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There are not many places which would credit an international pandemic for a positive change of direction, but in North Lochs there’s a revived sense of community spirit – thanks to Covid.

That’s according to North Lochs Community Association vice-chair Sarah Macdonald, who has seen the community take on new purpose and ambition after lockdown knocked the community hard.

North Lochs Community Association (NLCA) was formed in December 1973 with the aim to fundraise for, and to build, a community centre. With the half-century anniversary coming up at the end of this year, it’s fitting that there should be a new lease of life.  

Seated in the welcoming space of the Creagan Café, inside North Lochs Community Centre at Leurbost, Sarah explains just where they were three years ago.

“Before Covid, the centre was at the point where we needed to get interest and help from local people if we were to keep it running.

“In January 2020 we circulated a questionnaire asking people what they wanted to be done with the hall, and lots of people were talking about activities and groups, music, a lunch club, things for older people and for kids – a huge range of things.

“Then along came lockdown and we needed to concentrate on what was essential to people, so we set up a bank of volunteers and started to offer help with things like collecting prescriptions and fetching shopping.”

The call for volunteers had an unexpected knock-on benefit – when the association called their next AGM, by Zoom, a huge number of people came forward.

With new confidence on the committee, an application to the Co-op Community Fund was agreed. In 2021 the association received £18,700 funding from the Co-op and £21,000 from the Crown Estate, used to refurbish the foyer area and create the Creagan Café, as well as installing heating in the main hall and other redecoration.

With no shortage of volunteers, decorating and fitting out the space was quick to achieve and the Creagan Café opened its doors in October 2022, just as the community was returning to a semblance of normality.

“We had always had the idea of creating a place for people to come out and socialise, and actually Covid helped because they realised how important contact with their neighbours was,” says Sarah.

Now the café opens twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, offering home-made soup, baking and hot drinks from 11am to 3pm, with part-time employee Angela MacDonald behind the counter – and busy in the kitchen cooking up the home-cooked treats.

Sarah said: “We operate on a ‘pay-what-you-can’ basis. We suggest a price and people can pay more, or less, depending on what they can afford. Payment is into a box on the counter, so nobody has to know what you paid.

“Our café is part of the warm hub network in the Lochs area – along with Kinloch and Pairc – and we encourage everyone to make the most of the support offered through local groups.  

“People can come down here and linger over a single pot of tea and a scone, or they can meet up with friends and have hot soup and baking. We have regular visitors and we have just started a transport system, where we can arrange to pick people up and bring them in.

“People are just delighted there is somewhere they can go that’s local. Of course there are still worries about coming out and socialising, and it’s early days, but we’re hoping to build on what we have got and to welcome visitors from around the island.”

In time, NLCA is hoping to build an extension onto the hall and, in the shorter term, to modernise and refit the kitchen so that it allows more complex meal preparation.

With a committee of 28, many of them first-time volunteers to the local area, there’s a new energy about the place.

Looking around at chatting groups around the tables, Sarah says: “Before Covid we didn’t think we could carry on, but now we’ve got big numbers, a wider demographic of young and old and lots of local enthusiasm for what we are doing.”

You can find out more about the café opening and menu via the community association’s Facebook page at and NLCA will be adding a new page to their website ( in the coming weeks, where you can offer your services as a volunteer and find out more about the organisation.

The pictures show vice-chair Sarah Macdonald (left) and café assistant Angela MacDonald, the inside of the Creagan Café, the home-baking display and the view from the front door.