The Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre stands close to the high-tide mark in the village of Lochmaddy. The centre is a focus for life in North Uist, and welcomes large numbers of visitors each year to experience the arts, culture and heritage of the islands in a friendly and stimulating environment.
Taigh Chearsabhagh is worth visiting for its family-run café alone. It offers nutritious and inexpensive food, made from some of the best local ingredients. The shop stocks a large selection of books, souvenirs, cards, toys, pottery, jewellery and crafts, plus a wide range of music by the best traditional and contemporary Scottish musicians. Mail order enquiries are welcome.
The centre is close to Lochmaddys ferry terminal, which links it to Uig on Skye. The building around which it has been developed was built in 1741 as an inn, and at the time was one of a very few slate-roofed buildings on North Uist.
After a long and active life it had fallen into disuse by the early 1990s, and in 1993 was leased to the Taigh Chearsabhagh Trust on a 75 year lease. This is a partnership between the North Uist Historical Society and the Uist Art Association with directors drawn from both groups.
The Trust manages the building premises and employs the staff. The two groups plan the programmes of events, exhibitions and activities. Taigh Chearsabhagh also has facilities for artists including a photographic darkroom, screenprinting and etching equipment.
The building was restored and extended at a cost of £270,000 during 1994 and opened in March 1995. Its popularity considerably exceeded expectations and in response it was further extended in the late 1990s at a cost of a further £550,000. The airy and attractive centre you find today was opened in January 2001.
As well as the shop and café, attractions at Taigh Chearsabhagh include a museum, where changing displays of local life and history can be seen. There are also two galleries in which work by local (and not so local) artists is displayed. Last but not least, the centre also offers a research room for those studying aspects of island life or the lives of the people who lived here. When we visited, the gallery occupying the upper two floors of the original building was displaying an installation by the Icelandic artist Valgerdur Hauksdottir, while the second gallery had on show the work of a number of local artists.
Taigh Chearsabhagh is an essential port of call on any visit to North Uist. Its shop and cafe provide an obvious and immediate draw, but it is worth taking a little time to explore the rest of what is on offer. Note that it is closed on Sundays.