Plans for £1m road to link “divided” Scots island

THE 33 residents of a tiny Scottish island, which measures only six miles in length, are currently split into two divided communities with no road linking them.

The island of Kerrera. Remi Mathis [CC] (
The island of Kerrera. Remi Mathis [CC] (

But the inhabitants living on the north and south ends of picturesque Kerrera, located in Oban Bay, could soon be enjoying the luxury of being connected via a proper “lifeline road”, if plans costing up to £1million finally come to fruition.

It is a story reminiscent of the world-famous Calum’s Road, the remarkable tale of crofter Calum McLeod who, over 20 years, hand-built his own “highway” connecting the north end of Raasay with the remainder of the island.

He was forced to construct the two-mile trek when the local authority failed to do so.

However, on this occasion, it is Argyll and Bute Council which is leading the cause and officials are investigating the construction of a road through the spine of Kerrera.

Residents of the Inner Hebridean island, which overlooks Oban, are delighted at the move, which not only links their two separate communities but could attract new blood and expand their population.

Duncan MacEachan, who operates the ferry on the south end of the island, said: “It is fantastic news that the council is taking this seriously.

“Islanders have been seeking this for at least 30 years.”

Aideen Gallacher, 32, who runs the Kerrera Tea Room and Bunkhouse on the south end of the island, said: “We have friends up on the north end and it is easier for us to get a ferry from where we are to the mainland then another to the north end to visit.

“There is a small dirt track through the island but it’s dangerous and people often get into trouble when using it - it can be scary.

“Really it’s only suitable for quad bikes. It’s crazy that there has never been a proper road through Kerrera. It would be amazing if one was built.

“We could offer work to a few of the teenagers from the north and it would be better for our business. We could go and visit our friends more often - it would be great. I really hope it happens.”

Moya Ingram, the council’s strategic transportation manager, said: “There is currently no vehicle road link and in effect this results in two separate communities, divided between the north and south of the island.

“Residents of Kerrera consider the island to be physically divided between the north and the south end because of the lack of proper and reliable access between the two areas.

“The existing roads in the south of the island are of a basic standard, akin to forest tracks. It can take around half an hour to travel from the south end of Kerrera to the vehicle ferry in the middle of the island.”

This ferry operates daily to the mainland and is predominantly used by tourists and islanders in the south of Kerrera. It can carry vehicles, but only islanders and work vehicles can use it.

Because of a lack of a link road, residents to the north find it difficult to reach this ferry and rely on one operated by the local marina to travel across the short stretch of water to the Scottish mainland.

Mrs Ingram said: “The two roads on the west of the island are both adopted by Argyll and Bute Council. However, they are in very poor condition, being of a basic granular construction with no sealed surface or formal drainage.

“Residents view the provision of a new road as a lifeline link due to concerns regarding existing access for emergency services and medical staff to the island.

“There are now ten children living on the island six of which are under school age.”

The proposed road would require the permission of four land owners of which all have indicated that they are happy to provide this.

A large part of the island is owned by Dunollie Estate, who have also advised that they would be prepared to allow the ground for the road to be acquired by the community so that they can apply for any grant funding.

In addition, any stone that can be gathered on site to reduce costs associated with construction would be contributed by the Estate.

There are numerous businesses on the island that a new road would benefit, including Oban Marina in the north of the island which has 200 berths for yachts.

The community is keen on recycling and prepared to work with the council on any new systems for disposing waste.

The council believes savings could be made on the current costs of collecting refuse and transporting children to the mainland to school.

Mrs Ingram said: “The estimated cost for the road is somewhere between £600,000 - £1,000, 000 but would be determined by a number of factors not least the ability to win and process suitable stone on the island, disposal of excavated material, access onto and off the island for construction plant and equipment.

There is potential to submit a bid for the construction of a road on the island to the Coastal Communities Fund, aimed at encouraging the economic development of UK coastal communities by awarding funding to create sustainable economic growth and jobs.

Transport Scotland has said that a new road is the key to providing a ferry service which meets the needs of the whole island.

Kerrera is known for the ruined Gylen Castle, built in 1582. It was also the place where Alexander II of Scotland died in 1249.

Most of the island is owned by the McDougalls of Dunollie, who are descended from the Scottish prince Somerled.

The main industries on the island are farming of sheep and cattle, and tourism.