An Laimhrig


Completion Date:


Building owner/client:

Eigg Trading Ltd

Architect or lead designer:

WT Architecture

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust

Project Description

‘An Laimhrig’ provides Eigg’s 115 residents with a new facility, combining social and business space for residents and visitors to enjoy. The project transformed a small much-loved building in poor condition into a bright, spacious and energy-efficient community hub.

The original An Laimhrig was Eigg’s first project, built one year after the community took ownership of Eigg in 1997. An Laimhrig means anchorage or safe haven.

20 years later the island population and visitor numbers have doubled. The growth was putting a tremendous strain on the building, its limitations making it difficult for islanders and visitors to use. Opportunities to build and diversify businesses were constrained by crumbling infrastructure, lack of facilities and inefficient servicing. The main door was hard to find, the entrance hall dark and unwelcoming, with limited public facilities. Despite having an oil boiler and central heating, the building was often cold.

Situated on Eigg’s pier, the gateway facility was on a constrained and unplanned site. Visitors and islanders who used the shop or café had to pick their way past the ferry freight arriving and other working vehicles.

Today a beautiful main building houses Eigg’s only shop, café/bar, craft shop, adventure sports hire, offices, hot desk and meeting spaces. ‘Taigh Nighe’ (WashHouse) has toilets, showers, a drying room and laundry used by residents, yachts, campers and the community-owned camping pods. There’s signage, parking, and new green spaces for picnics and play.

Four new business units and coastguard HQ in the ‘Green Shed’ have completed the transformation. This under-used, ageing agricultural shed now houses a plant room supplying all three buildings’ space and water heating needs. The complex integrated system is unique to Eigg and works in harmony with nature. When the sun shines the solar thermal panels kick into action. The biomass boilers utilise locally sourced logs. If there is excess power in the island grid network this is pulled into the system too so there is no wastage of any green energy.

Eigg’s residents were at the heart of this project. Extended consultation on ‘what to do down at the pier,’ shaped the project brief.
People didn’t want to separate island living from the visitor experience, but instead share the spaces and our social, cultural, and environmental heritage we’re so proud of and work hard to retain.

We aimed to:

  • Improve local services and increase economic opportunity whilst enhancing Eigg’s famous visitor welcome.
  • Identify how growth could be delivered sustainably, not just economically but environmentally.
  • Use local materials, local labour, local energy, and the circular economy to build on, rather than replace what the original building had achieved.

A team led by WT Architecture worked hard to bring the project to life and over a two-year construction period delivered what Eigg’s community asked for. The project repurposed existing spaces whilst keeping key businesses open and trading. A new extension doubled the footprint and in phased stages businesses like the shop moved into their new space. An Laimhrig businesses are thriving. Island residents and visitors share bright warm spaces with spectacular views. Islanders are proud that Eigg not only generates its own renewable power, but that they also have an EPC A-rated gateway building and new purpose-built spaces to enable our community to expand.

Supporting Statement

Eigg’s community had been planning the new and expanded ‘An Laimhrig’ for six years, before putting a spade in the ground. It’s been an enormous task for our community, but support from funders, our design team and the main contractor has been incredible.

Eigg’s 115 residents are very proud to welcome everyone into the new buildings and share our vision of a resilient, empowered, and self-sustaining population, delivering local needs, locally.

We have nominated An Laimhrig and Eigg Trading because we want to recognise the tenacity and hard work of everyone who has brought our community’s vision and ambition to life.

Planning and delivering the transformation of the area around Eigg’s pier has brought out the best in people. There are easier places to refurbish and extend a building than on a rock in the sea an hour’s (irregular) ferry journey from the mainland.

Everything’s more expensive to get here. Building in the winter, in exposed island conditions is not for the faint-hearted, especially for a build programme that started during Covid restrictions. Supply chain issues, cancelled ferries, and then one of the wettest, windiest summers meant there was virtually no let up.

There were many Eigg-specific practical issues to contend with. Eigg’s (only) shop had to stay open, meaning construction (and shopping) happened around it until it was moved into its new space. NHS Highland provided Trust staff put out of their office with temporary workspace. Specialist contractors needed to stay on site, meaning scheduling specialist trades in winter when accommodation was available.

But still, our community kept the faith, kept calm and patient. Eigg Trading directors - all islanders, all volunteers - were supported by Trust staff, island businesses, and external advisors to raise additional funds to meet the rising cost of materials. Our contractor, Compass, demonstrated a real understanding of island life, using local labour and being consistently flexible. Our design team worked with the site, designing something that would stand in all weather and reflect the innovative and ambitious community it would serve. There’s no vanity here, but rather sound and culturally brilliant design borne out of architectural skill and a good ear to listen to island experience of what would, and wouldn’t, work.

The project was delivered on time and on budget. It delivered the priorities, the vision and dreams expressed during community consultation. Our visitors are amazed and love it. It has created more jobs and different opportunities for people to come together socially. It has seen existing businesses grow and new ones appear.

It’s stretched us, certainly. But despite the hard work, time, and stress, it hasn’t exhausted us. Our stamina and resilience are strengthened, and our skills and knowledge are enhanced. We might be a small community, but the Eigg Trading An Laimhrig project has brought everyone together to create a space we feel proud of. And more important than pride, we’ve created a place that works, brilliantly, every day. A place that will see our community’s future shine with possibility.