Highland Fold Ice Cream's Story

Taste of Place Trails Stories

Jane Isaacson grew up on a croft where they raised cows, among other things, so when she was offered the opportunity to take on the farm at Barcaldine, the idea of having some cattle settled at the back of her mind. She was insistent that she didn’t want Highland cows, though, until she realised that the high fat content in Highlander milk might lend itself to making ice cream. She was driving past a field of Highland cattle one day, with crowds of tourists taking their pictures, when she had what she describes as “a lightbulb moment”. Jane got to work experimenting with making ice cream from the milk of Highland cows, and Highland Fold Ice Cream was born.

Turning ideas into reality

From there, it took Jane two years to set up her business on the farm, getting herself a small fold of Highlanders, kitting out a kitchen for production of the ice cream and converting a trailer to take to shows and events. Her trailer’s first outing was to the Appin Show in 2017, and from there things started to take off, with events throughout the summer and stockists buying her ice cream wholesale. But, not long into Highland Fold Ice Cream’s short life, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and many of Jane’s sources of income disappeared. Despite the local community being very supportive of her business through multiple lockdowns, Jane realised she had to adapt if she was going to be able to navigate the uncharted territory that inevitably lay ahead. Her first step was to convert one of the buildings on the farm into an ice cream cafe, with an outdoor garden area, where people could come and enjoy some ice cream even if restrictions meant they couldn’t sit indoors. Jane added car parking too, but made a conscious effort not to broadcast it too widely – “it’s mostly local trade and I’m trying to keep it that way, so it’s small and discreet and not overrun with too many people.” Then, when the new cafe had found its feet and restrictions seemed to be easing off again, it just so happened that the space which now houses the Highland Fold ice cream shop in Oban became available as Jane was trying to figure out her next move. It was a risk, Jane admits, with the world still in turmoil and no real sense of how the future might look, but she took the gamble – signing the lease on Christmas Eve of 2020.

It would take another five months before the new shop could finally open in May last year, but when it did it soon became clear it had been worth the wait, and worth the risk. Jane likes that the two venues are very different, the farm cafe is small and intimate and mostly serves locals, while the shop in town is busier and more central, serving delicious local ice cream to tourists and visitors to Oban.

Inspiring locations

Jane credits her upbringing on the croft in Glengarry as being the inspiration for a lot of what she is doing now. She describes her childhood home as “the absolute back of beyond”, where they grew a lot of their own food and where her dad was passionate about food being as sustainable as possible. She says “the key and heart of our whole business is the sustainability of the food, where it comes from, local produce and reducing food miles.” This makes her more creative with flavours, she says, than if she were relying on those we’ve come to expect in ice cream like vanilla, for example. Jane wants to keep her ice cream as local as possible, and says she is “trying to use flavours from here and not importing anything we don’t have to, and if we do have to, making sure that we’re on a sustainable trail. So ethics and human rights and all of those things in the products that we’re using are really important.” One of her goals for this year is to phase out imported vanilla, with meadowsweet that grows naturally on the farm being a surprisingly effective alternative. “It’s like a weed here, and we just harvest it and make sugar from it … it’s amazing. It’s got a slightly almondy taste, it’s a sweet delicious taste and it’s full of properties that are good for us.” Jane is keen to experiment with other foraged ingredients too, with nettles and birch sap on her list to try next – “all these beautiful flavours,” she says, “that we should be using.” Jane accepts that not everything can be grown on the farm, though, and says “you can’t really have an ice cream parlour without chocolate or coffee”, but where ingredients from further afield can’t be easily replaced she works with ethical growers and producers to make sure it’s as fair and sustainable as possible.

The key ingredients of success

It’s obvious that Jane’s creativity and imagination is as much at the heart of her business as her values and ethics. “It’s incredibly creative and fun”, she says, describing the ice cream celebration cakes that she makes to order, and the flavours of her special Highlander ice creams. There’s the Pure Highlander ice cream, “it’s our signature product and it’s just delicious”, Jane says, “it’s what we made first and everybody loves it.” There’s also Highland Meadow, which is flavoured with the aforementioned meadowsweet, and Minty Highlander, which is infused with mint grown in Jane’s garden. They make ice cream with other milk, too, but it’s the Highlander milk that really sets Highland Fold Ice Cream apart – as far as Jane knows it’s the only Highland cow ice cream in the world.

Jane is very open about how passionate she is about her business. “I love the shop, I love the barn, I just love the whole business. It’s funny feeling passionate about what you do, because I’ve always enjoyed my job but I just love this, I really do.” Jane has exciting projects in the pipeline, with plans in motion for a bike delivery service around Oban and bespoke recipe development underway for the cafe on the platform at Glenfinnan train station which welcomes the famous Harry Potter train. The joy and enthusiasm Jane brings to every part of the business is palpable, and with a new team just hired to provide extra support in the cafe and shop through the busy summer months to come, the transformations that Highland Fold Ice Cream has been through over recent years seem set to pay off.

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