Atlantic Bridge

Atlantic Bridge, Bridge over the Atlantic, Clachan Bridge, Seil, ArgyllThis is the Bridge over the Atlantic, also known as the Atlantic Bridge; I daresay someone’s referred to it as Atlantic Crossing too. You’ll find it in Argyll, Scotland, about 10 miles south of Oban. Atlantic Bridge’s real name is Clachan Bridge and it joins the Hebridean island of Seil with the mainland, spanning a narrow section of the Atlantic Ocean.

Atlantic Ocean, Seil IslandSo if you’re looking for the other end of a bridge across the Atlantic somewhere on the east coast of North America, it won’t be this one.  But you never know.  Anne Clare, writer, wife, mother and history lover at The Naptime Author, left a kind comment on A Bit About Britain’s feature on Furness Abbey: “My son thought we ought to drive over and visit this one. It led to an interesting impromptu geography lesson – he was pretty sure there must be a bridge across the Atlantic SOMEWHERE”. This amused me – Anne’s stylish, informative, prose often does – so I mentioned it to Mrs Britain, who reminded me that Britain not only has an Atlantic Bridge, but also that we had once crossed it; well, twice, actually.  And here it is.

Atlantic Bridge, Bridge over the Atlantic, Clachan Bridge, Seil, ArgyllThe Bridge over the Atlantic was constructed in 1792 across a narrow channel in the Firth of Lorne which is technically part of the Atlantic Ocean, albeit possibly not the great, and somewhat deeper, expanse of water that Anne’s son may have had in mind. We Brits are known for our sense of humour; just look at how we still agree to pay our politicians.  The bridge was designed by Robert Mylne (1733-1811) – who also designed Blackfriars Bridge in London – and it was apparently built (or originally designed) by a John Stevenson of Oban.  This might be the same John Stevenson who, with his brother Hugh, built most of Oban; yet another story.

Eilean Eisdeal, Easdale Island, EllenabeichFor those that enjoy statistics (and almost 20% of you do*), Clachan Atlantic Bridge is 300 feet (91 metres) long with a span of 72 feet (22 metres) and its elegant hump is 39 feet (12 metres) high – so small boats can slip safely beneath. I didn’t measure it myself, but those are the figures most of the guides give. It is on the B844, the one and only road leading onto Seil, from which you get to the largest village on the island at Ellenabeich – confusingly often called Easdale, the same name as a small island (Eilean Eisdeal) just a few oar-strokes away.  Perhaps this uncertainty is because Easdale is so much easier to pronounce than Ellenabeich, which comes out as a kind of mild sneeze every time I attempt it. If you think that’s tricky, try Tigh an Truish; the Tigh an Truish Inn is just on the island side of the Atlantic Bridge and the name means house of trousers.  This interesting tag derives from the time after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, when the Government attempted to destroy Gaelic culture – which included banning the kilt.  So islanders heading to the mainland for work would, so the story goes, change into trousers at the inn and back into their traditional plaid on their return home.

Tigh an Truish, Seil, Atlantic BridgeSeil is the northernmost of the slate islands (Seil, Easdale, Luing, Lunga, Shuna, Torsa and Belnahua), so-called because of the product that was extracted from at least the 1500s, peaking in the 19th century when hundreds were employed cutting slate from the quarries, and dressing it.  The slate was exported so widely that the islands have been referred to as the islands that roofed the world. Ellenabeich was itself once an island, much of it made of spoil from a large slate quarry, 250 feet (76 metres) deep below sea level, whose narrow sea wall was breached in a great storm of 1881. No one died, fortunately, but hundreds of jobs were lost immediately; on nearby Easdale, the slate industry limped on until the 20th century.  There is a Slate Islands Heritage Centre in Ellenabeich, where the flooded quarry is often mistaken for a harbour.

Ellenabeich, Argyll & ButeCottages at EllenabeichFilm and celebrity buffs might like to know that Seil was once the home to the late Frances Shand Kydd, mother of Diana, Princess of Wales and that scenes from the 1969 tear-jerker Ring of Bright Water were filmed in and around Ellenabeich. This was the only movie I could think of to star an otter, until someone mentioned Tarka the Otter, who did his thing in North Devon.  The snow-capped peaks in the distance on the photo, by the way, are on the Isle of Mull.

EllenabeichReturning to where we began, at the Bridge over the Atlantic, or Atlantic Bridge – which research suggests is the only place where it’s possible to cross the Atlantic in under a minute – Clachan Bridge is not the only thing that pops up when searching on the Internet. The name has also been misappropriated by an equity fund (whatever that is) based in Ireland, a discredited ‘educational charity’ (conservative political networking organisation) originally set up by the politician Liam Fox with Margaret Thatcher as president, a training programme whereby non-EU medical students can study in Ireland (which of course so many aspire to do) and a Cornish folk band.  And then there’s Atlantic Crossing, the half fast, half slow, 1975 album by exiled Scotland supporter Sir Rod Stewart.

Atlantic Crossing, Atlantic BridgeAs you can see, I got my copy on the cheap.  The offering appropriately includes a famous cover of Scottish musician Gavin Sutherland’s composition Sailing.  Take it away, Rod (shame about the sailor-suit)…

 

Atlantic Bridge*I am forced to concede that I might have made that up.

42 thoughts on “Atlantic Bridge

  1. Ellen

    A bridge across the Atlantic…fascinating. 🙂 We have been to Oban and missed that bridge by 10 miles!

  2. Blue Sky Scotland

    As your photos show its a lovely part of the world. Not sure if Rod meant that particular bridge with his LP title as he was moving to LA at that time to avoid massive UK tax on his earnings but it was certainly parodied by Billy Connolly a year later in his 1976 LP Atlantic Bridge with a very similar cover and he did mean the one near Oban. Not been up that way for a couple of years but its still largely untouched and beautiful around there.

  3. Clare Pooley

    It is a very pleasing bridge – sturdy but elegant too. Your photographs are marvellous as always. I particularly like the one of the cottages at Ellenabeich with the snow-topped mountains of Mull in the background. You always research so thoroughly and provide lots of interesting facts; Liam Fox, Frances Shand Kidd and the house of trousers story all getting a mention! Keep up the good work!

  4. C. Lee McKenzie

    Going over the Atlantic on that bridge is better than supersonic travel. I could tell my friends it only took three minutes to walk across the Atlantic and impress them no end. Or they might call for psychological testing. Scotland is the beautiful and the wettest spot I’ve ever visited. I love it and now you’ve given me another reason to return. Thanks.

  5. Sarah

    That’s a quick way to cross the Atlantic! It looks a stunning location I remember the film Ring of Bright Water a wonderful film! Sarah x

  6. Carla TePaske

    Hello,
    Guess what, the otter used for Ring of Bright Water, my dad helped with. 🙂 Wisconsin Otter are used in the film. Phillips, Wisconsin is my home town.

  7. Anne Clare

    What a beautiful spot! Thanks so much for your kind words, another entertaining article, and to and Mrs. Britain for bringing this place up! The two oldest enjoyed the article too- they said that it was funny that a bridge across the Atlantic could be so small, and they loved the ‘house of trousers’ too 🙂 As far as my attempts at geography lessons, the 5 year old says he still wants to come over and visit these places, and when I asked how, he told me that we should just drive…

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      When we design this bridge, we’ll have to incorporate some kind of arrangement to ensure you’re all driving on the correct side of the road when you get here. Though I suspect that’s a minor detail compared to the engineering feat itself… 🙂

      1. Anne Clare

        Ha! Yes, I wouldn’t like to come off into London traffic going the wrong way! (Assuming that it’s like most cities I’ve avoided driving through.) I’m stuck on calculating just HOW much coffee I’d need to make that kind of drive…:)

  8. R Mac Wheeler

    I love that last photo…not to say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy all of your photography.

    Not that this has anything to do with bridges across the Atlantic, but the Mrs. and I streamed the first episode of a series made on your side of said body of water, and I found myself screaming, “Why can’t they speak English.” I’m so glad I understand your printed English more than the spoken. Just a prejudiced aside…not intended to insult. I love the accent…except when I’m trying to keep up with the plot. Oh…the show was Hard Sun.

    Cheers.

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      I thought ‘Hard Sun’ was pretty awful, personally, but they were definitely speaking English; of course, not everybody speaks the lingo as elegantly as what I do. Trust me, we could do with sub-titles for some US programmes and films…and if one more person says they’re trying to ‘reach out to me’ I’ll be tempted to set Boris on them. 🙂

  9. hilarymb

    Hi Mike -what a fascinating piece of history … loved reading it – clever of Mrs Britain to jog your memory about your B844 journey …and being able to cross the Atlantic without leaving Britain. While Anne, the Naptime Author, added some interesting snippets and got you and Mrs B a-thinking … it’s great these interactions among our blogs – cheers Hilary

  10. franklparker

    I am a bit miffed – I spent a thoroughly enjoyable week near Oban back in the late 90s and I had no idea that I could have visited the Hebrides without using Mac whats ‘is name’s ferry!

  11. artandarchitecturemainly

    I wouldn’t want to live permanently on the islands, but for a couple of weeks in summer, you found an ideal holiday spot. The houses, boats, bridges and beaches are beautiful to photograph, and the pub is perfect. I knew that after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, the Government attempted to destroy Gaelic culture and that they included banning the kilt.

    But I have never heard of islanders changing into and out of trousers at the inn. Clever!

  12. Fun60

    The shape and fabric of that bridge are fabulous. It is an area I am unfamiliar with and have made a mental note that travels in 2019 must include the Highlands.

  13. jmnowak

    I luv a good slate roof! And those there are exceptional…a pretty place, in a rugged sort of way. And, I always thought that north of Hadrian’s Wall the weather is only ever bleak and stormy. These lovely fotos put paid to that notion!
    Rod was also lookin’ ‘pretty’, don’t you think. “If you think I’m sexy, And you want my body….” *clicking the fingers to the beat.

  14. markspitzerdesigns

    Not quite the same as the land bridge that allowed early settlers to the US to come over from Russia, but indeed a pleasant way to visit the island and still be back for tea.

  15. Shammy

    Yes, I agree, shame about the sailor suit, but that’s a great song. I wish I could encounter the Bridge over the Atlantic when I visit Scotland later this year, But sadly we’re not going to be that far north.

  16. Georgina My

    Don’t forget Tarka the Otter a distressing film where an otter gets killed by hounds (I think) which was often shown to schoolchildren in the 1970s. Traumatised forever. But I don’t know where it was filmed.

  17. Diane Thompson

    Having cycled over the bridge myself I concede that it is a marvelous feat of engineering and a wonderful place to observe sea otters and other wildlife. Thank you for your informative tribute to this lovely bridge and the islands to which it leads you.

  18. Judy Masrud

    I would love to see the slate quarry, I think the kilt should be required dress, and I’m all for a bridge across the Atlantic, though a bit longer than that one. And I know someone who definitely is among the fictional 20%. Beautiful photos. I was thinking that Rod Stewart attended Bob Jones University or maybe that was Alice Cooper.*

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