Main Crossings Ardrossan - Brodick
Ardrossan - Brodick
Mainland - Isle of Arran
Crossing Time:
55 Minutes
Regular Ships: Caledonian Isles / Saturn (Summer Only)

1957 - 1969: Glen Sannox
1970: Glen Sannox / Caledonia
1971 - 1975: Caledonia
1976 - 1983: Clansman / Caledonia
1984 - 1992: Isle of Arran
1993: Isle of Arran / Caledonian Isles
1994 - 2003: Caledonian Isles
2004 - Present:
Caledonian Isles / Saturn (Summer Only)
Additional Ships:
Iona / Pioneer / Claymore / Jupiter / Clansman / Isle of Mull (Additional runs or relief duties)

 Terminal Facilities:
Ardrossan: Single linkspan set into the former entrance to a now filled-in dock, large vehicle waiting area and modern terminal building located close to the ferry berth. Large car park located next to queuing area, developed out along the breakwater. Direct passenger walkway from the ferry terminal building to the railway station platform a few yards away. There is also available a second linkspan, the "Irish Berth" which can be utilised at busy times (two ship operation) or times of maintenance.

Brodick: Terminal building located next to passenger boarding area and at the end of the vehicle lanes. Linkspan and passenger gangways are accessed via causeways due to water depth nearer the shore. Public transport facilities are also located close by, with Arran tour buses drawing up next to the queuing area.

 Route History:

It was 1957 that the Arran crossing became a modern car ferry service, upon the introduction of the now much-missed Glen Sannox. Initially Arran was served in the summer from Ardrossan and in winter from the more sheltered pier at Fairlie a few miles up the Ayrshire coast. Hoist loading was the order of the day for the first 13 years of car ferry operation, as neither terminal had a linkspan.

The Glen sannox was a fast vessel, achieving around 18 knots when she entered service. Because of this and her substantial passenger complement (1100) she became a popular ferry with islanders and tourists over the years. However, over the years she did encounter one main problem; her hoist - or rather the limitations it imposed. Being hydraulically operated it became slower moving and at low tides especially this led to substantial delays, often for tourists returning to the mainland at the end of a weekend.

It was in 1969 that a replacement vessel of drive through capabilities was purchased. The new ferry was formerly known as the Stena Baltica and after some months undergoing  safety modifications, she took over the Ardrossan - Brodick crossing at the end of May 1970 as the Caledonia, reviving a name that had only been taken out of use the previous season.

Equipped with a visor, bow and stern ramps, the Caledonia could complete the crossing in just under an hour and required much less in the way of turnround time compared to her predecessor. She did have one fairly major drawback in that her vehicle capacity was only for about 40 cars and 650 passengers during the summer (less than 150 in winter). Before too long it was clear that another solution was required.

Picture: Hector Neill
Clansman Loading at Ardrossan

Picture: SoC Crew
Isle of Arran Preparing to Leave Brodick

From the summer of 1976, Arran was served by the converted ferry Clansman which could carry significantly more cars than the smaller Caledonia, although the latter would resume the route during the winter seasons until that of 1983/84. The Clansman remained on the Clyde's longest crossing until the end of 1983 when a new, purpose-built ships was launched for impending entry into service.

The Isle of Arran maintained the main Arran crossing for nine years and set a new level of passenger comfort when she entered service - something which was repeatedly improved upon with subsequent launches.

Picture: SoC Crew
Caledonian Isles Leaving Ardrossan

Isle of Arran, like her two recent predecessors, used her bow visor and ramp at Ardrossan (or Gourock in inclement weather) and her stern at Brodick to load up to 76 cars on each sailling. But even with this level of capacity for cars, traffic levels still continued to increase and the Isle of Arran fell victim to her own success and so in 1993 she was cast aside in favour of the brand new Caledonian Isles - by far the grandest ship to serve Arran in terms of facilities on board, but not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing to the eye!

The new arrival incorporated an intermediate level car deck to increase her capacity to 110 and her passenger accommodation was suitable for almost 1000 - only 100 short of the old Glen Sannox complement. In the first few seasons, the giant new ferry would be relieved by either her predecessor or the general relief vessel Iona.

Picture: Allan Comrie
Iona Relieving at Brodick
Picture: SoC Crew
2nd vessel Saturn Arriving at Ardrossan

After ten years on the crossing, the Caledonian Isles has, like her predecessors, seen traffic levels rise during her employment there. Whilst this is likely to continue in the future, it is also likely that the Caledonian Isles (relieved by the 1998-built Clansman during overhaul) will remain on the route for the foreseeable future.

In the last few months the regular ferry has seen support during the high summer season in the form of the smaller 'streaker', Saturn, which was deployed as the secondary vessel for the high summer in 2005. This was made possible by the arrival of the new generation of Bute ferry in mid-July. Saturn was upgraded to Class III standard for this new duty and although it was an experiment at first, her loadings were promising and her attendance was confirmed for at least the following two summers.

Picture: SoC Crew
Saturn and Caledonian Isles off Brodick

Winter months continued to see Clansman performing the relief service while Caledonian Isles was in drydock, however December 2007 saw a departure from the norm, as another Western Isles ferry stepped into the breach. Isle of Mull took over for a three week period at the start of December and almost immediately the weather turned in a big way. Within two days she was diverted to Gourock and attracted some negative comments from those using her regularly.

Picture: SoC Crew
Clansman Relieving in January 2007
Picture: SoC Crew
Isle of Mull Relieving in December the Same Year

Images from Ships of CalMac Collection (Except Where Credited)

All material on this site Ships of CalMac 2001 - 2017, unless otherwise stated.
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