crossings&cruises...
Main Crossings Oban - Colonsay
Oban - Scalasaig
Mainland - Colonsay
Crossing Time:
2 hours 20 minutes
Regular Ships:
Lord of the Isles / Isle of Mull / Hebridean Isles

SHIPS TIMELINE:

Pre-1975:
Lochiel
1975 - 1988: Columba
1989 - 1992: Isle of Mull / Claymore
1993 - 2000: Isle of Mull / Isle of Arran
2001 - 2002: Isle of Mull / Hebridean Isles
2003 - Present: Isle of Mull / Lord of the Isles / Hebridean Isles
Additional Ships:
Iona / Pioneer / Glen Sannox / Clansman
 

JUMP ON A VIRTUAL CROSSING 
 Terminal Facilities:
Oban: 3 storey terminal building with ticket office, waiting area and toilets. Two linkspans, one of which is undergoing redevelopment. Raised walkways from the upper floor of the terminal building direct to the vessel boarding points. Large vehicle marshalling area split into two sets of lanes

Colonsay: Pier and linkspan (dates over twenty years apart!) set out into the bay at Scalasaig on Colonsay. Passenger gangway is located along the pier and vehicle marshalling area in located adjacent to the linkspan.
 

 Route History:
Before Colonsay received its pier in the 1960s, the island was served by mail boat and tender launch as there was nowhere suitable for the larger vessel to berth. The Lochiel served Colonsay from her base on the Kintyre peninsula. Her runs via Port Askaig were extended to Colonsay every so often, although from 1975 the Columba assumed a general role and, in addition to her duties to Coll and Tiree, she also served Colonsay from Oban, just over two hours away. This vessel brought with her substantial car capacity and for the next thirteen years she served the island as part of her busy routine.
 

Picture: SoC Crew
Claymore returning to Kennacraig via Colonsay

Ferry services to Colonsay joined the late 20th Century in 1988 when drive-through facilities were finally installed at the pier at Scalasaig. The linkspan was to enable the new Mull ferry Isle of Mull to berth there. In addition to her main duties to Craignure, the new Oban-based giant also sailed to Colonsay three times a week. 1989 saw another vessel provide a second service to and from the mainland. As part of her new commitments to Islay, the Claymore started a new summer trend - a link from Kennacraig to Oban via Port Askaig and Colonsay, travelling out in the morning and returning in the afternoon and evening. This allowed residents of Colonsay a couple of hours in Oban before the return journey. Of course this journey was not required in the winter as the Mull ferry only provided a handful of sailings to Craignure in the morning and late afternoon.


The majority of the afternoon was filled with a return sailing to Colonsay by the Isle of Mull during the winter months.
 
Things remained fairly constant for a number of years. The only real change being that the Isle of Arran took over from the Claymore in 1993, although the weekly sailing still took place. Things did not really change until 2003. It was in the summer of that year that the majority of services from Oban, on a variety of routes, experienced a shake up. By this time the Islay ferry was Hebridean Isles and she carried on the tradition of linking Kennacraig and Oban.

The major change was that there were now three large ferries were based in Oban: Isle of Mull, Lord of the Isles and the 1998 built Clansman. The latter tended to concentrate on the Outer Isles and Coll / Tiree sailings while the smaller Lord of the Isles and Isle of Mull began sharing the Colonsay service.
 

Picture: SoC Crew
Isle of Mull heading towards Oban

Picture: SoC Crew
Isle of Arran on a Wednesday
run from Kennacraig
Picture: SoC Crew
Hebridean Isles making her way
in the Sound of Kerrera

As a result of this new deployment among the major unites, more sailings per week were offered and at more convenient times of the day than the evenings as in previous years. During the winter season however the Mull ferry resumed sole Colonsay duties.
 

Picture: SoC Crew
Lord of the Isles returning from Colonsay

Since this shake up of services in 2003 there has been little change. In addition to the weekly summer sailings by Hebridean Isles, Colonsay now usually sees a ferry arriving at its pier five or six times a week. Some of these sailings are straight return sailings from Oban and others may be from Kennacraig, terminating at Colonsay, or as part of a return trip from Oban to Port Askaig. With three ferries based in Oban and two in summer at Kennacraig the services to this tiny island have seen major improvements in terms of variety of service offered and frequency of sailings.

Images from Ships of CalMac Collection


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