The Isle of Scalpay in the Outer Hebrides has a population of approximately 300 and is connected to the archipelago’s most populated region by an impressive bridge. Before the 1997 opening of the bridge, the 984 foot (300 meters) Sound of Scalpay waters could only be crossed by ferry (except for during the Ice Age, when sea levels were low enough to make the distance walkable).
Since the early 1980s, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council) had identified Scalpay as one of the islands where ferry service could most conveniently be replaced by a road. Unlike many similar initiatives however, Scalpay presented a particular challenge as a low causeway was not deemed viable, requiring a raised bridge instead. Designed by Halcrow Crouch, construction on the bridge started in 1993. Two years later, the project received additional funding from the European Union’s Objective One Program.
In 1997, the Bridge opened and the first person to drive across was Scalpay’s oldest resident, 103-year-old Kirsty Morrison. Tony Blair, then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was in attendance.
The bridge became crucial in Scalpay’s largest industrial project of the late 20th and early 21st-centuries, the Stolt salmon farm. While Stolt would not be in operation for long, opening in 1999 and closing in 2005, it was seen as a success for the bridge, a large bet on an island of a few hundred inhabitants that would, at least temporarily, pay off. Nowadays, if nothing else, the bridge connects Scalpay to the Outer Hebrides’ tourism industry.