A new training restaurant and cookery courses are the flagship developments of a wider educational outreach programme by Lews Castle College UHI.

With January 2022 just days away, the college was unveiling a huge range of evening classes and flexible courses to support the local community.

Raising the curtain on what is on offer at the campus is a major new development and investment in the college’s long-standing reputation for culinary excellence.

The initiative - part of a long-term development project at Lews Castle College - follows months of working closely with Cala Hotels to address the growing needs of the local hospitality sector.

The result of this collaboration is a raft of training opportunities kicking off in January. These are aimed at people from all walks of life, be they employed within hospitality, hoping to gain employment in the sector in future, or wishing to up their skills in the kitchen at home.

“We are aware of the need to support local business, and in doing so the wider islands’ economy, by developing training opportunities for young people seeking to make a career in professional cookery,” says Head of Department, Michael Smith.

“Our NPA and NC courses have also attracted numerous adult returners, too, seeking to develop their skills in the professional cookery area to access a wide range of job opportunities locally.”

He continues: “A training restaurant is our planned next step to extend the range of new hospitality courses we can offer. This too will seek to train up students for future and existing employment opportunities in local businesses and so be a means to support the wider islands’ economy.”

The only thing that isn’t quite ready is the restaurant’s name. But a social media campaign is now underway to garner suggestions from the public.

The college kicked off the naming campaign on December 15 with a live Christmas cook along with Development Chef James Mackenzie. If you missed the live stream, a recording of the event is still available on the Lews Castle College Facebook page.

The yummy cook along was a taster for anyone interested in perfecting their skills in the kitchen. 

Led by James, formerly Chef and owner of the acclaimed Digby Chicks on Stornoway’s Bank Street, the live event was an ideal introduction to the evening cooking course he will be running shortly. 

The course is a rare opportunity to work with an expert chef and develop skills in the art of making desserts, baking, and pastries.

The evening class will cover the full spectrum of sweet-making, from basic pastry work to more elaborate desserts. The course will also include presentation tips and the use of seasonal ingredients in a wide range of contemporary and classic recipes.

The evening class is a companion course to Lews Castle College’s other highly-rated Food and Drink courses, such as their National Progression Award “Intro to Professional Cookery” and their National Certificate-accredited “Professional Cookery” course.

However, if cooking is not your thing, there is a huge range of other evening classes and flexible courses to choose from, all of which start in January.

So if you wish to get your 2022 off to a fresh start, check out the available courses and get in touch with the college for further information.

 To learn more about the college’s certificated cooking courses, go to:https://www.lews.uhi.ac.uk/subjects/food--drink/courses.

To find out more about evening classes and flexible courses, go to:


A short story of three researchers trapped in a sea of insects who quickly succumb to the inevitably of their fate is the winner of the first University of the Highlands and Islands Peter May fiction prize. 

Written by Gary Groves, aged 43,  from Elgin, titled ‘Monads', the winning submission, selected from a shortlist of five, wins £1000.

Kindly donated by Peter May in 2021, as part of the university's tenth birthday, this new prize provides a decade of student prizes for fictional writing.

Peter May, international bestselling crime writer, Scottish television screenwriter and novelist, said: "I wasn't quite sure what to expect and have been delighted with the quality of the shortlisted submissions. I want to praise all those who entered and encourage everyone to keep writing.

"Gary's work stood out. He draws us into the frightening, claustrophobic world of the research pod in this strange and compelling story.  He vividly delivers a metaphor of acceptance and surrender to age, with its accompanying deterioration of the mind. I look forward to reading what comes next."

Winning writer Gary, a student on the BA (Hons) creative writing in the Highlands and Islands said: "Receiving this prize has been a major confidence boost and it's been a real journey to get to this point.  I have so much gratitude for the people who make the course what it is, both lecturers and students, and Peter who has done an amazing thing in founding this new prize to support the development of creative writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands.

"When I started the course in 2018, I didn't know what to expect. I was a mature student returning to studying and was worried that I would be the odd one out in the class. Although I had written a number of short stories in the past, I had never actually shown them to anyone and was hesitant to let other people read what I had written. I'm in my third year now and I am already thinking about continuing to postgraduate studies."

The annual competition, coordinated by the university's development and alumni team, is open to all further and higher education students at the university and 2022 graduates. Submissions are welcomed in Gaelic, Scots or English by the 14 October 2022.

For more details on the entry process visit  https://www.uhi.ac.uk/en/development/scholarshipsandprizes/the-peter-may-fiction-prize/

Vicki Nairn has been appointed as vice-principal operations at the University of the Highlands and Islands and will lead on the design, development and service delivery of the university's professional services which support both the academic and corporate areas, and the management of strategic change programmes.

Vicki Nairn joins from Robert Gordon University where she is currently vice principal corporate operations, leading the development, delivery and implementation of corporate, financial, commercial and resource strategies.

Professor Todd Walker, principal and vice-chancellor, was delighted to appoint this second vice-principal to his senior executive team: "It is a privilege, as a vice-chancellor, to welcome a second new vice-principal to our senior team during the course of only one week.

"Vicki Nairn brings significant experience to this new role. She knows our partnership and operating area well, having served as an independent member of the university court and having spent 11 years as a member of the leadership team at the Highland Council. Vicki has also been appointed by the Scottish Government to the board of NHS Education for Scotland, which designs and delivers education and training for our NHS. She is an experienced public sector leader, delivering award winning and innovative outcomes in large and complex organisations.

"Vicki will work with the rest of our senior team to lead our ‘daring to be different' ethos, harness our energy and set new ambitions to bring values of public service, integrity and a commitment to the transformative power of education."

Vicki Nairn lives in the Black Isle and is looking forward to starting in the new year: "I am honoured to have been chosen to join the university and am looking forward to working with colleagues across the university partnership to deliver the new ‘Daring to be different' strategic plan.

"I have lived and worked across the north of Scotland for many years. So, I am delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with new colleagues, partners, stakeholders, business and communities to harness and enhance the amazing and transformational potential we have in our region.

Vicki Nairn will take up her post in February 2022.