Here’s how a decommissioned army ambulance from Afghanistan took on a new lease of life as a St Andrews coffee bar

Turning old vehicles into something new and modern has become commonplace in recent times, perhaps none more so than MacLaurin’s coffee bar in St Andrews.

Though it is based in the university town, the converted coffee truck has no fixed premises and travels across the region, and slightly further afield, to pop-up events, weddings and parties.

Since being set up in 2016 following 24-year-old owner Harry Turner’s decision to drop out of university, MacLaurin’s has become increasingly popular, not just for its coffee but the fact that the business has been created in a decommissioned army ambulance.

Harry said: “I was studying zoology at university and then I dropped out because I just decided it wasn’t really for me. I really loved Land Rovers, and still do, and I saw this vintage ex-army Land Rover Defender for sale a few years ago and fell in love with it.

Harry Turner with the truck.

“It’s an ex-army ambulance and I just thought it would make a great coffee truck.

“The truck used to be based in Afghanistan, at Camp Bastion, I know that for sure. But I don’t know how long it was there for – certainly at least a couple of years.”

“MacLaurin’s is my mum’s maiden name. My grandfather, my mum’s dad, was in the army back in the Second World War. He loved whisky, so the original idea was to be a coffee and whisky bar but we never ended up doing that, though I still wanted the army connection.”

Serving since 2016

Serving up coffee since 2016, Harry feels the toughest year the business has had was during the months of lockdown due to the pandemic. As MacLaurin’s is mostly event-driven, he essentially had to shut up shop and couldn’t operate until the restrictions eased.

“We’ve been operational as MacLaurin’s for five years – we set up in 2016 and have been going since then,” he continues.

Harry serving up some coffee.

“We were fortunate enough to survive through Covid and come out the other side fine. But 2020 was just a write off of a year because of coronavirus. We couldn’t operate but fortunately with mobile catering the costs aren’t as considerable as a restaurant or a fixed location.

“It wasn’t great, though I was fortunate I could do other things.”

With no fixed location, Harry and his Land Rover can be found at various weddings and events across Fife, with the business being operated mostly by himself.

“We don’t have a set location at the moment – we just do events and pop-ups. We’re based in St Andrews though so we try to keep it as local as we can but we will go as far afield as anyone who wants us,” he adds.

The menu.

“I mainly run the business myself but I have a few people who help us out at big events.”

All types of coffee

Gaining more popularity in recent years, MacLaurin’s has started to branch out into other coffee-related drinks and a few pastries that compliment the drink.

“We do the full range of coffee and iced coffee and all that sort of stuff. We also do Portuguese custard tarts, which is probably our speciality. We make those the night before and they’re very popular with customers. Apart from that we don’t tend to do food.

Harry at the bar.

“We operate as a bar sometimes as well, when we are requested to at events. We do our speciality espresso martini, which is pretty popular and very photogenic.

“I wasn’t training as a barista before I got the truck. I liked coffee but I wouldn’t say I was an expert or anything like that. I did a couple of wee courses when I got started, though it was nothing too major. Then I did a lot of research and self teaching.


More on coffee…

Lifestyle – The Courier Dundee