Raasay Road, Isle of Raasay
Isle of Raasay, Inner Hebrides, Scotland, UK
1964 - 1976
ICE reference number
The road that runs north-south of the Isle of Raasay was the result of one man's decade-long efforts, and has become known as 'Calum's Road'. It was eventually adopted by the Inverness County Council and remains the only road into north Raasay.
For many years the people in the north of the small Inner Hebridean island of Raasay had no road to link them with the more prosperous south. All provisions for the northern area had to be brought across the Sound of Raasay by boat from Portree on the Isle of Skye to the east. By 1925 this situation had become such a problem that the crofters petitioned Inverness County Council for a cart road, without success.
By the 1960s the lack of a road so troubled local crofter Calum (Malcolm) Macleod (1911-88) that he decided to build one himself. He did this while simultaneously being part-time postman for north Raasay and assistant keeper at Rona Lighthouse (NG634611), operational since 1857 on the islet of Rona almost 13km to the north.
His road is 2.8km long and runs from Brochel Castle in the south, where the public highway ended, to Arnish (where Macleod lived) in the north over steep barren countryside. It includes fearsome hairpin bends, one in four gradients and a coastal section cantilevered over the sea. The road structure consists a layer of locally gleaned stone, much of which had to be broken by hand, surfaced with gravel and small stones to a finished width of 3m.
Macleod had no experience of road making although he and his brother Charles (born 1920s) had constructed a causeway between Torran on north Raasay west to the Isle of Fladda (Eilean Fladday), over the winters of 1949-52. Inverness County Council paid them each £35 per year for the work.
He then decided to tackle the Raasay Road and began by buying a copy of Thomas Aitken's Road Making and Maintenance: A Practical Treatise for Engineers, Surveyors and Others (first published 1900). Aitken (1856-1918) was Fife's road surveyor and is famous for the late 19th century Garlie Bank Road (NO374135), now the A916, from Cupar to Craigrothie.
Macleod worked single-handedly from about 1964 onwards, alternating month-on month-off with his assistant lighthouse-keeping duties. The road replaced a rough track but the man who had never held a driving licence made a proper job of it. He would continue to carry out maintenance work once the road was complete.
The County Council provided tools at the outset but during the course of the work Maceod wore out two wheelbarrows, six picks, five hammers and four spades. Army engineers did some reconnaissance, and blasting work costing £1,900 was paid for and executed by Department of Agriculture engineers.
By 1976 the road was suitable for light vehicles and in 1982 it was came under the control of the Council, who spent £115,000 on partial widening, providing passing places and laying tarmac. By that time, Macleod and his wife Lexie (Alexandrina, 1911-2001) were the last people to live at Arnish — though there is a family in residence at the time of writing (2011).
"A Road Called Hope" by Torcuil Crichton, in The Sunday Herald, Scotland, 27th August 2006
Plaque on cairn at the start of Calumï¿½s Road