Drochaid An t-Eilean Sgitheanach
|Location Map ( geo)|
|From:||Kyle of Lochalsh|
|Kyle of Lochalsh|
|Ross-shire • Inverness-shire|
|Free. Toll abolished 2004.|
For many years, successive generations of ferries crossed across Loch Alsh, between the villages of Kyleakin and Kyle of Lochalsh. In 1937 the ferry was only able to operate at high tides during daylight (no Sunday service), and cost 8s or 12/6 depending on horsepower. By 1963, the tide was no longer an issue and the service ran from 7/8am to 11pm Monday-Saturday, with additional night-time sailings on demand. Fares had barely changed, and the crossing took about 10 minutes. Two ferries were employed in the summer months.
By the late 1980s, the summer queues for the ferries on either side of the narrow Kyle were becoming unmanagable, and so it was agreed that a bridge should be constructed. In the meantime, two new ferries (see below) were ordered to provide a better service. It was still one of the shortest, and most expensive crossings in Scotland however.
The Skye Bridge was opened on the 16th October 1995 by the Secretary of State for Scotland. Upon opening, the A87 road was extended from Kyle of Lochalsh across Skye, through Broadford and Portree and on to Uig, where the ferries for Harris and North Uist sail from.
The bridge was controversial from the very first day of opening, if not before. Built partially under a Private Finance Initiative agreement, the tolls levied as a result were to prove a highly contentious issue with both mainlanders and islanders alike. They provoked fierce opposition with a number of resulting Court cases. The locals especially complained that, as the tolls were so high, and in both directions, it was entirely inappropriate. There were several 'non-payment' protests, most notably by 'Robbie the Pict'. Local businesses also complained that tourists were staying away from Skye due to the high tolls on the crossing.
The tolls were finally abolished on the 21st December 2004 by the Scottish Executive, after a deal to buy the bridge from the owners.
When driving along the A87 towards Kyle, the bridge is often in view ahead, its graceful curve spanning the narrow Kyle (narrows) of Loch Alsh, but nothing prepares you for actually arriving at the bridge. It seems incredibly steep as you climb up, from either side, and while this is to ensure enough clearance below for the ships, it is still quite an adventure the first time.
Ferries operating on the service before the opening of the Skye Bridge in 1995:
|Loch Fyne||9006411||Caledonian MacBrayne||1991-1995||36 cars|
|Loch Dunvegan||9006409||Caledonian MacBrayne||1991-1995||36 cars|
|Lochalsh||7101607||Caledonian MacBrayne||1971-1991||28 cars|
|Kyleakin||7028386||Caledonian MacBrayne||1971-1991||28 cars|
|Coruisk||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1969-71||9 cars|
|Broadford||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1967-71||9 cars|
|Portree||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1965-70||9 cars|
|Kyleakin||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1960-71||6 cars|
|Lochalsh||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1957-70||6 cars|
|Broadford||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1954-66||4 cars|
|Portree||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1952-65||2 cars|
|Lochalsh||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1951-58||2 cars|
|Cuillin||Caledonian Steam Packet Co||1942-54||2 cars|
|Moil||David MacBrayne; Caledonian Steam Packet Co (for LMS)||1936-54||2 cars|
|Kyleakin||David MacBrayne; Caledonian Steam Packet Co (for LMS)||1928-51||1/2 cars deck enlarged in 1931|
|Kyle||David MacBrayne (for LMS)||1918-38||1 car|