Highland community concerned at loss of island link

Kilchoan
Kilchoan is on the Ardnamurchan Peninusla

Residents of a small mainland Highland community want their ferry link to the Argyll island where they access shops, fuel and health care to be treated as a lifeline service.

Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula is 35 minutes by ferry to Tobermory on Mull, but two hours by road to its other nearest main settlement - Fort William.

On 11 March, Kilchoan's car ferry to Tobermory was withdrawn so the vessel could be used to cover another route.

Some residents are worried the service will not be restored next Thursday as scheduled. Operator CalMac has been approached for comment.

Ferry
One of the car ferries that is used to connect Kilchoan with Tobermory

Kilchoan has a population of about 150 people and is one of a small number of communities dotted around the edges of Ardnamurchan's mountainous interior.

About 30 miles of its road to Fort William is single-track. The route was recently affected by a landslide.

Kilchoan usually has a seven-day-a-week ferry service during summer, and a reduced service in winter.

CalMac has put on a passenger-only service to Tobermory, but some residents said this did not overcome problems such as getting petrol and diesel.

Olivia Wyness, who runs Puffin Coffee in Kilchoan, said many local people relied on Mull for supplies, services and tradespeople.

She said: "In Tobermory we've got the doctors, dentist and pharmacy.

"There are people in Mull who have got grandkids over this side and they help out with childcare."

She added: "There are people who have built their lives and livelihoods around this connection across the water."

Map
Map

Ms Wyness said a similar situation with the car ferry service happened in September, and added that the disruption to sailings also affected tourists.

She said: "I know CalMac is struggling with an ageing fleet and has been trying to get new boats while moving its other boats around, but they always take our boat and they don't think it's a lifeline service for us."

Tobermory
Tobermory is a 35-minute ferry trip from Kilchoan

A public meeting with CalMac bosses is to be held in Kilchoan next Thursday following calls from residents and Argyll and Bute SNP MP Brendan O'Hara.

Fort William and Ardnamurchan SNP councillor Sarah Fanet said the interruption to the vehicle ferry service was an "unacceptable situation".

She said: "Ardnamurchan’s geographic situation is unique as many residents need access to Mull for services and work.

"I know that the road connection to West Ardnamurchan is fragile and will be even more fragile with climate change. And Fort William is a long way from Kilchoan.

"The ferry connection to Tobermory must be recognised as a lifeline service the community depends on."