Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Winter storms isolate the islands

Our recent calm crossing to Arran on MV Caledonian Isles has not been typical of this winter. Island communities in Scotland have been isolated for long periods when the ferries have been storm bound. Simon Willis's site recently carried remarkable pictures of the Corran ferry sailing, despite stormy weather, to maintain the link to communities on the isolated Ardnamurchan peninsula.

This week, the Daily Mail and the Independent have reported calls for a tunnel to be built connecting the Western Isles to the mainland. Suggested routes are either from Stornoway on Lewis to Ullapool (41 miles) or from Benbecula to Dunvegan (25 miles) on Skye, which already has a bridge link to the mainland. If this dream is realised it would transform access to the Outer Hebrides and make a link across the Sound of Harris even more vital.

Even in calm conditions, we felt a sense of isolation and commitment as MV Caledonian Isles steamed away from Brodick back to the mainland, an hour away.

Here are another couple of photos from our Arran trip taken with the little Sony DSC U60 camera.

This is an over the shoulder shot looking back at Tony, who is dwarfed by the scale of the sea and the mountains of Arran.

The sun is well set behind the mountains of Arran.

At maximum aperture, the shutter speed was only 1/25th second. I panned on Tony so he is reasonably sharp. The movement and slow shutter speed have blurred the background. Despite its imperfections, I like this photo because it brings back the chill and uncertainty of the approaching darkness. We still had an hour paddling back to the mainland.

We sea kayakers are lucky, we can choose when to make our crossings, islanders and their provisions and exports cannot.


  1. Can't imagine the cost of building & maintaining a tunnel. Is this feasible/viable? We have continuing troubles here with ferries to our more isolated communities particularly as our older ferries break down. I think our offshore islands must have far fewer people than those in Scotland. But tunnels & bridges are so disruptive.

  2. Alison, apparently tunneling is getting cheaper. The Norwegians are great exponents of tunneling to access remote communities.

  3. A tunnel is feasible and viable. Scotland is now the only country in north-west europe that does NOT make extensive use of tunnels.

    Douglas is right; the Norwegians have 900+ of them, of length up to 24.5km, with some going deep under the sea to connect islands to the mainland.

    Tunnel links and facts from here:

  4. Good to hear from you John, thanks for the link to your excellent blog page on Scandinavian approaches to linking remote communities.

  5. I don't know where this idea of a tunnel between Stornoway and Ullapool has come from. I've only heard of links between Harris and North Skye and North Uist and West Skye. There may be confusion with the current existing ferry route.

  6. Hello Pharmolo, I do not know the source but it has been reported in the Stornoway Gazette, the Independent and the Daily Mail.