Isle of Skye tourism lobby unhappy at new beauty spot bus

The Fairy Pools is a tricky place to get to by public transport. Pic Willie Urquhart

A trial shuttle bus service introduced to alleviate parking chaos at Skye beauty spots is not operating at weekends, it emerged this week.

Local tourism group SkyeConnect says it beggars belief that buses are only running Monday to Friday and described promotion of the vital new service as “woeful”.   

The pilot was launched on 28th June after the council secured funds for a service to help transport the thousands of tourists flocking to the Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen and the Old Man of Storr throughout the summer.

The T54, T56 and T57 services operated by Stagecoach see 10 trips a day back and forth between each attraction, until 13th August. 

However, the buses do not operate at the busy weekend periods and SkyeConnect says the service has been very poorly marketed to visitors.

SkyeConnect chairman Dave Till said: “While we would congratulate Highland Council/Stagecoach for the trial shuttle bus service to the Fairy Pools, Fairyglen and Old Man of Storr, could we please point out that promotion of the service has been woeful at best and the decision not to run the service on Saturdays and Sundays beggars belief. 

“Pre-Covid these sites were attracting in the region of 250,000 visitors a year. While information exists on the Stagecoach website, navigating the site for non-locals is virtually impossible. Anyone going onto the site is expected to know the number of the bus service that they wish to use. 

Congestion at the Fairy Glen near Uig

“We are trying hard to encourage behavioural change, which is going to be a challenge after 18 months of being told to keep apart, but we need to make highly visible steps to reduce congestion on our roads, reduce carbon emissions and minimise disruption for locals living in the vicinity of popular sites while offering visitors a memorable experience.

“The trial shuttle bus service represents a very small step in the right direction, but in order to be successful it needs to run seven days a week and be promoted properly.”

A council spokesperson said: “In April this year, Stagecoach agreed to Monday-Friday journeys which are extensions of existing bus service routes to address issues (including congestion, carbon emissions, and disruption to local communities) experienced on Skye. It was not within Stagecoach’s capacity to include later evening and weekend journeys.

“In addition the council sought tendering ‘quick quote’ bids to provide supplementary services – particularly during evening hours and weekends. 

“The council is still exploring options on how to provide some level of service to supplement Stagecoach’s services. As soon as the supplementary weekend services have been finalised then we will be more able to focus on well-rounded publicity. 

“We would be happy to discuss with our Skye-based partners, and in particular SkyeConnect, the forms of publicity that would be most impactful in ensuring awareness of available services.”