Between 1968 and 1977 I enjoyed 6 camping holidays touring in Scotland, first with my parents in our tent trailer and later with my wife in a tent. We always aimed to spend most of our time in the Highlands and Islands.
For me the best parts were the remote north-western regions of Sutherland, and Ross and Cromarty. This was the land of driving down long, empty single lane roads surrounded by barren hills, more likely than not under grey skies. “Passing place only roads” we called them. I have memories of scanning the road far ahead, ready to dodge the occasional approaching car, or the more frequent sheep. Coping with these roads while towing a trailer required an extra level of discipline, as you wanted to avoid, whenever possible, having to back up into a passing place—
good practice for a young driver.
Kylesku typified this part of the country, and to match the narrow roads there was a tiny ferry as the only way across the sea-loch. When we crossed there was a small turntable ferry that held 6 cars – and that had only recently replaced a similar vessel that could take only two cars at a time.
There used to be quite a few turntable ferries in Scotland, but now the only one that remains is on the Glenelg–Kylerhea crossing to Skye. This style of ferry has the vehicle deck on a turntable which, when the ferry docks beside the slipway, is rotated by hand until it is angled over the slipway and the ramp then lowered onto the shore. After loading again with cars the turntable is turned right around so the cars are pointed towards the bow of the boat, ready to drive forward off the ferry when it docks at the other shore. This system is a bit time consuming to operate compared with an end loader, but is very adaptable to different tide conditions and easy for the boat to moor in a current—
very important for operating across sea-lochs.
In an often repeated story, the road traffic through Kylesku kept increasing to the point where the ferry was just unable to cope and eventually, in 1984, a bridge was opened here and the last ferry (by then a larger end loader) was sent off to serve a different route. Kylesku is now on the North Coast 500
route – a tourism success story which encourages travellers to drive around a 500 mile circuit of Northern Scotland (too successful I understand). The Kylesku ferry could never have coped with this level of traffic. But the good news is that the bridge was designed well to complement the landscape and has received much praise for its elegance.