Berneray's causeway was opened by Prince Charles a fitting return to the area for a prince who famously spent some time there incognito as a crofter.
The £6.6 million project was declared officially open on Thursday April 8, 1999 although it had been opened unofficially earlier, in the last days of 1998, when the Island's ferry ran for the last time. Eight years after his previous visit to Berneray, a 400-strong crowd waited in the drizzle for more than an hour after the royal helicopter was delayed by low cloud, causing delays and cancellations to other parts of his visit. This echoed problems which faced his grandmother, the Queen Mother when she opened the North Ford causeway to Benbecula in 1960 but had to cut out part of a visit to Lochmaddy.
The Prince well-known for his strong views on conservation and design praised the way the causeway blended into its setting and the provision of facilities like otter culverts. He also approved of the efforts, including fencing, being made to keep rabbits off Berneray so that they could not destroy its unique ecology.
The last day of the lifeline ferry to the Island was December 17, 1998, when a local ceremony was held and a car cavalcade crossed
the causeway, with Berneray's youngest resident, Shaun Turner aged one, and its oldest, John Macaskill, aged 89, on board. A crowd of local people were involved as the ferry made its last trip over to Otternish in North Uist and then a flood of people made the first land crossing on the almost completed double-track road back to Berneray. The first walk across had been in early August 1998 when the final rocks were tipped into the gap on the Ardmaree, Berneray, shore and the first person to walk to Berneray since the Stone Age was CnES Transportation Committee chairman Alex Macdonald.
Work had started on the project in October 1997 with the contract being undertaken by John Fyfe Ltd. This followed a long campaign for funding and a study in 1991-2 which had chosen a causeway as the best option. Surveys were done to establish the effect on the
adjacent sea areas and sea life of building a causeway. Project funding came from the Scottish Office, the European Objective One Partnership and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Around three-quarters of the project workforce were local, with ten per cent from Stornoway and the rest from the mainland.
The causeway is 0.9 kilometres long with approach roads 500m long on the Uist side and 167m long on Berneray. More than 300,000 cubic metres of rock was used, quarried from a nearby site. The temporary quarry site was restored after work was completed. Provision for marine creatures included otter culverts near the shore and a 2x3 metre culvert at the centre for fish, cetaceans and other
Closing The Gap
Closing the gap
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