Ardmhor - Eriskay
Barra - Eriskay
Linnhe / Loch
2004 - 2006:
2007 - Present:
Linnhe, Loch Tarbert and
Bhrusda on overhaul cover duties.
JUMP ON A VIRTUAL
Ardmhor: Minimal facilities as with
many other secondary routes. Slipway used for loading of both vehicles and
passengers - no separate gangway. Vehicle waiting area and car park located at the top
of the slipway. A new waiting room is nearly complete for passengers.
simple facilities, single slipway used for loading. Pier extends out
beyond the slipway and is of minimal construction. There is a recently
completed breakwater forming a harbour on the tiny island. Nearing
completion is a new waiting room at the top of the slipway.
The history for this route goes back just a few short years. Opened in the spring of
2003, the Sound of Barra crossing, as it is known, had been in the planning
stages for several years prior. Indeed as far back as the mid 1990s
berthing trials were carried out on Barra by the Bruernish as part
of an initial feasibility study into the possibility of a short link from
Barra and South Uist, rather than relying on the 90 minute sail from
Castlebay to Lochboisdale just a handful of times a week.
Eriskay was previously served by council-run ferries from South Uist.
These were of similar design to the 'Island Class' ferries and carried a
handful of cars but the route was tortuous and dependent on tidal
conditions. Part of the new plan was to link Eriskay to South Uist by
means of a causeway, as had already been done for Berneray and Benbecula
to their respective neighbours. Once the causeway was complete then all
that was left to be done was to have the new terminal facilities installed
to allow the chosen vessel to berth. These were duly completed and one of
the former Eriskay - Uist ferries was employed on the new link across
the Sound of Barra, under the jurisdiction of the Western Isles Council.
Loch Linnhe sitting at Eriskay
shortly after the
CalMac took over the route with the commencement of the summer
timetable in 2003 and initially the route was operated by the Loch Linnhe. This was not the long-term solution though as the
1986-built vessel was required back at Tobermory for her regular summer
employment. Indeed she was only a stop-gap vessel until the larger Loch
became available as part of a vessel cascade was able to take place.
Once the Loch Portain
was in service at Berneray, the 18-car Loch Bhrusda was brought down the chain of islands and took up residence on her
Loch Bhrusda heading to the Sound of Barra
The arrival of the Loch Bhrusda signalled the long-awaited completion of the Outer Isles transport link
which meant that a person could now drive from the north end of Lewis down
to Barra in one day. With a capacity for 18 cars on each sailing, the choice
of vessel seemed appropriate and allowed for growth of traffic levels, just
as she had generated to the north.
The new service saw 5 return sailings
each day during the summer timetable, with 4 during the winter timetable.
Right from the outset this route was advertised as one where vehicle
recommendations were strongly recommended. Indeed after just one year, it
was all but essential to book on during the main summer season, such was the
success of the new link.
For the first few seasons the winters would see Loch Bhrusda return northwards for about 2 months to relieve the
Loch Portain on the Sound of
Harris route. During this time the
Loch Linnhe or Loch Riddon would keep the Eriskay link open, however by the
winter of 2006/7 she was deemed too small to cope and the Loch Tarbert became the new
relief ship, thus keeping a minimum 18-car capacity the year round.
to echo developments around the whole network where other routes normally
serviced by Loch Class ships required larger vessels. The main difference
here though was that a larger ferry was needed altogether, as 18 cars and
115 passengers was increasingly inadequate for this relatively new route.
With this in mind CalMac despatched the larger Loch Alainn from Largs in
February 2007 for the purpose of undertaking trials on the Ardmhor - Eriskay
crossing. With a new vessel due at Cumbrae in spring 2007, this signalled
only one thing; that the Loch Bhrusda's
days on this run were numbered.
Sure enough, once the new Largs - Cumbrae ferry entered service, the Loch
Alainn made the long
journey from the Clyde to the Outer Hebrides via Craighouse and Craignure,
eventually arriving at Barra on 4th July and entering service with the 1545
sailing to Eriskay that very afternoon. Loch Bhrusda left Barra immediately for the Clyde where she was to take up the role
of spare vessel - an unusual move considering her being only 11 years old
and having a capacity of 18 cars! The summers will now see Loch Alainn as the dedicated
Eriskay vessel, while the winters will see the Loch Bhrusda and the Loch
sharing the duties between them.
With the new vessel allocation in place
there is once again room for development on this route. How long before a
vessel the size of Loch Portain or Loch Shira is
required though? Only time will tell, but if things carry on as they have
done in the last 4 years, surely it won't be long...
Lochs Alainn and Bhrusda
at Ardmhor in February
Loch Alainn leaving Ardmhor
on her first passenger
Images from Ships of CalMac Collection and