Largs - Cumbrae Slip
Largs - Cumbrae Slip
Mainland - Cumbrae
Shira & Loch
1972 - 1976:
1978 - 1985:
of Cumbrae / Loch
Striven & Loch
1987 - 1996:
Linnhe & Loch
Riddon & Loch
1998 - 2006:
Alainn & Loch
2007 - Present:
Shira & Loch
Various members of
the Island Class
and Loch Class
ferries on relief duties
JUMP ON A VIRTUAL
Largs: Substantial breakwater pier housing the slipway and
providing several vessel berths. Ticket office at the top of the slipway,
adjacent to the main road through the town. Car parking and toilets
located close-by. Vehicle queue is accessed from a back street via a
lengthy one-way system.
Slip: One slipway, wide enough to accommodate two ferries at once. Bus shelter
at the top of the slipway, with a frequent bus service to Millport. Car
park and toilets located adjacent to slipway.
Cumbrae gained its current car ferry service back in 1972, following the
wave of vessel redundancies at the Caledonian Steam Packet Company's
northern outpost at Kyle of Lochalsh. Two of the ferries from that service
were converted to a bow-loading arrangement and began a frequent service
from a new slipway at Largs to one built opposite on Cumbrae, just ten
minutes away. The ferries that made this route 'home' were the Coruisk
and the Largs
(ex Kyleakin). Each could carry a handful of
cars and around 50 passengers on their open car decks. Prior to this
service being introduced, the only way of getting vehicles onto the island
was by ferry to Millport. It was decided that the more frequent service
would be far more beneficial than the direct route to Millport, especially
with the provision of the buses between the town and the ferry.
Morvern and Largs lying together at Cumbrae Slip
Largs and Coll on Cumbrae duties
During the 1970s, a wide variety of ferries saw service on the route as it
was seen as a handy testing point for the new 'Island Class' ships.
Indeed, the Kilbrannan saw a period of time as back up on this
route, when traffic levels were too high for the just two boats.
With traffic levels in mind, CalMac announced the imminent arrival of a
new and purpose-built ships intended for the Cumbrae route. The Isle of
Cumbrae duly arrived on station in 1977, brining with her a vehicle
capacity of 18 per crossing. She could operate two double runs every hour,
with five minute turnarounds at either terminal. Upon her introduction the
two older ex Skye ferries were used only as back-ups or winter relief
ships. Indeed, by the time the Isle of Cumbrae was herself moved
off the Cumbrae run, the older boats had long gone.
1986 saw new more new ferries enter service. Though slightly smaller than
the Isle of Cumbrae, the new Loch Striven and Loch Linnhe
could carry between them 48 cars in each direction per hour when they were
both in service. The two new twins, all but indistinguishable from one
another, settled quickly into their new roles. At peak periods both
ferries worked in tandem, while in the quieter times one could handle all
the traffic while the other would lie idle or, as was more often the case,
relieve on another crossing elsewhere.
The twins were paired with each other for ten years, until 1997 when
the Loch Striven was transferred to the Western Isles and took over
the Raasay crossing. Partnering the Loch Linnhe was another of her
sisters; the Loch Riddon.
Isle of Cumbrae
arriving in Largs
Loch Striven at Largs with Columba behind
Loch Buie and Loch Fyne in emergency relief service
Loch Alainn on trials at Cumbrae Slip
Loch Alainn in heading for
1998 however, saw the other established Cumbrae ferry leave her home
for pastures new. Taking her place at Cumbrae was the former Sound of Mull
ferry Loch Alainn which had suffered major problems and had now
been earmarked as the new regular Cumbrae ferry, providing the main
service and being assisted at peak periods by the smaller Loch Riddon.
This pair have now been providing the ten minute crossing from Largs
for over six years and for the time being seem to be able to handle the
traffic fairly adequately. During the winter the Loch Alainn
maintains the service on her own, apart form when she is away for overhaul
and is relieved usually by the Loch Tarbert.
In 2005 it was announced that the Largs - Cumbrae Slip route was to receive
a new ferry once again. The order was placed with Ferguson's and
construction began in early 2006. During the summer CalMac revealed plans
for the new vessel. She was to be a new variant of the Loch Class and was
essentially an amalgamation of the designs for the Loch Dunvegan
and the Loch Portain with a planned capacity for 36 cars and 250 passengers.
Named Loch Shira and launched on 8th December 2006, she was expected to
enter service in April 2007. It was actually some weeks later before she
took her place at Largs, partnering the Loch Riddon. Loch Alainn then stood
aside and moved up to Gourock for maintenance.
All went relatively smoothly with the Loch Shira, although there was one
spell of several days when one of her Voith units required the urgent
attention of engineers from Germany. During that spell the vessel displaced
by the Loch Alainn at Eriskay; the Loch Bhrusda stepped in to provide cover.
This was not entirely without its drawbacks though, as the water-jet
propelled vessel proved very difficult to manoeuvre and was very expensive
to run. There were sighs of relief when the Loch Shira was able to return to
Things seem to have settled down now with Loch Shira often
occupying the main roster and Loch Riddon on the secondary roster. During
the winter months, Loch Alainn will continue to be back on the Clyde as relief vessel to
cover for Loch Shira's overhauls.
Images from Ships of CalMac
Loch Shira passing Loch Riddon mid-crossing