Islanders fear end of the road for Calum’s feat: Potholed tourist attraction becoming impassable

IT WAS a long labour of love that brought fame to crofter Calum MacLeod and global attention to the island of Raasay.

Calum’s Road became a symbol of what one man could achieve against the odds when he successfully carved and constructed a track over ­almost two decades to give his remote community a lifeline to the wider world.

But residents are complaining to the council that Calum’s Road is now falling into disrepair – along with other roads on the island – because of the withdrawal of maintenance crews due to financial cutbacks. They want the local authority to give the road immediate attention to prevent it becoming impassable and deterring the tourists who have brought income into the area.

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At the age of 56, MacLeod, the last man left in northern Raasay at the time, set about single-handedly constructing the road in his time off from tending the Rona lighthouse, mainly with just a pick, shovel and wheelbarrow, hoping new generations of people would return to repopulate Arnish. He died in 1988.

Among the residents campaigning for the road is author Roger Hutchinson, whose book lauded Calum’s feat. Only when Calum completed his two-mile track was it officially adopted in 1982 and surfaced by the local authority.

But now it is in such a state of disrepair that Hutchinson and other islanders claim his legacy is being disrespected.

“Not only is Calum’s Road a popular tourist attraction, but locals need it, as people still live at the end of it at Arnish, which was Calum’s whole philosophy behind building it,” said Hutchinson.

“It is an iconic piece of work which has drawn visitors worldwide, and we want tourists to continue coming. But not only is Calum’s Road deteriorating, but so is the road to Calum’s Road, and all others on the island. They have all fallen into such a state of disrepair that cars are being damaged.

“To let Calum’s Road get into such a state of disrepair is an insult to the man’s work over 20 years.”

The withdrawal of a dedicated roads maintenance squad on the island, populated by almost 200 people, is being blamed by residents for the deteriorating state of the roads.

Ferry worker Paul Camilli, who set up home at Arnish, ­reports the “trials and tribulations” of life on Raasay in a blog called Life At The End Of The Road, in which the condition of the roads are a major talking point.

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He said: “This beautiful ­island has many assets, but probably the most widely known is the world-renowned Calum’s Road, which is the subject of song, book, play and film. Yet along with the rest of Raasay’s roads it’s deteriorating into a 4x4-only track.

“Millions have been spent on giving us a long overdue harbour, renovating Raasay House and building us a new hybrid ferry, yet the basic right of a member of the public to get from A to B without wrecking their car or falling off their bike or motorcycle is overlooked.”

A spokeswoman for Raasay Community Association said: “There used to be a maintenance squad on the island but roads are now breaking up, parts of them are flooded and there are huge potholes.

“We get a lot of tourists, but the roads are necessary for ­locals. There are people who have to use all the roads, such as crofters, the postman, ­doctors and nurses.

Crofter John Gillies added: “All roads on Raasay have been neglected. Calum’s Road has become quite a big attraction ever since the book was published, and we want these visitors to come back. At the moment the road is neglected, and unless you have a 4x4 it is starting to become a risk to take a car on it.”

The theme has been taken up on Camilli’s blog, with one writer saying: “With so many folk arriving on the island who want to experience the marvel of Calum’s Road being faced with what amounts to a case of gross negligence by Highland Council, it appears that history is repeating itself. Those living on the island experience exactly the same disdainful attitude that Calum encountered when petitioning for assistance. Shame on Highland Council for allowing this to happen.”

A Highland Council spokesperson said it was aware of the current condition of the roads on Raasay, “which are similar to other low-volume rural roads within Highland. A programme of patching works will be carried out in response to formal inspections which took place recently, the timing of which will be subject to competing priorities and availability of resources. Further consideration shall be given to more substantial works once the budgets for 2013-14 are known, alongside other schemes.”

Twitter: @AlistairMunro1