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20 Dec 2023

Meet the Makers: Finlay from Chocolates of Glenshiel

A smiling young man wearing an apron over a patterned jumper stands at the base of mountains and beside a loch.
Finlay MacDonald from Chocolates of Glenshiel
The Trust is proud to support talented makers and craftspeople from across Scotland, by selling their products in our physical and online shops. This time, we meet Finlay from Chocolates of Glenshiel.

Please introduce yourself and your business

My name is Finlay MacDonald. I live in the Highlands with my wife Heather and our collie Bru. I’m the founder of Chocolates of Glenshiel, an artisanal chocolate company creating a taste of Scotland by using fresh, local ingredients.

Where are you based?

As the company name suggests, we’re based in Glenshiel in the West Highlands, about half an hour south of Kyle of Lochalsh. Our business sits right at the foot of The Five Sisters of Kintail mountain range, so we’re really spoiled for views. The area is filled with some amazing wildlife like a herd of feral goats, eagles, and of course plenty of deer. There are loads of fantastic walking routes for all abilities and we also have Loch Duich which is super for wild swimming, paddle-boarding and kayaking; so it’s a real shame that until recently, we didn’t have much tourism in the area. Glenshiel has mostly been a place tourists drove through on their way further north to Skye, rather than to. Things are starting to change now. I’d like to think we’ve had a bit of a hand in that. I hope so anyway – Glenshiel has a lot to offer.

The Five Sisters of Kintail

When and how did you start your business?

I’ve had a huge passion for food – and a very sweet tooth – ever since I was a wee boy. In school, I had the opportunity to do some work experience in a pastry kitchen and I found that not only did I really enjoy it, but I was good at delicate, intricate baking. I then was fortunate enough to be allowed some chocolate-making experience where I put these baking skills to good use, and here I found my niche. I loved it! In my later years of high school, I started making chocolate as a hobby, saving up pocket money for new bits of kit.

When I left high school I was faced with the choice of staying in my beloved Highland home where there are very few career prospects for young people or heading down south to Reading University, where I had been offered a place. The thought of leaving the Highlands, if only for a few years, wasn’t appealing to me – I love it here. So I thought, why not give chocolate making a serious go? I had some skills and living in the Scottish Highlands, I was (and am) surrounded by some truly exceptional local produce, which lends itself exceedingly well to chocolate production. I gave it a chance and founded Chocolates of Glenshiel, and I’ve never looked back!

What products do you make/design/create?

At Chocolates of Glenshiel, we create both filled chocolates and chocolate bars. Our filled chocolates come in a variety of selections, and we think we’ve got something to suit everyone. From the Scottish Gin Selection featuring some of our favourite gins from around the country, each one with its own unique botanicals and flavours, to our Salted Caramel Selection using Isle of Skye Sea Salt combined with our own caramel and some other delicious ingredients like shortbread and sticky toffee pudding.

At the moment, we have a range of eight chocolate bars. Over the years, we’ve spent a lot of time selecting the right ingredients and pairing them with the right chocolate to create this range, and we’re really proud of it. We have a really nice mixture of flavours, from roasted coffee beans from Inverness to crumbly tablet from the north of Skye.

What makes your business unique?

Our passion for sourcing only the very best Scottish ingredients is what makes us unique. Each and every member of our team absolutely delights in finding exciting new fresh, local ingredients; bringing them back to the kitchen and getting creative. We’re very strict when it comes to what makes the cut, but the process is always tons of fun.

Given that we make our products in such a beautiful area of the Highlands, it only makes sense to root each chocolate right here. We think our chocolates are a lovely way for tourists to try a wee taste of Scotland and for Scots to maybe even have a taste of something new!

Are there any eco-credentials you can mention?

Sustainability is a hugely important factor in each decision we make within the business. The cocoa industry is very much not without its issues – both socially and environmentally. When sourcing our cocoa, we’re extremely choosy in order to make sure we can be proud of where our chocolates have come from. Our supplier is enrolled in both the Cocoa Horizons and Forever Chocolate Initiatives which are tackling poverty and child labour within the industry as well as fighting for 100% sustainable sources and carbon and forest positivity.

Our packaging is 100% plastic free and fully recyclable. Additionally, by sourcing everything as locally as possible, we keep our carbon footprint to a minimum. We also have electric car charging points at our shop, so if you’re driving an environmentally responsible car around the Highlands and find yourself needing to recharge, look no further!

What’s your favourite thing about your business/running your business?

As I’ve mentioned previously, getting stuck-in in the kitchen and conjuring up exciting new recipes is a highlight for me, but my other favourite thing is meeting our lovely customers. We are fortunate enough to receive visitors from all around the world in Glenshiel, and I love having a chat with them and telling them all about our chocolates. Everyone loves chocolate, so people are always eager to learn!

A man in an apron filling a mould with chocolate in a kitchen.

What’s the proudest moment of your business career?

The proudest moment we’ve had so far is opening our chocolate visitor centre. We used to run out of a wee cabin right on the banks of Loch Duich and whilst it was lovely and did offer us some gorgeous views, it fast became too wee. We didn’t have much room to welcome customers in and production demand soon meant that our chocolatiers were struggling to cope with the lack of space. In the summer of 2021, we took over an old petrol station just down the road on the A87, at the foot of the Five Sisters and we turned it into a chocolate café and gift shop and built a shiny new chocolate kitchen. Having a proper brand home where our customers can come and not only learn about our chocolates, see how they’re made and taste them, but also have a seat and a cake and a coffee (or one of our very yummy hot chocolates), has really made such a huge difference to us. The renovation was a huge amount of work and ended up taking much longer than we’d expected, but it was so worth it. When I step back and see how far we’ve come, I still have to pinch myself a bit.

What is your favourite Trust place?

Oh there’s lots of great ones to choose from! I think my favourite might be Inverewe. It has such an interesting story behind it and it’s so amazing to see such a huge selection of plant species from all over the world brought together in the Scottish Highlands.


How did you/your business start working with the Trust?

The Trust has been lovely enough to introduce our chocolates into a few locations including the Glencoe Visitor Centre and the Glenfinnan Monument, as well my favourite Inverewe.

What’s your favourite product that you supply to the Trust and what was the inspiration behind creating it?

Now that’s a tough one! My answer would probably change depending on what day you asked me to be honest, but today I think it’s our Scottish Raspberry and White Chocolate bar. We use freeze-dried raspberries from Blairgowrie in Perthshire and combine them with our smooth white chocolate. The result is a very intriguing combination of textures and flavours, with the tart ‘zingy-ness’ of the fruit perfectly complimenting the sweetness of the chocolate. The raspberries add a wee crunch too, which is always lovely when paired with chocolate, if you ask me. The bar even looks gorgeous as the bright red/pink of the raspberries really stands out on the white chocolate.

A white chocolate and raspberry flavoured chocolate bar with pieces of white chocolate and raspberries around it, on a wooden background.
The Chocolates of Glenshiel White Chocolate and Scottish Raspberry bar.

What do you love about Scotland? #fortheloveofscotland

There are very few things not to love about Scotland really (besides the midges and the rain). As you might’ve gathered, the phenomenal food and drink the country produces is my favourite thing. Besides that though, I really love how scenic the place is. There’s the rugged mountains in the glens – which is maybe what we’re most famous for – but there’s also the stunning white beaches in the Highlands; blue lochs for as far as the eye can see; the Edinburgh skyline; the centuries-old castles; the picturesque seaside towns. The scenery is so varied and so beautiful. I’ll never grow tired of exploring and discovering new areas. There really is so much to see.

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A bottle of pink gin stands on a polished wooden table, with a small bottle of gin to one side and a large gin glass filled with gin & tonic to the other. >