North Ford Map
The longest causeway on the Western Isles five miles between Gramisdale in Benbecula and Carinish in North Uist was opened by the Queen Mother on Wednesday September 7, 1960.
The project took 350,000 tons of rocks with a total of 90 men employed at the peak of the work, 75 per cent from the Islands. There are three bridges along its length, two to allow for boats to reach the main channels and one for drainage. A single track road runs along the top of the causeway with a total of nine passing places to each mile. The Stornoway Gazette of the following week reported that Her Majesty had said in her address that the road was the culmination of many years of hope, planning and endeavour and its construction was indeed a great event in the history of the Outer Hebrides. 'I can assure you that I have eagerly looked forward to my first visit to these Islands. Twenty years ago it was hoped that the King would open the South Ford Bridge but unhappily the many cares of the War made this impossible.'
The area was then run by the Inverness-shire County Council and this council, along with the Scottish Home Department, and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries paid for the project.
The North Ford which the causeway replaced could only be crossed when the tide was out with the help of expert guides, who were often faced with tracing new routes after winter storms moved the sandbanks. At high tide a boat plied between Carinish and Gramisdale. The ford, marked by a series of cairns, was practicable on foot in fine weather and during spring tides - but it was four miles long and open for only one hour either side of low tide.
North Ford Causeway
A traveller in the early 19001s - quoted in Ray Burnett's book 'Benbecula' - described the North Ford as follows. 'Before us lay miles of mud and water, interspersed with islets and black rock and dark tangles of seaweed clinging to them.' His guide told him that losing the path was dangerous. 'A yard or two to either side of it means that you are in quicksands which immediately swallow any man, horse, cart or trap that deviates from the path.'
A Benbecula priest of the same era, Father Macdougall, told of a night when he lost his bearings during an evening crossing in bad weather. 'I lost my horse and trap in the quicksands. The tide overtook me and washed me away; but in the end I reached an islet out west there, and so remained until two men in a boat found me the next evening.'
The liberation of inter-Island travel which followed the link-up saw the Stornoway Gazette reporting - as part of an item of major news - that a car from North Uist had got as far south as Lochboisdale on the Thursday after the opening, while several southerners reached
Lochmaddy that day as well.
Queen Mother at Northford Opening Ceremony
Group of flag waving visitors from Bernera