AWAY in a Manger on the bagpipes blared from loudspeakers and there was even a celebrity millionaire to turn on the festive lights.

Christmas, Harrods style, came to the Highlands yesterday and it was a massive success. An estimated 10,000 people visited the former tourist information office between Achany Forest and the Falls of Shin throughout the day. It was bought by Mohammed Al Fayed in June and is now the most northerly outpost of his Knightsbridge store.

The shop managers predicted they would take at least (pounds) 10,000 yesterday - more than three times their previous best of (pounds) 3000.

The man himself appeared to switch on 10,000 fairy lights on the Christmas tree and was mobbed by more than 500 people desperate to meet and photograph him.

Even more would have come had the single track B864 not been so congested. Mr Al Fayed responded by dispensing jelly beans with considerable vigour.

One enthusiastic onlooker said: ''He is a famous celebrity, but he has done so much for this part of the world. You probably wouldn't get such a crowd for royalty these days.''

Mr Al Fayed, sporting a Harrods tartan jacket, was clearly touched by the reception. ''It's wonderful isn't it,'' he said. ''I am Scots originally as you know. These are lovely ordinary people who appreciate this different type of celebration and somebody who cares about them.

Scottish nation

''This is a beautiful location and attracts a lot of tourists from everywhere. It is something for the community to bring tourists here to spend money and to enjoy the real beauty of Scotland.''

He went on to explain why, 35 years ago, he had bought the 65,000-acre estate between Balnagowan, the traditional seat of the Clan Ross, to Invercassley and Duchally in Sutherland, and in so doing revealed the origins of the Scottish nation.

He said: ''This place is very close to by heart. It is my estate. It is my people all around the place. It is nice to give them something of pleasure and a taste of Harrods.

''Do you know why I came here 35 years ago? Because I studied in my primary school history that Egyptians discovered Scotland. That is the only reason I came here.''

He then called for a book - A History Book for Scotland: Selections from Scotichronicon by the 15th century writer Walter Bower - which he said proved this.

He invited a local reporter to read: ''From various writings of ancient chroniclers we deduce that the nation of the Scots is of ancient stock, taking its first beginning from the Greeks and those of the Egyptians who were left after the rest of them had been drowned in the Red Sea along with their king.''

Mr Al Fayed then distributed copies of the book to all journalists present, but the real business of the day was to open the seasonal Falls of Shin Christmas World 2002.

According to Mr Fayed's publicity material, ''This will create an incredible, magical venue for all the family to enjoy in the run-up to Christmas. Harrods have brought their traditional Christmas style and family values north.

''It is a unique opportunity for everyone to enjoy the extravagance of Harrods's Christmas World and the outdoor attractions of Falls of Shin as well as purchase exclusive high-quality Harrods branded goods and Harrods Christmas gifts that are not available anywhere else except Harrods Knightsbridge.''

Yesterday, these included a (pounds) 30 Harrods Christmas hamper filled with two tubs of biscuits, barley sugar, some orange treacle and fudge.

There were bottles of Harrods blended whisky at almost (pounds) 17, Glenmorangie at (pounds) 28.50, shortbread at (pounds) 4.50 and a teddy bear for (pounds) 25.

''There was also pot pourri at (pounds) 25,'' Sheila Shepherd from Alness said, ''which I thought was a bit much given you can get it for (pounds) 6 or (pounds) 7 elsewhere.'' She and her husband, David, had come from Alness in Easter Ross.

''It's the Harrods name you pay for. I have bought a couple of wee things but I think you can take it we won't be doing the bulk of our Christmas shopping here.''

It was the same for the McIntyre family who had travelled the 80-odd miles from Aviemore.

Neil, a wildlife photographer, said it was as much about a day out as shopping.

He said: ''We heard on local radio and thought we would come because we hadn't been this way for a long time.''

Daughter Roma, nine, did buy a book and a few small presents ''so we have the Harrods bag''.

A local businessman said ''Harrods, not in Glasgow, not in Edinburgh or even Inverness but here in Shin, it's great.

''It has to be said there was an opening in the Christmas market in the Lairg/Bonar Bridge area.''

The Falls of Shin centre, which Mr Al Fayed intends trebling in size, is the biggest tourist destination north of Inverness with the exception of John O'Groats and attracts around 100,000 visitors a year.

A tale of two stores

Harrods Sutherland

Address Just off the B864 at the Falls of Shin, Sutherland

Size 2500 sq ft wooden cabin

Opened Summer 2002

Customers Record of 10,000 in one day

Harrods Knightsbridge

Address Seven-storey building in Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London

Opened as small grocer's shop in 1849

Size More than 300 departments employing 4000 staff

Customers Up to 300,000 per day