The Bright Water Visitor Centre overlooks the pier at Kyleakin, close to the south eastern tip of the Isle of Skye. The visitor centre stands on the loop of road that once served the ferry slipway for the ferries to Kyle of Lochalsh. The ferries ceased operating in 1995 when the Skye Bridge opened, and since then this part of Kyleakin has been a very much more tranquil place.
The Bright Water Visitor Centre is operated by the The Eilean Bàn Trust, a community organisation which took over the ownership of the nearby island of Eilean Bàn (or "White Island") from the government in 1998. The Trust now works to preserve and promote the heritage and wildlife of the island. As well as operating the visitor centre and renting out part of the lighthouse cottage as a holiday let, it runs guided tours of the island during the summer half of the year.
These are excellent value and include part of the lighthouse cottage restored as museum to the author Gavin Maxwell, who lived here from January 1968 until his death in September 1969, the island's lighthouse, and the wildlife hides on the seaward side of the island. You can find out more on our feature page about Eilean Bàn. Island tours should be booked at the visitor centre.
The link with Gavin Maxwell is a strong one. The name of the The Bright Water Visitor Centre cam from the title of Maxwell's best known book, Ring of Bright Water, the first of a trilogy he wrote about his adventures with otters. On the quayside opposite the visitor centre is a beautiful statue of one of these otters, Teko, who lived with Maxwell on Eilean Bàn. This was presented to the Trust in 2000 by its sculptor, Laurence Broderick.
The Bright Water Visitor Centre itself serves as a "front door" and interpretive centre for Eilean Bàn. Many of the exhibits are interactive and there are a number of displays about the history, heritage and wildlife of the island, as well as about Gavin Maxwell. The most striking exhibit is a large model of the Skye Bridge, which used Eilean Bàn as a stepping stone and whose two sections now link the island to the mainland and to the Isle of Skye. The visitor centre also serves as a Tourist Information Centre for Kyleakin, and has a small shop selling gifts, books and smaller otter sculptures by Laurence Broderick.