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HomeScottish NewsMight underwater roads to the isles create a tidal wave of surf tourism?

Might underwater roads to the isles create a tidal wave of surf tourism?


Crowds at Newquay's Fistral Beach (top) contrast with the empty beaches of the Isle of Lewis (bottom). PICS: Nilfanion / Creative Commons (Newquay); Roger Co / The Scotsman (Isle of Lewis)
Crowds at Newquay’s Fistral Seashore (prime) distinction with the empty seashores of the Isle of Lewis (backside). PICS: Nilfanion / Artistic Commons (Newquay); Roger Co / The Scotsman (Isle of Lewis)

What if there have been tunnels linking a few of Scotland’s islands to the mainland? That was the thought experiment embarked upon by Scotland Workplace minister Iain Stewart (Con) earlier this week, following a fact-finding go to to the Faroes, the place they not solely have tunnels becoming a member of up the dots of their North Atlantic archipelago, however are additionally in a position to bask within the collective glory of an underground roundabout. Mr Stewart instructed that tunnels needs to be thought-about a “viable” different to ferries and deemed them an thought “price exploring.”

After all, these ideas have been thought earlier than. In 2019, Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil (SNP) held talks with a Norwegian consultancy firm in regards to the potential of subsea tunnels linking the Outer Hebrides to the remainder of Scotland. The corporate in query, Norconsult, which has overseen tunnel tasks in each Norway and the Faroes, suggested {that a} route between Harris and Skye could be the most suitable choice, with a attainable extra hyperlink between Harris and North Uist.

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Then, in 2021, Transport Scotland raised the potential for constructing a 17-mile tunnel between Rarnish on Benbecula and Neist Level on Skye. Such holes within the floor are a bit on the dear aspect – the Rarnish-Neist Level hyperlink would apparently value round £450 million – however politicians of all stripes at the very least appear open to the chance that digging them may deliver sure financial advantages, enhance island residents’ entry to healthcare and different companies, and assist forestall depopulation.

In the meantime, from a tourism perspective, having the ability to drive direct from the mainland to the Isle of Lewis would make a few of the greatest, most constant surf spots within the UK simpler to achieve. If that seems like a really minor level to lift, given all the opposite potential advantages below dialogue, take into account that in keeping with the Worldwide Browsing Affiliation (ISA), the world governing physique for browsing, greater than 35 million individuals now surf worldwide. Additionally take into account that advances in wetsuit expertise make the idea of browsing as a heat water, heat climate exercise about as outdated as day-glo solar block. And take into account too {that a} latest market overview of the ($4 billion) surf gear business from market analysis supplier ReportLinker famous: “Browsing holidays maintain great potential and are more likely to be an important element of the worldwide journey business within the put up Covid-19 interval.”

Level being: there are numerous surfers on the market, numerous them are ready to journey looking for new, ideally uncrowded waves, and whereas seashores within the south-west of England and the west of France at the moment are rammed with surfers, notably throughout the summer season months, the waves of the Western Isles stay so underexploited, even within the warmest months of the 12 months, that they nonetheless steadily rumble by not simply unridden, however unobserved.

Positive, the climate performs a component in protecting the crowds away: surfers spending a summer season in Biarritz or Newquay have a tendency to finish up with all-over suntans, whereas on Lewis your typical surfer tan begins on the brow and ends on the neck. Problem of entry, although, should even be an element.

Presently, in keeping with Google Maps, the journey time from the centre of Edinburgh to the well-known surf spot of Eoropie on Lewis is – at greatest – seven hours 55 minutes, permitting for 2 hours half-hour on the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway, plus check-in 45 minutes earlier than departure. With solely a few sailings a day, you may wish to go away a little bit of leeway for the Edinburgh to Ullapool drive, so let’s name it eight hours and quarter-hour to be on the secure aspect.

Making the identical journey through a tunnel from Skye to Harris, you may count on the journey time to be decreased considerably, however the distinction isn’t as huge as you’d assume. Angus MacNeil and Norconsult reportedly checked out varied Skye-Harris tunnel choices starting from 25-35 miles in size, however for the sake of argument let’s say they went for a useful one on this context, a 28-miler working from Uig on Skye to Tarbet on Harris. By way of this route, the overall journey time from Princes Avenue to Eoropie could be seven hours 31 minutes, assuming a 50mph restrict within the tunnel, so a 33 minute subsea crossing.

Tunnels, then, may not make a lot distinction to journey instances from the inhabitants centres of the Central Belt, however they will surely scale back prices. This July, a pair taking a automobile on the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway and again would pay round £150. True, there would most likely be a toll to pay on any tunnel, but it surely’s exhausting to think about it might ever be quite a lot of quid.

So, would the arrival of underwater roads to the isles see Lewis inundated with weekend surf trippers from the Central Belt? In all probability not. However might cheaper entry make the Western Isles extra engaging to surfers trying to keep for every week or extra? Completely – and there’s a possible market of 35 million and rising.

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