The buses that the Co-op used to run on the Misty Isle
        (Eilean a Cheo)

From the late 1920s until the post war years there were two significant bus operators on Skye.  One was Skye Transport, the subject of this history, whose routes ran until 1958. The same trading name was used across the years by several different proprietors of the business.  The other provider was Neil Beaton who operated until 1953.  The routes of the two operators were complementary rather than competitive.
Where I lived in the south of England, the Co-op was a strong retail presence in the High Street in my childhood years.  But north of the border in Scotland they came to be bus operators too, nowhere more so than on the Isle of Skye - the so-called Misty Isle.  The SCWS (Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society) took over the routes of former private operator Skye Transport in March 1946, and retained the same trading name as had been used by the previous proprietor, D J Nicolson. This was the Nicolson family who, as the Portree Coach Company, had operated the first bus on the island in 1927.  They then sold this first business in 1930 to the Highland Transport Company of Inverness.  In 1930 Highland also acquired the Dunvegan Bus Service of Ronald Maclean of Dunvegan, operating from there via Bracadale and Sligachan to Kyleakin.  Highland withdrew from the island in 1935 after several years of loss making operation and sold the business back to the Nicolsons for 4500, who became bus operators again on their old routes but now running as Skye Transport.  Also, from the late 1920s Neil Beaton, another Portree-based operator, developed a network of bus services on the island to compliment the routes of Skye Transport. Beaton ran until 1953 before giving up bus operation.

    1937 timetable and fares. Vehicle illustrated is ST8165. 
        By happy coincidence the ST series of registrations were issued by Inverness Council in the mid-1930s.
1937 t/t cover
1937 times
bellgraphic ticket
1937 fares
The article below is reproduced from the Omnibus Society
Magazine dated December 1935.

Return ticket of SCWS Skye Transport,
printed by the SCWS itself.
reproduced from the Omnibus Society Magazine 1935
Six shilling return ticket Skye Transport

   Skye Calling! Cover of 1939 guide book containing 56 descriptive pages of the Isle of Skye, also a list of tours and excursions (and ST8165 again)!
cover of 1939 Skye Transport guidebook
tours by Skye Transport 1939
The principal Skye Transport service ran several times a day from the capital of the island Portree, through Sligachan and Broadford to Kyleakin, from whence the ferry crossed to Kyle of Lochalsh, the terminus of the rail line to Inverness.  Typically this ran twice a day in the winter and four times a day in the summer. The timings changed little over the years and were based around steamer and rail connections.  Royal Mail was conveyed on the Kyleakin route and some buses had mail compartments at the rear for the post.  Another route was Dunvegan to Kyleakin, via Struan, Sligachan and Broadford (there was discontent noted in the local Clarion newspaper when winter operation of the service was reduced to four days a week in October 1953; the same article praised the regular driver Ian MacLeod).   Other routes were Portree to Kilmaluag via Staffin along the east coast road around the Trotternish peninsula; and Portree to the Braes and Peinchorran, overlooking the Sound of Raasay.   There was also some tours and excursion work until 1956.  The SCWS took over seven vehicles in 1946 and at the end there were seven in the fleet that were taken over by MacBrayne - but a different seven.  Six were Albions and the other a Bedford OB and two vehicles had mail compartments for the Kyleakin route.

As the years went by, the routes became increasingly unviable, apart from the main Portree - Kyleakin service.  Early in 1958, SCWS announced its intention to withdraw all services except the Kyleakin route.  The Society offered to hand this route over to any operator who was prepared to assume operation of the other routes as well.  Following the intervention of the Traffic Commissioner, the Skye Transport  routes and seven buses passed to David MacBrayne Ltd on 28th November 1958.  (MacBrayne had established a presence in the south of the island in March 1948 on the Ardvasar - Armadale Pier - Kyleakin Ferry route by acquiring the business of Maclean and Macdonald of Ardvasar.  They then added a second route between Armadale and Portree in 1953 to replace the last service discontinued by Neil Beaton).  The takeover of the Skye Transport business by MacBrayne led to the demise of the traditional Mallaig - Kyle - Portree mail steamer, which became a summer only 'tourist' route between Kyle and Portree from 1959 onwards.

In 1970, as part of the staged withdrawal of MacBrayne from bus operations, the routes on Skye were transferred to ......... Highland Omnibuses of Inverness - who continue to this day to operate most of the services from their garage in Portree, albeit now under different ownership as Highland Country Buses as part of the Rapson group.  Most recently Highland Country Bus, as part of Rapsons, was acquired by Stagecoach in May 2008.

The 1954 timetable - with some very long winter layovers at Kyleakin for the drivers from Portree!  The morning bus laid over from 9.30 to 2.20 and the afternoon bus from 4.30 to 9.00 - I wonder what the drivers did with all that time on their hands, especially on the days when they didn't double back on the short runs to and from Luib?

April 1954 Skye Transport timetable

Another bus firm owned by SCWS from 1948 to 1968 was Smith's of Barrhead, a town to the south west of Glasgow

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

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