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Calum's Road

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  248 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Calum MacLeod had lived on the northern point of Raasay since his birth in 1911. He tended the Rona lighthouse at the very tip of his little archipelago, until semi-automation in 1967 reduced his responsibilities. ‘So what he decided to do,’ says his last neighbour, Donald MacLeod, ‘was to build a road out of Arnish in his months off. With a road he hoped new generations ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published 2008 by Birlinn Publishers
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful, true story about Calum MacLeod, a resident of Raasay, Scotland, who, at the age of 56, set out to build a 1 3/4 mile long road, connecting Arnish (his home) to Brochel and the rest of the world. He set out and single-handedly began the arduous task of constructing a road, in hopes of preserving and revitalizing his beloved home. This man's integrity and fortitude were truly inspiring. Loved this book and the breathtaking Scottish scenery it depicted!
Mick Bordet
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This story of one man's determination to connect his small and shrinking community to the rest of the world by hand-building a road through the hills of Raasay shows both the best of the human spirit and the frustrations of dealing with a combination of petty politics and bureaucracy. The book contains a potted history of several significant population shifts on the small Hebridean island as its people deal with greedy landlords, ridiculous quantities of red tape and the often hostile ...more
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it

"Like many another mild-mannered, naturally courteous and relatively shy man, Calum MacLeod was able to channel his anger into the written word. Unlike most others, he was also able to assuage it by building a road."

"And at the very end of the day, of a life, or of a community, there was a statement to be made. It might, and would, be scorned as a pointless gesture ... But any gesture ... any victory was better than none at all."

" ... this man, who was then aged between fifty-six and
What an incredibly resilient individual. I am in awe. I have to admit to finding the style and some of the historical diatribe a bit confusing and laborious at times but reading about the 'clearances' of the Scottish highlands in the late 1800's shocked me. Forcing people to leave the land where their families and ancestors have lived for generations, unprepared and under provisioned, to carve out an impoverished existence on the shores of unfamiliar lands. Just awful. I was amazed, too, at the ...more
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
The true story of the building of a road to his village in the small Inner Hebridean island of Raasay by one very determined man, Calum MacLeod. After years of unheeded requests to build this lifeline and help stop the haemorrhage of people from the north of the island, Calum resorted to shaming the local government by setting-to and building the road himself. Despite being by this time in his fifties, he carried out the back-breaking work alongside his job as relief lighthouse-keeper and ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction

A friend brought me this book from her vacation hiking on the Isles of Lewis, Harris and Skye in Scotland. It is a wonderful story/history of the Isle of Raasay –a small rocky island off of Skye. The focus of the story is Calum MacLeod who builds a mile and three quarter long 12 foot wide road by hand. (Look up the wonderful pictures of the road on the internet) But, the story goes back to the Highland clearances and the 200 plus years leading up to the road. The author uses council records,
David Muir
Jan 03, 2014 rated it liked it
Fascinating story of an amazing feat but the writing style is rather odd. It's like the author can't make up his mind if he is writing an academic book (full of cross-references and meticulous weather/census records), an investigative piece of journalism, or a popular biography. Worth reading though if you are intending to visit Raasay or Skye, or if you want an insight into Gaelic culture.
Jul 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed

Cross-posted from Nightjar's Jar of Books.

An account of the life of Calum MacLeod, and the construction of the road from Brochel Castle to South Arnish, which he built almost single-handedly with only a wheelbarrow and a few hand tools, in hopes of bringing settlers back to the north of Raasay, and connecting his two-person community with the rest of the world.

Calum MacLeod seems to have been a truly remarkable man; his persistence and ingenuity - demonstrated not only by the building of this

Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Calum's Road tells the story of Calum MacLeod (1911-1988), who lived at the north end of the island of Raasay, Scotland. I picked it up earlier this year while I was visiting the neighbouring (and larger in area and population) Isle of Skye.

Calum lived at the remote northern end of Raasay, about 2 miles from the northern end of the road connecting the southern half of the island. Frustrated with inaction from the government bureaucracy concerning requests to extend the road to the residents of
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I will forever thank Portree's main bookshop employee for recommending this volume to me.

This book will give you feelings if you, like me, are anyhow charmed by the lost culture of people that live on the edge of the world.
I have been in the area and I have seen the island of Raasay, but I would have never dreamt of it being the scenery of a late counter strike of a dying community, embodied by one, extraordinary man.

Read it not as a biography of a man -or a road- but as the tale of a lost world
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography, 2019
I picked up this book at a bookstore in Aviemore Scotland and read it after getting back from our trip. We drove Calum's Road and explored Southern Raasay on our trip so the book was especially meaningful. The struggles of the crofters in Northern Raasay were extreme compared to the rural depopulation of small town mid-America that we see today. The book is sad but hopeful. I don't know that it would resonate as much without the trip to Raasay but would recommend it to anyone interested in ...more
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Calum MacLeod was a rural savant. He achieved the pinnacle of accomplishment but did so by means of an indomitable Celtic spirit. Calum was descended from a family who endured the indignity of Highland Clearances in the mid-1850s. When returning in the early 20th century the council could never be bothered to build a road on Raasay that could help local crofters earn a more promising living. Calum MacLeod basically said, "fair enough, I'm doing this myself."

That he did. By himself. Over 20
Marisa Bantjes
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Real life story of Calum MacLeod, a crofter from the remote Scottish island of Raasay, who single-handedly built a road connecting his village in the north of the island to the south in an attempt to stop the neglect and decline of the community and culture he loved and wished to preserve. Amazing what sense of purpose, determination and perseverance can achieve. Respect! I love Scotland, especially the Islands.
Jonathan Glen
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though it occasionally gets a bit slow, this is a heartfelt account of one man's struggle against the fading of a way of life.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
Gave up. Great story but I don't think it can fill a book. Lost me either the long prehistory of calum and his road.
Sep 01, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Calum McCleod and his neighbours wanted a road from his home in Arnish on the remote Scottish island of Raasay to the nearest town of Brochel. After years of campaigning by the local inhabitants to get the council to build one, they remained unsuccessful – so Calum decided to build one himself. Armed with basic tools and materials and a 1901 book about building roads as his only guide he spent the next 10 years – 1964-1974 – constructing his road. By the time he’d finished it was perhaps more of ...more
Sam Oxby
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Scottish historians
Recommended to Sam by: My mum
I tend to read various genre books simultaneously, so this was my biography being read alongside various fiction novels and a Christian book also, hence the time it took me to get through the whole book.

Hutchinson is an amazingly thorough historian, and I felt at the beginning of the book, as he runs through the details of various census recordings of the populations of Raasay and the surroundings small isles, that it was almost reminiscent of Biblical lists of names, like that of the men
Juliet Wilson
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, environment
Calum Macleod lived at the very north end of the island of Raasay, next to Skye in the Hebrides. He was a crofter, postman and tended a lighthouse. He also spent many years building a road from the north of the island to the central area. He hoped that this road would help encourage people to return to the north of the island, which had become extremely depopulated. Calum's Road became much acclaimed and was considered to be a piece of landscape art, certainly at the point where Calum's work ...more
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
My Scottish friend lent me two favorite books about crofters (small scale farmers) before my trip to Scotland. I didn't read this one until a month after returning from my trip, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it takes place on an island that we could see as we toured the Isle of Skye.

The author repeats himself multiple times, but otherwise effectively tells a story about a hardworker man, who steps up to do what the government wouldn't do for his small island.

I only wish that the
Duncan M Simpson
May 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography
Calum's Road is the story of one man's battle to halt the tide of depopulation in the Hebrides as the modern world drew more and more of us into cities and towns and away from communal living. It's much more than the story of Calum's road and well worth reading for anyone who wants a new perspective on modern life. Roger Hutchinson writes well and sympathetically and this book joins his earlier book on Lord Leverhulme's attempt to modernise the Western Isles.
Oct 22, 2013 is currently reading it
Wouldn't recommend it for young people. Found it quite boring because there was lots of vocabulary that I didn't understand. But I would definitely recommend this to adults who are interested in history.
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
A fascinating narrative, well written and researched.Everything has changed so much, it's hard the believe this happened within my lifetime.The book makes me want to I go to Raasay, walk Callum's Road and explore the other islands.
Matt Parker
Apr 05, 2016 rated it liked it
More about the history of Raasay than the road itself. When the book veered to the historical and anthropological, I liked it; but it never turned a critical eye on the road or Calum, which made me uneasy.
From BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Drama:
Ian McDiarmid leads this drama inspired by the extraordinary true story of how, over a period of ten years, one man built two miles of road by hand (including passing places) on the Scottish island of Raasay, which lies just off the east coast of Skye.
Cameron Brannigan
Jun 01, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me and much of it is an uplifting account of the determination to build a small road in a boggy wilderness in Scotland. It falls down in parts where it reads like a council report on a building project. Worth a read in order to get a taste of the Scottish Islands.
Dec 27, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
While this book was a bit of a slog I still enjoyed it; mainly because it's a true story taking place in Scotland. One man's determination to build a road and revitalize the northern part of the island where he was born and raised.
Feb 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Roger Hutchinson's excellent account of the life of Calum Macleod. Calum, a resident of the now-abandoned village of Arnish on Raasay, built a road to his own township - with his own tools. It did not come in time to halt the depopulation of the north of the island.
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Nice wee book telling the story of one stubborn Raasay man who builds his own road after decades of trying to persuade the local authorities to do it. Around this it paints a picture of Scottish crofting life and tells the story of the local clearances and the island's depopulation.
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