Creating community around coffee and art

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?

single track 2

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.

Single Track(Photo from

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…

single track 1

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.




4 thoughts on “Creating community around coffee and art”

  1. Wonderful.
    We found that with a brewery in Pagosa Springs. It was kind of the perfect place to enjoy a drink with friends. I kind of hoped to bring some of that out in that novel I wrote sometime back.
    I’m curious about your Moleskin and Evernote workflow. I’m using Evernote more and more and trying to keep track of more stuff with it and I’m finding it faster to use the camera to scan notes but I still like typed notes in the end as they seem to work better on screen and for searching.
    Have you written anything about your Evernote workflow?

  2. Hi Jonathan. You did indeed capture that in your novel!

    I haven’t written about Evernote. Like you, I’ve been using it more and more recently, particularly for college. My mobile phone carrier gives a year’s premium Evernote free so that was the real kickstart for me.

    It’s great for keeping all the notes and documents for a module in one place. I sometimes like to plan with paper and pen in my Moleskine so the photo capture is great for that. I also use it for meetings at work and the photo function is great for capturing flip charts and even slides. The biggest thing for me is the synchronisation across devices. I can take a photo with my iPhone and add it to a document which I can add stuff to from my laptop or tablet. I don’t need to worry about making sure I have the right device with me because everything is on all of them.

    I want to spend some time over the summer getting into the guts of Evernote. I know there are lots of functions I’m just not using well so any thoughts would be welcome!

  3. Good to know I captured in my book ;-).

    Nice that you get a year of premium Evernote. I’ve seen a few products they sell that offer it as well. Makes buying the product that much more useful.

    I’ve found Michael Hyatt’s tips pretty good for Evernote. He actually uses a different brand of notebooks that has preferated pages so he can tear them out and scan them. I like being able to reference the pages in my notebook if needed so I don’t know that that has as much appeal to me.

    I’ve also found the Evernote blog is nice for tips and tricks as well and Ron’s Evernote Tips: (which can be saved as a notebook in Evernote).

    Lately I’ve started storing recipes and meals in Evernote either via typing them out or via a webpage or just snapping a photo of a recipe in our cookbook (nice when you’re at someone else’s house). If the text is in Evernote, there’s a great app – Grocerytrip that ties into your notes and looks for a certain tag. If it finds it, it will automatically add the ingredients to your grocery list. Makes meal planning and shopping a snap.

    Maybe we can each do a series of “How I use Evernote” and see what we can learn ;-).

  4. I love your description of Single Track – my husband and I, on our first trip to Sky for our anniversary, felt the exact same way. This place feels like home and Indy and the other customers we met instantly felt like family. Every morning we woke up figuring out how our schedule would allow us to go back! Our 4 days in Skye went too soon, and we were actually sad to leave because of the relationships we’d made (can we call them this in such short a time?!).

    But that was just it. The immediate feeling of community, that is so rare in our own day-to-day lives, was powerful. We’ll never forget. And we feel we will always carry it with us, until we return again. : )

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