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The Skye Boat Song was frequently on the radio in my youth, featuring the famous line “Over the Sea to Skye”. I made my first trip to the Scottish Highlands camping with my parents in 1968, and it was not surprising that we wanted to include the crossing to the Isle of Skye. The iconic Eilean Donan castle is just 10 miles from the ferry ramp at Kyle of Lochalsh; my mother being born a Macrae, and the castle being the ancestral stronghold of the Macraes and Mackenzies sealed the decision to head to Skye on that holiday.
Our road to the isles started at Loch Oich in the Great Glen and took the A87 to the ferry ramp at Kyle of Lochalsh. Eilean Donan Castle is at the junction of Loch Long, Loch Alsh and Loch Duich, and its setting, when you are lucky enough for the sun to be shining, is worthy of its famealthough maybe the photo should not be on quite so many postcards and boxes of shortbread.
At the time of our first visit in 1968 we’d left our tent trailer at Loch Oich, which was maybe just as well as the ferry was then just a small turntable style vesselor rather 4 similar boats operating as fast as possible to keep up with the traffic. By the time we returned in 1971 the turntable ferries had been replaced by much larger end loaders. Skye’s tourist business was expanding quickly and these boats were superseded in 1991 by even larger end-loaders. But progress and the continuing strong growth in traffic eventually doomed the ferry service and a bridge was opened in 1995.
I don’t remember much about Skye from 1968we did a lot in a short time on that tour. On our 1971 visit we took our tent trailer and spent longer on the island, hiking a little in the Cuillins, visiting Dunvegan Castle and taking a day trip on the ferry from Uig to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. I remember on that visit, as our ferry approached the ramp at Kyle of Lochalsh on our return, my Dad said “He’s going too fast”. And sure enough we hit the ramp hard, with a bang and a big shake, but with no visible harm. My third trip was with my wife in 1977, and my clearest memory from then is recovering a seat squab from a dumped car in an old quarry that I later used to repair my own Mini. Nothing romantic or Bonnie Prince Charlie about that!
In the 1960s Skye was very conservatively religious. Nothing opened on a Sunday. But tourism was putting a lot of pressure on the way of life there, and especially on the overloaded ferries, which at that time ran only 6 days a week. When plans we made to introduce Sunday ferry crossing to alleviate the congestion there was a lot of pressure from many of the islanders to prevent this, culminating in protests and arrests. I guess the bridge made that particular issue moot.
The bridge long ago killed the need for the Kyle of Lochalsh–Kyleakin ferry, but ferries remain important on Skye. From Sconser there is a car ferry over to the Isle of Raasay, and from Uig you can take ferries to Tarbert in Harris, or Lochmaddy in North Uist. Or if you want to arrive in Skye from the mainland by ferry there remain two options. To the south there is the Mallaig–Armadale route. And further north there is the Glenelg–Kylerhea route across the narrows on the MV Glenachulish. This is the last remaining manually operated turntable ferry in existence. We used in this one direction on one of our visits to Skye; a real treat that I must find a way of repeating.

Ferry info
Permanently closed in 1995
Crossing time 10 and distance 600
When I used the ferries
August 1968
August 1971
August 1977