Scottish fact of the week: Calum’s Road

A TWO-MILE stretch of road is probably not the most enticing stop-off point for anyone touring the islands of Scotland.

Roger Hutchinson, author of Calum's Road, on Raasay. Picture: Ian MacNicol

But a winding strip of tarmac on the island of Raasay is more remarkable than most, because it was handbuilt by a single resident - Calum MacLeod.

Glasgow-born MacLeod, who lived in a small northern settlement, Arnish, sought to transform a narrow footpath into a fully-functioning highway in order to enable better access between the north and south of the island. More specifically, he wanted to make it easier for his daughter to visit from neighbouring Skye, where she went to school.

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Using just a pick-axe, shovel and wheelbarrow, MacLeod began laying down the road in 1964, and within ten years completed almost two miles of the track. However, the road was not MacLeod’s only job: it was merely his pastime away from being a lighthouse keeper, a crofter and a postman.

Remarkably, MacLeod had no driving license, but nevertheless dedicated a large part of his life to building the road with minimal support from the government. By 1976 the road was able to take light vehicles, and in 1982 when the road was handed over to the council, the road was resurfaced and opened to the public. It was called Calum’s Road (or Rathad Chaluim in Gaelic).

MacLeod passed away in 1988, but his extraordinary effort remains immortalised on Raasay. A book named after the road was written by island resident Roger Hutchison; David Harrower adapted this book into a popular play that has toured the country. Meanwhile, musicians including Runrig and Capercaillie have been inspired by the story of a man single-handedly connecting his community with the rest of the island.