Main Crossings Gourock - Dunoon (Vehicle)
Gourock - Dunoon
Mainland - Mainland
Crossing Time:
c25 minutes
Last Ship:


1954 - 1969: Arran / Bute / Cowal
Clansman / Iona
1971: Iona / Glen Sannox
1972 - 1973: Glen Sannox / Maid of Cumbrae
1974 - 1985:
Jupiter / Juno
1986 - 2005:
Jupiter / Juno / Saturn
2006 - 2011:
Additional Ships:
Pioneer / Claymore / Coruisk

 Terminal Facilities:
Gourock: CalMac headquarters located in terminal building, adjacent to railway station. Large passenger waiting room and facilities. Single linkspan and gangway at main berth for Dunoon ferry, but also used for Arran and Bute ferries in rough weather. Smaller vessels berth at second jetty, further up from linkspan berth. Vehicles queue back along the road in specially designated lanes. Car parking is available in limited form back towards main road although a large car park is located at the railway station.

Dunoon: Century-old pier set out into the Clyde. Currently vehicles board by side loading arrangements with linkspan set into the pier at northern end although to the immediate south of the pier is a new breakwater and end-loading linkspan. Passenger waiting area and vehicle queuing area located close by.
 Route History:
The first ever Clyde car ferry service was operated on the Gourock - Dunoon crossing in early January 1954. The ferry, Arran was one of three near sisters, the others being Bute and Cowal. They were the first ferries on the west coast to use hoists to load their vehicles at each terminal (click here to see how hoists worked and how methods of loading changed over the years) and their introduction brought about the radical modernisation programme which was seen right up Scotland's west coast.

The Gourock - Dunoon crossing has always been an important commuter run, carrying hundreds of workers to Gourock and the connecting trains to Glasgow. But with the introduction of the new car ferries on the Upper Clyde, car travel was much more readily possible as well. Indeed as time has gone by, the number of vehicles crossing the Clyde at this point has steadily increased.

It was 1970 that saw the Gourock - Dunoon crossing receive new tonnage. The new incumbent ferry was the former Mallaig - Armadale vessel Clansman of 1964. She was a stop-gap solution until the new Iona was ready for service in May of that year. At first the latter struggled with the route because she had to hoist load instead of using her bow and stern ramps. Once the linkspans at Gourock and Dunoon had been completed however, the Iona came into her own. She could end-load at Gourock whereas Dunoon pier now incorporated a linkspan set into it, at the northern end. The ferry used her starboard side ramp to load and unload her cars - a method that is still used today.

Glen Sannox passing Maid of Cumbrae whilst on the Dunoon route*

The old favourite of Arran; the Glen Sannox took over the Dunoon crossing in late 1971, having herself been converted to a stern loading vessel previously. She was partnered the following year by the little Maid of Cumbrae which had also seen radical surgery. This pair looked after the crossing ready for a new purpose-built ferry to take over in early 1974. 

The Jupiter, and shortly afterwards her sister; Juno revolutionised further the Upper Clyde ferry services. This was no accident however, for a rival operator was now running a car ferry service from just outside Gourock to just outside Dunoon, using very minimalist ferries. The 'Streakers', as they became known as, were highly manoeuvrable thanks to a special propulsion system and they could berth with at ease at both terminals.

Juno swinging to berth at Gourock

Jupiter approaching Dunoon pier

In the 1980s there was something of a dirty game being played, in which politics inevitably played a part. CalMac were forced to reduce their timetable on the Dunoon crossing to one sailing per hour and only a couple of extra sailings at peak times. (Needless to say, the rival operator faced no such barriers.) Since then, the Gourock - Dunoon crossing has remained an hourly, mostly single vessel operation. The 'Streakers' still maintain the route, one by one on a rota basis with the other two being employed on the busy Bute crossing from Wemyss Bay. More recently still, a passenger only ferry was chartered to carry out the additional peak sailings; the Ali Cat.
The future is now the subject of a considerable amount of uncertainty as far as CalMac operating the route is concerned. Interference from Europe dictates that the route of the CalMac network must be put out to tender - basically this is an exercise where the right to run the service will be given to the lowest bidder! Because there is another private operator working across the Upper Clyde (from near Gourock to near Dunoon) this route must be tendered separately. In late autumn 2005 it was revealed that there were around ten companies (CalMac and the private competitor included) wanting to operate the Gourock - Dunoon crossing. This decreased somewhat over the coming year and in 2006 it was revealed that no bids had been submitted - not even from CalMac!! After a somewhat costly paper-pushing exercise imposed by Government, the outcome appears to be nothing more than a continuation of the existing situation, with CalMac restricted to running one ferry an hour.

There has been some change in vessel deployment in the last couple of years. Since the introduction of the Bute a few miles to the south, the Streakers have seen much less in the way of change. Autumn 2005 to late spring 2006 saw Jupiter laid up at Rosneath, with Saturn handling all the Gourock traffic. Since Jupiter's reintroduction in early summer 2006 however, she has been the sole Dunoon ferry, outliving her younger sister Juno which has been laid up since April 2007 at Rosneath. Until such time as the farce also known as tendering is sorted out, it appears that this route will continue to see the streaker sailing rarely more than half full.

Images from Ships of CalMac Collection, except that marked *.

Picture: SoC Crew
Ali Cat heading back from Dunoon

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