Historic construction work is set to begin this week to maintain the only remaining east coast car ferry in the country.
For centuries ferries across the firths of the east coast of Scotland were integral to the national transport network.
In the second half of the 20th century, however, those car ferries serving the Forth, Tay and Moray firths were withdrawn one by one.
Now only one ferry remains linking two points on the east coast of the Scottish mainland – Cromarty to Nigg.
The Cromarty-Nigg ferry is a lifeline for locals and tourists alike during the summer months with both communities relying on the access and visitor trade this ferry service provides.
The service brings many tourists from the North and the South, many of whom are travelling the popular North Coast 500 route.
The success of the North Coast 500 initiative has heralded a large increase in tourists to the north of Scotland.
Many of those touring the NC500 specifically plan their route along the coast and deliberately skip the A9 to experience the old ferry crossing.
The project was successful in round two of the Scottish Government’s Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, managed by VisitScotland.
It will consist of an extension to both slipways which will be widened by 3 metres and lengthened by 10 metres on each side.
At present, there is a two car (one small motorhome) ferry operated from June to September by Highland Ferries.
This additional length on each side is key to securing the new ferry service that will be able to allow the carriage of up to 16 cars and larger vehicles such as motorhomes.
In turn this will help ease the pressure and congestion for local communities.
The Project is match funded by, HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise), Highland Council, Beatrice Windfarm Fund, Wakelin Trust, Aberdeen University, Global Energy, Cromarty Community Development Trust and Nigg Community Council.
The work has been timed to coincide with suitable low tide conditions with completion expected around the end of October.
The Project will be led by the Cromarty Community Development Trust in partnership with the Highland Council and the principal contractor for the work is Simpson Builders of Beauly.
Jacquie Ross, Director of the Cromarty Community Development Trust said:
“We are absolutely delighted to see this work underway and would like to thank Simpsons Builders for taking on this mammoth task.
“The ferry service is an integral part of both the Cromarty and Nigg communities and it is comforting in knowing this project will secure that service for years to come.
“We would like to thank Highland Council, HIE, SSE, the Scottish Government Rural Tourist Infrastructure Fund and our many other funders for their support and look forward to seeing the ferry back on the water next season.”
Highland Council Executive Chief Officer for Environment and Infrastructure, Malcolm MacLeod, said:
“Investment of this kind in Highland is fantastic to see, and will help the region being more resilient in dealing with the many thousands of visitors who come and enjoy the Highlands.”
VisitScotland Regional Leadership Director Chris Taylor said:
“This work is vital in opening up the potential to secure a new ferry service in the future, where the capacity could increase from two cars to 16 cars.
“I am delighted that, through the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund, VisitScotland is able to respond to the calls for additional and improved infrastructure, working with our partners to achieve solutions.
“The Cromarty-Nigg crossing really adds to the visitor experience in the area.
“As well as carrying pedestrians and allowing visitors to explore many locations off the NC500, the quirky little ferry is an attraction in itself and popular with cyclists looking to explore the Black Isle and Easter Ross.”
“This project also complements our promotion of slow tourism – encouraging visitors to slow down, spend more time in an area and appreciate everything that’s there.”