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Hebrides News




Now that the evenings are stretching a little, I started to reflect on this year’s holiday plans and the island’s welcome influx of visitors with some foreboding. Three areas concern me, first accommodation in Lewis.


Already hotels, B & B and self-catering properties are filling rapidly and potential visitors seem to be experiencing difficulties finding accommodation, even as early as May.


Secondly ferry capacity. The adequacy of the Loch Seaforth with three daily return runs to Stornoway in the main holiday months seems short sighted. A sensible suggestion I’ve heard involves hiring the Clipper Ranger, which apparently is available for hire, to relieve the pressure by providing daily freight runs.  Last year drivers were unable to travel at the times they prefer, or at short notice, because of capacity issues.


Last minute bookings for attendance at funerals and visits to sick relatives in hospitals became very testing. There are many stories of holiday makers having no appreciation of the capacity issues and discovering at the port that they cannot get on the ferry.  Some cancel their accommodation at the last minute. I have even heard of foot passengers being turned away.


Finally, the Inverness to Ullapool ferry bus link:  I am a regular user of this service and have seen a few rammies at Inverness bus station as passengers are left behind. Last year, Citylink responded to pressure and if there are too many booked passengers for one bus, then a second one is provided. However, it is unacceptable that residents and visitors have to book days in advance. Trips may be at short notice, for example, family illness or sudden holiday decisions. Where else in Britain do you have to book a place on a bus a day ahead? Years ago, the service was better.


The present situation we find ourselves in, from accommodation difficulties to ferry capacity and bus availability provide anxiety and worse for residents and visitors as the 2018 season approaches. It shows the failure and lack of planning by the Scottish Government, their agents Transport Scotland and Alastair Allan our local MSP to sort a pressing island problem.


Brian Chaplin

Innis Mara


Isle of Lewis

Letter: Failure to tackle Stornoway ferry issue

3 March 2018