Eilidh Carr – Photographer & Coralbox owner, Berneray

By Julia Welstead

Eilidh Carr remembers playing ‘shop’ as a kid, so setting up shop for real in her home island of Berneray came naturally to this enterprising and talented artist. Having studied photography at Aberdeen University, Eilidh chose to move home in 2015 to pursue her art in the inspiring land, sea and sky scapes of her childhood.

Coralbox was born, and found initial success through craft fairs and table-top sales. High commission rates and limited shelf space in other local shops was frustrating, so Eilidh took a bold leap of faith and set up her own shop, initially in a caravan. The business rapidly outgrew this space, and Eilidh and her father designed and built a delightful bespoke wooden gift shop for Coralbox to expand into. 

Coralbox

Looking around the shelves packed with a range of arts and crafts to please every customer, I can see why the extra space was needed, and it’s a joy to browse. Whilst I’m there several folk call in, for a blether with Eilidh and a nose through any new delights. As she says, this is a hub as much as a shop. Pre-covid she had a coffee machine, and hopes to bring it back.

Covid-19 lockdowns could have been a disaster for such a new enterprise, but online sales through isle20 and Coralbox helped the business to thrive and flourish. Eilidh’s time is fully occupied with the shop, making her own products (printing her glorious photos onto mugs, t-towels, coasters etc) and exploring Berneray with her camera and drone. She’s also a keen paddleboarder and sea-swimmer.

Enthusiastic to share the beauty of Berneray, Eilidh and her family set up coralboxwebcam, which is watched the world over. Social media followers also get regular updates on solo adventures in her gorgeous home-converted campervan, a tour of which has given me new ideas for my own van. 

Eilidh gives her top reasons for choosing to come home as, “peace, a quiet life, and family” and adds that there are increasing numbers of ‘young returners’ – local kids who are choosing to return to their island homelands after a few years away at university, travelling or working. Despite the increasingly problematic housing shortage (as more houses become holiday lets and no new housing stock has been built since the mid 1990s) living with a deep sense of place, of kith and kin, of belonging, is becoming a priority for many.

“I received no funding or grants to start up my business or build, which at the time was difficult and hard work but now looking back, means I have achieved everything myself, which I am so proud of.”

Showing what’s possible with vision and hard work, this singular, intrepid and joyous young woman has achieved a dramatic turnaround from her initial situation, to create her own shop that stocks other makers’ products as well as her own.

Browse Coralbox on isle20!

This series is written by Julia Welstead in partnership with the Scottish Islands Passport. The Scottish Islands Passport App can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple’s App Store. A physical copy of the Meet the Makers Travelogue is available in the shop.

We love the Scottish Islands Passports’ Island-Centred Ethos, especially how the app also highlights ways you can contribute to the islands you love.

Read the rest of Julia’s series, and meet more amazing island makers.

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