Lochranza Country Inn

Lochranza is the northernmost village on the Isle of Arran where a former family home-turned hotel has been entertaining local villagers and tourists since the early 1950s. Like so many in the sector, the Lochranza Country Inn closed as a result of COVID-19. It was the second pub in the area to close following the demise of the Catacol Bay Hotel.

These closures left the community with no informal meeting spaces and no social hub. As a result, people in the area simply stopped getting together. It also had a knock-on effect with the tourism industry. The bay has 40 berths for yachts sailing around the islands. When the pubs closed, “Yacthies” as they’re known locally, stopped mooring. This led to Bed and Breakfasts going out of business, along with campsites.

Steering group member, Duncan Craig: “The total infrastructure of the village started to decline”. With all this in mind, when the Lochranza Country Inn was put up for sale, locals mobilised. The Lochranza and Catacol Community Association decided to make an effort to buy the pub for the community.

They sought out advice from, among others, the Plunkett Foundation, Scottish groups who had bought pubs as a community, and Community Shares Scotland. This led to the formation of a Community Benefit Society – with the idea that any profits generated from the eventual ownership of the pub would be put back into local projects.

Through community consultation and rigorous business planning, an idea began to take shape about what the Inn would one day look like. The opportunity to have a bar alongside accommodation and a restaurant was key, particularly in trying to reinvigorate tourism, but there were challenges along the way.

Group Chair, Charlie Newton “We come up against so many obstacles in the way, mainly changes in legislation. All of a sudden, what was acceptable when it was trading in 2019 and into 2020, was no longer acceptable”.

Time was another huge factor in the project with many stages taking far longer than anticipated. The group were told that opening a business bank account would take one month, it took six. However, piece by piece, the plan came together.

The Community Benefit Society helped the group to raise funds through a Community Share Offer, which combined with a Scottish Land Fund grant, put them in a place to make an offer on the pub. After much negotiation, in December 2022, the group was able to take ownership of the Lochranza Country Inn.

The Inn finally reopened to the public in May 2023.

Charlie Newton: ”In the first two weeks of opening, I saw local people in the bar who I have never seen there before. The project was always about creating a meeting place”.

When discussing the journey, Charlie was keen to share some of the biggest lessons learned.

One of the core ideas was to remain in contact with the community and make sure that even those with no email felt included in any updates.

Charlie also felt that it was important to accept any offers of help via volunteering but also to be specific about the help required.

The real impact of the Lochranza Country Inn coming back to life will be measured over a number of years. In the short term, the project has created jobs on the island in the form of hospitality work and the renovations taking place on site. Longer term, plans are afoot for services like a community bus and even affordable housing to enable young families to remain in the community.

The effects of COVID will be seen globally for generations. The people of Lochranza and the surrounding areas have shown though, with perseverance, belief, and a concrete idea of community, it’s possible to start rebuilding and even improving the world around you.

”In the first two weeks of opening, I saw local people in the bar who I have never seen there before. The project was always about creating a meeting place”.

Community businesses in Scotland

A community-owned pub is run by its residents for its local residents and delivers, not only, a place to eat and drink, but brings people together, provides jobs, training and volunteering opportunities and additional essential services, such as a post office, shop or library. Find out more about the support and advice available for communities in Scotland here.

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