Today was a clear day, so we went for a walk and to do some beachcombing. We found ourselves rummaging around one of the old Strome Ferries which was beached on the North of the Loch in 1970’s. This is a wee bit of a co-oincidence when tomorrow the Strome Ferries will temporarily be starting up again.
The communities South and North of the Loch Carron are connected by the A890, a stretch of this road running on the south side of the Loch along side the railway line ( Inverness to Kyle ) is known locally as the ‘Bypass’. It was opened in 1970. Previously two ferries provided the transport links, but the volume of traffic, the queuing and lack of night time crossing required a road to be built. However from the outset the current route of the road was advised against by surveyors geologists and engineers. Across the loch is a massive geological fault line. The mountains on the North of the loch are made of older rock and the South is part of the ‘Moine Thrust’ which is younger rock forcing its way up and over the older rocks, by millimeters? every year. While this makes spectacular local geology, it does not make for a stable road underneath crumbling cliffs. Every year there are landslides, rock falls and road closures. Millions of public money goes into maintaining this road every year. There have been many near misses. Our secondary school pupils travel that route, and every local parent has feared for their children’s safety travelling that route. We all have anecdotes of getting stuck or of driving that way when rocks and waterfalls have been spilling out onto the road. From a Fire service point of view, i’ve already been to two train derailments when trees have slid onto the line west of the bypass, its always in the back of my head …what if..? the loch is very deep there. It doesn’t bare thinking about. We often say locally, ‘it’s going to take someone getting killed before anything is done’ well lets hope not.
On the 8th December The road was closed due to rockfalls. This is from the Highland Council website;
Folks are frustrated and angry. The highland council was on holiday until the 9th January, so it felt like nothing was happening for ages. The first week back to school the pupils used the trains and the school day was extended to fit the train time table. A ferry service has now been organised, it will start tomorrow. Full details and timetables are on the Highland Council website. It is not ideal and will no doubt have teething problems. But I’m certainly excited to see a ferry up and running again, albeit temporary.
There will be a public meeting tomorrow to discuss the options and service provision. I have no doubt it will be a stormy one.
I enjoy seeing the railway being used and the stations busy, the ferry will likewise be a sociable community based way of travelling. With the pressure of modern life however we need more joined up and affordable transport solutions. I’d ideally like to see a bridge integrating tidal power turbines, but will accept any solution that joins our communities safely. Any solution requires forward thinking and planning, our current economic and political systems do not tend to allow for that. Hopefully people will press forwards and create enough momentum to overcome political inertia and negative self interest from blocking certain options.
( prints available ! )
Here is a painting I did of the ‘Pride of Strome’ one of the previous Ferries beached up in the 70’s. It was built in 1962 by Forbes of Sandhaven. The smaller boat was called ‘Strome Castle’ and was built in 1958 by Nobles of Fraserburgh.This was it today.
Of course Iain Banks fans will also know ‘Strome Ferry – No ferry’, from the book Complicity. The Hotel at Stromeferry ( no Ferry ) is accurately described in the book, and burns down as part of the plot- which of course the real hotel also did. When I met Iain Banks I asked him if he’d been to the same parties as I had been to at the hotel and used this as inspiration. He said he had no idea that there had been a hotel there, and simply liked the road sign ‘Strome ferry- No ferry’ anything else was ‘;coincidence’ !
meanwhile here is a leaflet i found, produced as part of the heritage centre project back in the 90’s. It contains some more strome history and some really ropey illustrations by me;