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Shortest Ferry Crossings

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Scotland has some of the shortest ferry crossing to be found connecting the mainland to its surrounding islands. Shorter crossings may have existed in the past, but these would probably have been river crossings intended to solve the problem of a long land journey to circumvent the river, as compared to accessing an island.

Prior to any ferries being in place (even a rowing boat) the shortest island crossings would originally have been made by fording the river on foot or vehicle of the time, at its shallowest point. Where no such shallow existed, those making the crossing would have had to swim, and farmer often did this with herds bound for market. One Scottish farmer notably continued this practice beyond 2010, only giving up this method if moving his beasts to the mainland due to his age and health.

Once the shortest ferry crossing, a rowing boat operated between Cramond village and the Dalmeny Estate, but this service was stopped during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak, and has never returned. From memory, this was an 'On demand' ferry with a bell to call the ferryman, seen in "Weir's Way" when the traveller visited Cramond.

Seil - Luing 280 m

A small ferry connects the Slate Islands of Seil and Luing, just off the coast of Argyll. The Clachan Bridge has linked Seil with the mainland since the 18th century, providing easy access from nearby Oban. The ferry then connects Seil with Luing across the Cuan Sound.

Colintraive - Rhubodach 410 m

While the main crossing to the Isle of Bute sails between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay, the lesser known ferry operating at the northern end of the island sails between Colintraive and Rhubodach. The short crossing is the inspiration for recurring bridge proposals every few years, more recently supplemented by calls for a tunnel to replace the ferry. Given the cost of the former, and even higher cost of the latter, chances of seeing either are remote, and that is before possible objections from those with no interests in the project are taken into account.

Gallanach - Kerrera 500 m

CalMac took this route over in 2017 and ordered a new ferry, built in Shetland. £1.7 million was spent on improving the ferry berthing facilities in 2016, to improve reliability in bad weather, and to end restrictions on freight and deliveries arising from low tides.

Feolin - Port Askaig 500 m

The port village of Askaig on the east coast of Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides, connects with the Feolin slipway on the west coast of neighbouring Jura.

Glenelg - Kylerhea 555 m

Although the Skye road bridge opened in 1995, the small Glenelg to Kylerhea vehicle ferry crosses the shortest gap between Skye and the mainland, across the Kyle Rhea, from Easter to October. The crossing was established by the mid-18th century, and mentioned in James Boswell’s 1785 book, 'The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides'. A winding, 10-mile road leaves the main A87 road at Shiel Bridge, for Kylerhea.


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