from years gone by ...... a scrapbook of names from the past

A kaleidoscope of reminiscences, not an exhaustive history as so many ran buses on Skye over the years

During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s MACLEODS OF DUNTULM  ran a single route along the west coast of the Trotternish peninsula with a daily service from Kilmaluag through Duntulm and Uig to Portree. This was taken over from Neil Beaton of Portree in March 1953 when that company decided to withdraw from bus operation. The morning journey south and the afternoon journey north were timed to connect with the Macbrayne's mail steamer at Portree. This was long before Uig became the car ferry terminal for Tarbert and Lochmaddy. As well as buses Alisdair and his brother Donald had a few lorries in haulage. The two timetable advertisements below appeared in the 'Clarion of Skye' newspaper and are for summer 1953 and winter 1954. After nearly thirty years the service passed eventually in 1981 from Macleod to Nicolsonsof Borve who ran it through the 1980s and 1990s.  The routes to Kilmaluag passed to Highland Country Bus (later Stagecoach in Skye), both the ex-Macleod route via Uig and also the other ex-Skye Transport east coast route via Staffin to Kilmaluag. Extra journeys operated by Scottish Citylink run between Portree and Uig connecting with the outer islands car ferries to Tarbert in Harris and Lochmaddy in North Uist.

   Macleods timetable leaflet from 1953
Two timetable advertisements   

timetable from newspaper

timetable from newspaper
macleods bellgraphic ticket

LACHLAN MACKINNON OF ELGOL operated from Broadford to Elgol from 1953, using an Austin K2 JS7986 in the late 1950s. Mackinnon continued until April 1972, latterly with 29-seater Bedford OB JR114. He was successor to previous operators MacIntosh (1930s) and John MacInnes of Broadford (from 1939 after he lost the Armadale mail contract).  In 1972 the Elgol route became only the second Royal Mail Postbus in the country, still driven by Mackinnon's driver Roddy Nicolson.  It continued for 35 years but was withdrawn in 2007, replaced by Rapsons (Highland Country Buses, later Stagecoach in Skye). Elgol is the departure point for the Loch Coruisk excursion sailings. From 1978, there were two other Postbus routes on the island, in the Dunvegan / Glendale / Waternish area, operated by 4-seater estate cars, but now withdrawn.  Illustrated below are a ticket and Mackinnon's timetable from the late 1960s.
elgol timetable
elgol bus ticket

Timetable Sutherland Glenbrittle

W  J  SUTHERLAND  ("Willie") of Carbost operated from Portree via Sligachan to the west of Skye and the shores of Loch Harport from 1959 until 1996. Originally Donald Steele of Carbost ran from Portnalong to Sligachan (licenced in 1931). The route was extended to Portree in February of 1936 and a partnership formed with Roderick Steele. Also in February of 1936 EWEN MACRAE of Glenbrittle on the lonely shores of Loch Eynort started to run from there via Carbost and Sligachan to Portree. In 1939 the Steele's route passed to Neil Beaton of Portree who extended it further westward to start at Fiscavaig. Macrae acquired the Fiskavaig route in 1953 when Beaton's withdrew from bus operations. In the 1950s Macrae alsoa advertised haulage and removals. Sutherland bought the Glenbrittle route from Macrae in 1959 and later acquired the Fiskavaig route as well in October 1962, later combining the two. Willie's vehicles had a blue livery and were most often acquired from Highland Omnibuses of Inverness. The undated Sutherland timetable illustrated alongside shows services mainly by connection at Sligachan with only the Friday return shopping journey running through to Portree. As well as the more traditional schools and shopping journeys, a feature of more recent years (eg 1980s) had been a summer months early morning departure from Portree outbound with a corresponding late afternoon return - a facility useful to walkers and climbers for access to the Cuillin Hills.

Parked in Portree between duties in March 1978 are AEC Reliance / Plaxtons AJD529C of
Sutherland of Glenbrittle and RVB412E of Macleod of Duntulm. (photo by John Sinclair)

Portree March 1978 John Sinclair

The Fiskavaig - Carbost - Portree service passed to Nicolson of Borve (see below) probably in 1996. The Nicolson families had been involved in the bus business on Skye for many years, and it was Donald John Nicolson who operated the first bus on the island in 1927 as the Portree Coach Company.  The Nicolsons then sold this first business to the Highland Transport Company of Inverness in 1930.  Highland withdrew from the island in March 1935 and the Nicolsons became bus operators again over their old routes, but now running as Skye Transport.  The SCWS (Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society) took over the routes of the former private firm Skye Transport in March 1946, and retained the same trading name as had been used by the previous proprietor, D J Nicolson. 

From 1953 ALEXANDER NICOLSON OF SKEABOST BRIDGE was in the bus business running the ex-Neil Beaton service from Portree to Dunvegan and Glendale.  One of the vehicles used by Nicolson's Bus Service was a 1951 Bedford SB / Duple appropriately registered SB8701. This route subsequently passed from Alexander ("Alex") Nicolson to PETER CARSON of Dunvegan in 1965, and Carson ran it until it was taken over by Macbraynes in 1970. 

NICOLSON OF BORVE took over in 1981 the ex-Macleods of Duntulm route from Kilmaluag via Uig to Portree and then operated it for some years in the 1980s and 1990s.  The Borve-based firm seems to have been in and out of the timetabled bus service business at different times but were usually involved in school contract work, sometimes with double deckers (eg an ex-Southdown "Queen Mary" for a time).  In the summer of 2001 Nicolson was operating on the route from Portree via Edinbane to Dunvegan and Glendale, as well as Portree to Peinchorran, Portree - Sligachan - Dunvegan (school journeys), Portree to Carbost/Fiskavaig, and the Portree town service.  And then it seems that Nicolsons were once again out of the bus business as their bus routes were deregistered in January 2002 after retendering and the contract for their operation passed to Highland.

Broadford to Elgol bus ticket

Ewen Marae Bellgraphic ticket

pre war Skye Transport bus ticket

Nicolson of Borve Mercedes parked in Portree in July 2001

A weekly express service was operated by SKYE CARS (the trading name adopted by A Sutherland and Sons, who also ran excursions on the island from their Sutherlands Garage, Broadford base) between Skye and Glasgow in the 1950s and 1960s. The southbound journey was on Friday with return northbound on Saturday. Taken over from Neil Beaton in 1953, this passed to Wallace Arnold Tours of Leeds in the early 1970s who operated from the Glasgow end, so it was then north on Friday and south on Saturday.  Wallace Arnold used vehicles hired in from other operators as they did not have a Scottish base.  Another operator with a similar range of tours and excursions from Broadford and Kyleakin in the 1950s was Campbells Tours. 

MACDONALD AND MACLEAN  were taken over in 1948 by Macbrayne's and this brought their buses on to the island for the first time on their Ardvasar - Armadale - Kyleakin service, which bus route Donald ("Danny") MacLean and Peter MacDonald had introduced in 1940 when they won the mail contract from previous provider John MacInnes of Broadford (see Elgol entry above) who had run it since at least 1923.  The M and M garage at Ardvasar in the south of the island became the Macbrayne base for Skye.  Then MACBRAYNE'S, after modest beginnings on just the one route on the island between Ardvasar and Kyleakin, took over the remaining Neil Beaton bus route from Portree to Armadale after 31st August 1953.  Armadale was the island port for the ferry from Mallaig, the terminus of the rail line from Glasgow and Fort William.  Subsequently Macbrayne's took over all of the Skye Transport bus operations in 1958 when SCWS wished to withdraw from the bus business, which made Macbrayne's the major operator on the island.   The garage at Ardvasar still stood in summer 2001, used for car and tractor repairs.

Perhaps the classic Isle of Skye bus picture - waiting for the ferry to arrive at Kyleakin are two of Macbrayne's Thornycroft Nippys: FGE 678 of 1947 with 14 seats and mail compartment; behind is HGG 357 of 1950, a 20-seater. The front bus clearly marked for its destination at Ardvasar, with the one behind probably bound for Portree.

From the 1950s, three Alexander Maclennan sailing bills above for the Armadale - Mallaig ferry and also pleasure cruises from Mallaig.

Some years later in 1970 Macbraynes took over the Portree - Dunvegan - Glendale route, which left only Macleods of Duntulm, MacKinnon of Elgol and Sutherlands of Carbost operating independently.  Following the break-up of the Macbraynes bus operations in 1970, their routes passed to Highland Omnibus (the wheel having turned full circle nearly 40 years later after Highland's withdrawal from the island in the 1930s).

  Cover of 1969 Macbraynes timetable for Skye - if you are interested in the activities of David Macbrayne you may wish to view the website of the Macbrayne Circle.
  Macbraynes as fondly remembered, passing through Broadford on the way to Armadale Pier and the Mallaig ferry.
Macbraynes summer 1955 timetable for their then only two Isle of Skye bus routes: Armadale - Portree and Armadale - Kyleakin


Clicking on this link will take you to the full Macbrayne's Islands Area timetable dated 2nd May 1955

If you remember the Clarion of Skye published in the 1950s by Alli Nicolson of Struan, or the Vest Pocket Guides to the Isle of Skye published by Duncan Macpherson in Kyle of Lochalsh you may find this link of interest!

skyeways route 700 on route to portree

Since bus deregulation in the mid-1980s, routes have changed hands from time to time.  The opening of the Skye bridge itself in 1995 bought changes too.   From 1981, there was competition between SKYEWAYS and Citylink's predecessors, with Skyeways operating a summer only service from Kyle of Lochalsh to Glasgow.  Extending on to the island in 1982, over the next two or three years the fleet was gradually increased and services to Glasgow and Inverness were successfully extended to operate as far as Portree and Uig on the Isle of Skye for 7 days a week, 12 months of the year.  Their blue liveried coaches and buses were to be a familiar sight on the island for nigh on twenty years.  But for the past few years these services have been rationalised into a Citylink-only operation after Citylink invested in the Skyeways business.   Skyeways / Clan Coaches still continue in the private hire and contract business with a fleet of over thirty vehicles from their mainland base.

Skyeways (based primarily in Kyle of Lochalsh and known formerly for many years as Clan Coaches) also operated in the summer months over "local" routes on the island, Kyle/Kyleakin to Portree/Armadale and Armadale to Portree. These routes were then served year round by HIGHLAND COUNTRY BUS (the name adopted after the sale of the Highland Omnibus business to then new owners Rapsons of Brora). However, the Skyeways local services ceased at the end of the summer 2000 season and were not operated in 2001. To a degree CITYLINK competed with Highland Country Bus on the island bus routes as local passengers can be conveyed on the five times a day express coach services between Portree and Kyle of Lochalsh, on the way to Glasgow and Inverness respectively.

At their Portree depot, Highland Country Bus in the summer of 2001 had an allocation of 17 buses plus 3 express coaches that parked overnight, crewed by 22 bus and 5 coach drivers.  The coaches are operated on behalf of Citylink on routes to Inverness and Glasgow.  In practice many of the buses are outstationed around the island, 2 at Flodigarry, 1 at Uig, 2 at Broadford and 1 at Kyleakin (also 5 on the mainland just across the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh).  In January 2002 Highland assumed responsibility for the routes until recently operated by Nicolson of Borve from Portree to Glendale; Peinchorran; Fiskavaig; also the Portree town service.   (Highland Country Bus, as part of Rapsons, was acquired by Stagecoach in May 2008 and is now known as Stagecoach in Skye).

  Highland Country Bus seen in action in Broadford in July 2001 on the way to Armadale.

These are the services that were operated back in the SUMMER OF 2001

Highland Country Bus  50        Portree - Broadford - Kyleakin - Kyle of Lochalsh (one return journey plus school journey)
(Rapsons) 52        Portree - Broadford - Armadale - Ardvasar (five or six journeys a day, mid-summer)

150      Portree - Broadford - Torrin (school journeys only)

154A   Isleornsay - Kyleakin - Kyle - Plockton (school journeys only)

355      Kyle - Kyleakin (low floor Dennis Dart across the Skye Bridge, every 30 minutes, 7 days a week)

356/357/358   Portree - Staffin - Kilmaluag - Uig - Portree    (circular, 356 out via Staffin, 357 out via Uig, 4/5 times a day)

360      Portree - Sligachan - Glenbrittle (17 May to 30 September only)
Scottish Citylink 915 / 916   Uig - Portree - Broadford - Kyleakin - Kyle - Fort William - Glasgow  
                        (three times daily, including 915 via Glasgow Airport once each way)

917     Portree - Broadford - Kyleakin - Kyle - Inverness (twice daily)
Royal Mail Postbus  106     Broadford - Elgol (14-seater, twice daily, once on Saturdays)

102     Dunvegan - Glendale - Milovaig (4-seater, 2 / 3 times a day)

103     Portree - Edinbane - Waternish - Geary - Dunvegan (4-seater, 1 / 2 journeys a day)
Nicolson of Borve Portree - Peinchorran  (schooldays and Fridays)

Portree town service (six journeys Monday to Friday)

Portree - Sligachan - Carbost - Fiskavaig (two journeys Monday to Friday)

Portree - Sligachan - Struan - Vatten - Dunvegan (school journeys)

Portree - Edinbane - Dunvegan - Glendale (Dunvegan 4 times a day, Glendale 1 / 2 journeys)

Portree - Waternish - Geary (school journeys)
Glenedin Coaches Portree - B885 - Struan - Vatten (Tuesday and Friday, also daily in school holidays)

Portree - Waternish - Geary (Monday and Wednesday, also daily in school holidays)

Day tour Portree to Dunvegan Castle and West of Skye, Monday Wednesday and Friday

Evening tour Portree to North End of Skye, Tuesday and Thursday                     
Murdo Macdonald  Portree - Sligachan - Carbost - Fiskavaig (one journey Saturday)

Wheelchair accessible minibus 'on demand' in Dunvegan, Glendale, Waternish, Struan areas

Comments on 2001     The only Sunday buses were the Citylink services and the 355 Skye Bridge shuttle.   In 2001, in the absence of the Skyeways services, there were no early buses westwards from Kyle and Kyleakin to Portree, and no late afternoon buses back.  There were also no direct services that year linking Kyle/Kyleakin with Armadale Pier (for Mallaig).    The winter service on Skye is very much reduced from summer levels, and is basically to meet shopping and school requirements only.   An additional provider in the winter months was Waterloo Bus Service of Broadford (a taxi and minibus operator) who provided some shoppers journeys MWF Armadale to Broadford and Kyleakin and TThS Armadale to Broadford and Portree. 

Somerled Square Portree
Eight of the island's buses lined up in Somerled Square, Portree. On the left the bus for Uig and Kilmaluag run by Macleod of Duntulm. Next to it a Macbrayne vehicle, presumed on their service to Armadale. The other buses are as yet unidentified. Picture with thanks to the Skye Transport Album.

And these are the services that were operated over sixty years ago in the SUMMER OF 1956

Macbraynes Ardvasar - Kyleakin (three return journeys)

Armadale - Portree (one /t wo return journeys)
Macleod  Portree - Uig - Kilmaluag (two return journeys)
Nicholson Portree - Edinbane - Dunvegan - Glendale (two return journeys)

Portree - Waternish (one/two return journeys)
Macrae Portree - Sligachan - Fiscavaig (one return journey, via Sconser on Tuesday)

Portree - Sligachan - Glenbrittle (two return journeys)
Mackinnon Broadford - Elgol (two return journeys)
Skye Transport Dunvegan - Kyleakin (one return journey)

Portree - Kyleakin (four return journeys)

Portree - Staffin - Kilmaluag (one / two return journeys)

Portree - Peinchorran (schooldays and Fridays)

 In contrast, these are the services that were operated eighty years ago in the SUMMER OF 1936

Neil Beaton Ardvasar - Kyleakin (one return journey)

Portree - Uig - Kilmaluag (two return journeys)

Portree - Edinbane - Dunvegan - Glendale (three return journeys)

Portree - Armadale (two return journeys)

Portree - Sligachan - Sconser (one evening return journey with mails **)
Skye Transport Dunvegan - Kyleakin (one return journey)

Portree - Kyleakin (three return journeys)

Portree - Staffin - Kilmaluag (one return journey)
MacIntosh  Broadford - Elgol (one return journey)
Macrae  Sligachan - Portnalong (one evening return journey connecting with ** above)

Recommended reading is John Sinclair's well illustrated 2014 book 'Buses of Skye and the Western Isles'

A selection of photographs of buses on Skye from days gone by is in the
Isle of Skye Transport album

This a site of historical information and does not contain current bus service information

return to index  Click here to return to the Countrybus index page   Clicking on this link will take you to the full Macbrayne's Islands Area timetable dated 2nd May 1955