There are times when you stumble across something really quite special.
In the middle of a break on the Isle of Skye, Avril and I rounded a corner on a single track road in and instantly recognised a wooden house which was featured on the TV show Grand Designs. I’m going to try to explain what happened next…
The house is stunning but our attention was drawn to the small studio behind the main house and the sign on the fence… Single Track Art & Espresso. It was that time of the day when a coffee seems like the best idea in the world but art and coffee in a brilliantly designed building… what’s not to like?
As we entered the cafe we immediately felt really welcome. It’s hard to explain why. The space is relaxed with a counter to sit at around two sides and four tables together in the centre of the room. There are no separate tables so the people who were there, both locals and tourists, were chatting about where to go, what to see and where they had come from. Indi, the owner/barista, was making coffee and drawing people gently into the conversation.
(Photo from https://www.facebook.com/SingleTrackSkye)
People were just leaving when we arrived. We were guided through the menu of coffee, hot chocolate (no ordinary chocolate!) and teas. Tea was only added to the menu when the tea shop along the road decided not to open. Complementary not competition was the motivation here.
We ordered a flat white for me and a hot chocolate with chilli and stuff for Avril and cake. As Indi made our drinks she told us that Single Track had only been open for a couple of weeks. It was an experiment that had grown organically out of a couple of gatherings of friends and wondering how this space could add something special to an already special place. Artisan coffee and chocolate was the answer.
A young couple arrived and ordered takeaway coffee, just at the time the bank was due. In island communities the bank comes to you, in a van, with a man in a suit and everything.
The bank and the couple left leaving us to chat more with Indi about art, coffee and Moleskine notebooks. She’s a big fan of my favourite notebooks so we chatted about evernote, the mobile app which can link to your notebook using smart stickers. Anyone who has a Moleskine catalogue as part of the reading material in a cafe has life sussed as far as I’m concerned!
The drinks were fantastic and the view…
Well, the view is something else.
We chatted and drank and looked out the window and chatted some more. Then we left with cakes. The bank coming had interrupted the cake serving but it really didn’t matter. We would be back. We tweeted @singletrackskye to say so.
In fact we ended up back the very next day. It was the first thing we said in the morning… ‘Let’s go back there today.’
But why? Sure, the coffee is better than great and the hot chocolate is pretty special, but why drive 12 miles for a drink? Because we weren’t going there for the drinks, or even the cakes.
We were going for the community.
I’m still trying to work out what it is about this small space that is so special. It could be the design, the view, the cups, the art, the coffee, the host, the way the tables encourage conversation or allow you just to stare out the window, the Moleskine notebooks, pencils and pens, the yellow chairs…
Perhaps it’s just the sum of its parts.
I think it is more likely that all of this is deliberate. Creating this kind of community is never accidental. It takes work, persistence, design and vision. And it works.
Single Track Art & Espresso is more than a coffee shop. It’s a community centre that brings together the local people of Skye and those who come to this amazing island to visit. It creates a space where everyone is part of the same community for a while, where stories of travels are encouraged, where advice is shared and coffee and hot chocolate are elevated to the same artistic expression as the paintings on the wall.
It is special.
Go there. And tell Indi we sent you.