Based in the heart of the Trossachs, Achray Farm, is Scotland’s only goat's milk ice-cream producer; offering a unique range of flavours using foraged ingredients and local farm produce.
Since moving to Achray Farm in 2016, smallholders Nicola Hornsby and Crispin Hoult have built up a small herd of goats. Nicola makes the ice cream in small batches using seasonal ingredients such as elderflower, meadowsweet, rhubarb and strawberry, fresh mint, blackcurrant, lavender and lemon balm and bramble swirl – all of which have come from the farm itself or within walking distance of it. As the milk is fresh and non-homogenised there is no ‘goaty taste’.
Last year Nicola took part in Wildwonders, a training programme funded by Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER, on which she learnt about finding, identifying and using wild ingredients from some of the foremost foragers and foraging chefs in Scotland.
Since then, Achray Farm have set up the “Ice Cream Cabin” and a mobile ice cream trike for delivering ice cream locally.
REWARD FOR WALKERS AND CYCLISTS
Nicola and Crispin are committed to reducing food miles and carbon emissions and encourage visitors to the farm to travel on foot or by bike. Achray Farm sits on the Great Trossachs Path with easy access from the Byre Inn or the Three Lochs Forest Drive. The NCN7 Lochs and Glen Way links many of the villages and routes in the area, and goes almost past the door of the farm.
Nicola said: “We’ve been delighted with the response to the ice creams we’ve produced so far. We’ve developed Achray with sustainability at its heart so producing ice cream with our own goats’ milk and fruit and selling it to those who’ve walked or cycled here, is a real thrill! It’s lovely to be able to reward those who’ve made use of the walking routes and cycle paths through this beautiful part of the world with something really delicious. It’s also a joy to start to use the knowledge and skills I gained on the Wildwonders foraging course last year by introducing visitors to the wild and seasonal gifts that grow on our doorstep. There will be many more wild and seasonal flavours to come!”
The goat herd at Achray Farm are fed on a varied diet and also forage themselves on the Achray Grazings that run down to Loch Achray. Nicola is experimenting with developing forage within the farm, which will also improve the soil and increase biodiversity. This includes planting willow to coppice, seeding areas of herbal ley, and growing Jerusalem artichokes perennially. The goats are also fed small quantities of Scottish seaweed meal, which is rich in minerals and nutrients and which Nicola also hopes will significantly reduce methane emissions from the goats
Nicola was inspired to start learning about goats and researching the possibility of having them on the farm after visiting a small scale cheese producer in the Ardeche National Park. Particularly inspirational was the experience of walking with the whole herd of 60 goats as they foraged through woodland on one of their twice daily walks. Their owner knew every one of their names!
Ria and Pan were the first goats to arrive at Achray Farm in 2017 and since then the herd has slowly grown to 10. Whilst the herd will inevitably grow a little larger next year, the aim is for Achray Farm to stay as a “nano” dairy, providing a high welfare/low impact approach with “rest years” for goats when they don’t kid, keeping goats and kids together and offering them space to forage naturally.
Nicola and Crispin launched their ice cream in July 2020. As well as selling direct from the farm to walkers and cyclists, they have plans to sell their produce through local online farmers’ markets such as NeighbourFood and local shops; as well as at local events making full use of their portable ice cream cabin.