Couple swap city life to run restaurant on island with population of just eight

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Many of us will have at one point dreamed of quitting city life for an idyllic island far away from the hustle and bustle.

Not many actually take the plunge, unless you’re like this couple who have just done that – taking over a restaurant on a tiny Scottish island with a population of just eight people.

Brendan Tyreman, 34, and Mark Elliott, 36, will open The Boathouse on the community-owned Isle of Ulva in the Inner Hebrides in April this year.

The couple fell for the island, which is only 12 km long by 4km wide, following a trip there as holidaymakers back in 2019.

While they fantasised about relocating to the idyllic location, the couple had never dreamed these plans would come to fruition, until Mark’s mum spotted an advert looking for new owners.

Mark explained: “It popped up on my mum’s phone about the sale and looking for new tenants.

“She sent it to me as a joke almost, but then we applied.

“It was a shortlist and an interview and then it happened just before Christmas and here we are.”

After almost nine years in the Scottish capital, the couple had longed for a quieter life and the opportunity felt like fate, Brendan explained.

He said: “We’ve both been intrigued by a more rural life and the last few years wanted to move somewhere.

“As much as we love Edinburgh, even during the first lockdown it was still a bit too busy and noisy for us.

“So it was screaming volumes it was maybe time, and then when this opportunity came along.

“Having been there we’d been on a pilgrimage, so it kind of felt that it was calling us.

The move will not be without its challenges however, with the couple wrestling with the intricacies of the supply chain on an island with no cars or tarmac roads.

Brendan explained: “So from the mainland there’s a ferry to Mull and then another one to Ulva, so logistically it will be very complex.

Mark added: “But there’s ways of working it. It seems like people help each other out, so there’s a shop in Salen that helps with deliveries, things like that.”

The couple, who met during Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, are used to working with each other in their respective roles with UPMO, a charity supporting adults with learning disabilities.

“When we met we were working for the Fringe, hellish 16 hours days. But I’m pretty sure we work out best together,” said Brendan.

However, they face a challenge trying to find somewhere to live, with a lack of affordable housing on the island.

Joking that they face the prospect of “living in a tent” for their first few months, the couple will also need to adapt to life on the island with just six neighbours after years of being city-dwellers.

Brendan explained: “We’re prepared to go in very delicately, because we have to integrate ourselves.

“So we don’t want to stomp around the place and take ownership of anything.

“We just want to be as respectful as we can.”

It’s a philosophy which the couple hope to extend to their restaurant as well.

Mark, who is a professional chef, explained: “We love celebrating the local produce, the fantastic seafood and keeping it very simple.

“The intention is to celebrate the simplicity of beautiful food. The provenance of is very important.

“When we visited the focus was on local ingredients and quality food done well, so we’ll start the same.”

Brendan and Mark hope the island’s Tier Three status means they will be open for the tourist season this year. And if not, they say they will take their time getting to know their new surroundings.

“We’re thinking optimistically about it – this must end,” said Mark.

Brendan added: “Obviously we hope the tourist season kicks off this year, but if not I think we’ll quite enjoy having the time to ourselves on the island.”