The famed Glenelg ferry crossing to Skye is set for a boost with plans for a new bothy and visitor centre.
Operators of the crossing, which is the last seafaring manually-operated turntable ferry in the world, have been granted principle planning permission to enhance the popular service out of the remote west coast harbour.
Despite competition from the much more easily-accessible Skye Bridge, the historic crossing from Glenelg to the idyllic island still attracts over 30,000 passengers each year.
Now, The Isle of Skye Ferry Community Interest Company have a vision for a ‘bothy’ to be created at the landslip, providing a visitor centre and cafe.
Jo Crawford, the company’s ferry development officer, said they hope to provide improved facilities for travellers while also increase revenue.
She added: “This is a vital service for the community. We provide significant employment in this small, fragile area.
“There is also the prospect that this will create further jobs in a community of less than 250 people.”
The community-owned company, which took over the running of the route in 2007, employs two full-time and two part-time staff throughout the year, with a further nine seasonal workers.
They currently sell merchandise out of a small lighthouse building at the slipway, and provide tea, coffee and homebakes via an honesty box – all of which generates £12,000 a year.
But, Ms Crawford said a new building could increase income substantially and this would go towards the running costs of maintaining the ferry.
She added: “We hope to attract more travellers by improving the service. People continue to take this route because of the astonishing views.
“People come from all over the world to visit our ferry. Sometimes, they even get married on it. More often, passengers spot seals and herons, perhaps even an otter or our local sea-eagle.”
The MV Glenachulish runs between Kylerhea on Skye and Glenelg on the mainland, where the visitor centre would be build.
It would be a split-level building situated next to the council-owned car park above the slipway.
The centre would be tucked into the slope of a hill offering views out across the Kylerhea narrows.
There has been a car ferry service crossing the Kylerhea straits since 1934. However, the closest point to the Isle of Skye has been a crossing point for hundreds of years.
Highland councillors granted principal permission for the centre last week.
The ferry and her slipways either side of the Kylerhea Narrows are renowned among wildlife spotters.
Ms Crawford said: “Many grey seals can be seen daily fishing deep, narrow sound, particularly on a flood tide which brings a plethora of mackerel amongst other fish for the picking.
“Dolphins are seen too with the occasional pod diving around the ferry to the delight of passengers and crew.
“Enormous basking sharks also take the route via the sound to sieve up the plentiful plankton – a sight that will really knock your socks off.
“Otters can be seen also, although they are notoriously shy creatures and you need patience and a little luck to secure a sighting.
“Many different varieties of sea birds are common here too. Among the frequent visitors are oyster catchers, on the rocks and shore, shags, cormorants, gulls of all sorts, shearwaters and many others.
“Eagles, buzzards and this year for the first time, ospreys. The king among them all, of course, has to be our resident sea eagle, named Victor after the prominent ‘V’ on his red wing tags. Victor and his partner Orla have fledged chicks in the locale for the last five years and this year, unusually, raised two youngsters.
“Victor takes his parenting very seriously and can be seen daily around the narrows harrying gulls on the flood tide to release their hard won catches to take home to feed the hungry nest occupants.
“He puts on a spectacular show each day and the ferry skipper is only too happy to spend a little longer on the crossing to provide an excellent view of this most majestic of birds.”