran dairy products and beers and Dunlop cheeses.

Linda has a constant eye to the future and likes to excite both new and regular visitors with new products and changes to the shop layouts. Ready for next Easter, Linda is moving the food displays into the main shop in the visitor centre and is converting the current food shop into a traditional toy shop packed with all the wonderful toys us slightly older generation, and those even older, used to play with. There will be lots of lovely wooden toys, kites, puppets (do you remember Sooty and Sweep?), and traditional things like hoops and skipping ropes and no... not a "Game Boy" in sight!

Linda pointed out that it was in September that she made the bulk of her Christmas sales. However, the shop is fully stocked and is open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday until the 17th of December from 11 o'clock in the morning to four o'clock in the evening. The shop will reopen on the 11th of January. The home farm restaurant is also open at the same times. Why not come along to Victorian Christmas at Culzean on Sundays the 3rd and 10th December and do some Christmas shopping at the same time?

A superb idea that would keep friends and family happily occupied throughout the Christmas period would be to invest in the new National Trust for Scotland game called Quest. This is the NTS version of the Scottish Quest game that has sold over 10,000 copies. Selling at 37.50p, it is competitively priced against other quality games such as Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly. The game incorporates 2400 questions of which over a thousand relate in some way to NTS properties. There are multichoice answers should you choose and an excellent booklet that gives you more information about the answers to each of the questions. The object of the game is to travel round Scotland in search of the five letters QUEST and to return them to the NTS headquarters in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. On the way you must answer questions, and gather money so you can buy your ferry tickets and plane tickets to continue your travels. This is a really excellent game, and is for 2 to 6 players, aged 14 and above. Why not pop into the shop and have a look?