Main Crossings Mallaig - Lochbaghasdail - Bágh a'Chaisteil
Mallaig - Lochbaghasdail - Bágh a'Chaisteil
Mallaig - Lochboisdale - Castlebay
Mainland - South Uist - Barra
Crossing Time:
3 Hours 30min - 6 Hours
Current Ship:
Lord of the Isles

1967 - 1973: Clansman
1973 - 1974: Columba
1974 - 1987: Non-Operational
1988: Pioneer
1988 - 1990: Iona
1991 - 1993:
1994 - 1998:
1998 - 2001: Lord of the Isles
2002 - 2012: Non-Operational
2013 - Present: Lord of the Isles

 Terminal Facilities:
Mallaig: Linkspan fitted in 1994 at main ferry berth. Train station located close by. Vehicle marshalling area and office facilities.

Castlebay: Vehicle waiting area located adjacent to terminal office. Linkspan installed in 1989 so that ferry lies along the face of the pier as it always did. Terminal office houses a passenger waiting area, ticket office etc.

Lochboisdale: Single linkspan and ferry berth, vehicle marshalling area and terminal office with passenger waiting facilities.
 Route History:

In 1967 it was now possible for one of the new trio of Hebridean car ferries to use Lochboisdale pier as it had been extended for there specific use. It was the new Clansman's job on a Friday evening to sail from Mallaig to the Outer Isles at 1845 retuning in the early hours of the next day. She was dispatched in 1971 to sail on three evenings per week, to Castlebay (Barra), as well as Lochboisdale. The sailings arrived in the Outer Isles ports at quite uncivilised times so in the following season her departure time from Mallaig was brought forward by two hours allowing better timings to come into effect. A side effect to that however was that the number of her Armadale (Skye) crossings were cut from Mallaig.

Picture: J A Smith
Clansman at Lochboisdale 1968

Changes were happening in Oban in 1974 that were to jeopardise the route's continuation. The Iona introduced a new Outer Isles service from Oban to Lochboisdale, making use of the linkspans that had been installed there. This made the long crossing from Mallaig obsolete and so in that year the pilgrimage of the Columba (the new Skye ferry) in the evenings was withdrawn.

Picture: SoC Collection
Pioneer departs Mallaig

It was now the Pioneer's turn to chip in on the route as she inevitably does, opening it again in 1988. Most of CalMac's network was now open on Sundays and the Castlebay route was no exception. Serving peak times on the Sunday she loaded at both Castlebay and Mallaig via her newly acquired car hoist mainly for use at the latter. In the same year due to a displacement at Oban, the Iona came north to relieve her close fleet mate from her Skye and Outer Isles operations. This resulted in the Pioneer becoming spare vessel but also increasing the routes capacity by 50%.

The routes mixed start - stop history didn't stop there. After the 1990 season it was halted due to the fact that Mallaig hadn't had a linkspan installed yet and all other ports on the route had. This resulted in the Iona using her hoist at Mallaig and a direct service from Oban (where a linkspan was fitted) being more economical. In 1994 however calls from Mallaig to the Outer Isles were reintroduced on two days per week (Tuesdays and Sundays) using the Skye stationed Iona again. In 1998 her passenger certificate was not renewed due to huge costs needed to bring her up to new safety regulations. She was withdrawn from the fleet and her place taken by the larger and better equipped Lord of the Isles (displaced by the new Clansman at Oban).

Picture: SoC Crew
Lord of the Isles leaving Castlebay

Due to her not being available until the 5th of July that year the ever adventurous Pioneer was sent back to cover the run which also included the Armadale crossings, unfortunately due to a major breakdown she was sent back to Oban to join the Iona (on charter and by then renamed Pentalina~B) on the Craignure crossing. Mallaig was left with a Island Class vessel and the Loch Dunvegan to cover. This meant that the Castlebay crossing had to be abandoned due to obvious reasons with the class of ship left at the port. When the Lord of the Isles eventually arrived on Station it was too late for the crossing. The better services from Oban to the Outer Isles put the final axe to the crossing and after the 2001 season it was withdrawn after several attempts to increase passenger numbers.

As of mid 2011 there is again continued pressure on the Government to reinstate CalMac's Mallaig to Lochboisdale route. There is currently a discussion topic on our forum with the latest updates on the issue, you can view the thread below via the link.

Mallaig - Lochboisdale Ferry Route
 Free membership is required to view and join the forum.

Page Update: September 2013
It was announced on 26th September 2013 by
Transport Minister Keith Brown that "a three year winter pilot ferry service between Mallaig and Lochboisdale will start from this winter" (2013). LORD OF THE ISLES is once again expected to provide the service and is addition to the planned service enhancements on the Oban to South Uist and Oban-Barra routes as part of the Scottish Government’s Ferries Plan.

Mr Brown said:
The Scottish Government’s Ferries Plan outlines our ambitions for ferry services across Scotland over the next decade with enhancements on the Oban-South Uist and Oban-Barra routes coming on stream this winter.
“In addition to those enhancements, I am acutely aware of the strength of feeling from local communities that we look closely at providing a service on the Mallaig to Lochboisdale route. We have listened to those views and we are acting.
“I am pleased to announce that following detailed analysis of the availability of vessels across all our Clyde and Hebrides routes, over the next three winter periods we will test the feasibility of the service on a trial basis. The MV Lord of the Isles has been identified as the preferred vessel and the service, which will be fully evaluated and reviewed at the end of the three year trial run, will operate two days a week – one day midweek and one day at the weekend.
“We have been working hard to enhance ferry provision on all ferry services to Barra and South Uist for the coming winter in line with our ferry plan commitments and to finalise details with the operator. I am sure today’s news will be warmly welcomed by local communities and I would encourage use of the additional sailings which will be made available.”

Martin Dorchester, Managing Director of CalMac Ferries Ltd, added:
We are pleased to have been able to assist Transport Scotland in making this trial service possible. We look forward to welcoming ferry travellers when the service starts in November.”
The pilot will run this winter starting in mid-November through to early April with a short three week break in February when MV Lord of the Isles is unavailable due to refit cover elsewhere in the network.
Barra will continue to have sailings to and from Oban, both direct and via Lochboisdale. Lochboisdale will continue to have sailings to and from Oban, both direct and via Castlebay.
The route will be served by MV Lord of the Isles which is the only large ship in the fleet which can reliably berth in Mallaig.
Caledonian MacBrayne representatives are planning local engagement early next week to discuss with local community representative the detail of today’s announcement.

Above text from Island News and Advertiser (external link).

All material on this site © Ships of CalMac 2001 - 2017, unless otherwise stated.
Join us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Join us on Flickr View us on YouTube SoC AIS SoC Forum Site NOT linked to Official Company
This site is NOT connected to the Official Company Site -
Contact Us ¦
Read our Privacy Policy