"Buses of Skye and the Western Isles" by John Sinclair is a superb book for anyone with a love of buses, or for anyone who wants to get a sense of what it was like to be on the Isle of Skye or the Western Isles in the 1960s and 1970s. It provides a fitting companion for the same author's "Highland Buses", published in May 2013.
To modern eyes, the islands covered in this book were very different places in the 1960s and 1970s. This was an age which had only fairly recently seen the end of steamer services, and which was not so very far removed from a world in which travel by sea between coastal communities was easier and more common than travelling by road. You don't have to go back all that far from the pictures in this book to find a time in which Lewis and Harris were regarded as separate islands because the overland links between them were so difficult. And the two parts of the same large island were distant outposts of different local authorities until 1975.
As roads improved (somewhat), buses became uniquely important to a changing way of island life, especially in areas where car ownership only developed slowly. The buses illustrated in this collection of images transformed many people's lives, broadening horizons and allowing regular journeys to work, to school, and to play that would previously have been unthinkable. And for the modern visitor to the islands, especially Lewis, where the disposal of old vehicles so often means finding a patch of ground and leaving them there for nature to reclaim (or not), it is tempting to wonder how many of the buses shown in this book are still on view, albeit as rusting hulks, if you only knew exactly where to look.
While the buses themselves are fascinating, for us it is the backgrounds to so many of the pictures that are the real joy of this book. Here we see buses in villages and at harbours; buses on slipways and on causeways. We were very taken by the picture of a bus on the pier at Craignure on Mull in 1964, sitting in front of the then new car ferry, the MV Columba, since converted to become the luxury small cruise ship the Hebridean Princess. Numerous other ferries also appear as scenery in these pictures, and we particularly liked the images of groups of buses in places like Portree on Skye, Stornoway on Lewis, and Tarbert on Harris.