Mallaig - Coll - Tiree
Mallaig - Tobermory - Coll - Tiree
Mainland - Mull - Coll - Tiree
1991 - 1994:
Mallaig: Linkspan fitted in 1994 at
main ferry berth. Train station located close by. Vehicle marshalling area
and office facilities.
Hoist-loading berth at the pier face.
Pier and linkspan are located at the islands main village; Arinagour.
Terminal office contains usual facilities and ticket sales etc. Nearby is
the pick up point for island tours.
Tiree: Ferry terminal comprises the office, vehicle marshalling area,
pier, linkspan and passenger gangway. The main village on the island is
early 1990s saw a new emphasis on improving services across the network.
During this decade new routes were opened up and many others saw
improvements in one form or another, be they new ferries with greater
capacities, or increased frequency of sailings. The
Inner Hebridean islands of Coll and Tiree were among the first places to
receive an improved service. Since 1989 the two islands had been served by
Lord of the Isles from Oban, and before that the 1964-built Columba
had been in charge during the summer months, with Claymore
doing the honours in winter.
Iona's bridge compartment
The timetables had called for
three sailings a week from Oban, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. As a
new initiative, and utilising the 1970-built Iona,
Coll and Tiree were granted a fourth return sailing each week during the
high summer season of 1991. The Iona
was at this time based at Mallaig for her Skye duties and it was from
there that the new service would run.
Iona arriving at Tobermory
en route for Coll and
the mainland port was actually a shorter sailing-time from Coll and Tiree,
the timetable did include calls in both directions at Tobermory on nearby
Mull – something that added to the crossing duration as it involved
deviating into the Sound of Mull on both outward and return sailings. Another
drawback the new route suffered from was the location of Mallaig itself
and the difficult access to it. Even as this page is being written (August
2007) there is still a substantial length of twisty single-track
road which must be negotiated when travelling from either Fort William to
the east, or from Lochaline and Ardnamurchan to the south. This did not
win any favours with commercial customers, and the vast majority of these
vehicles still used the midweek sailings from Oban which is easier to get
to and from.
with this factor was the issue of hoist-loading. At that time, Mallaig did
not possess a linkspan and the Iona
relied on her vehicle lift in order to load cars and vans from the pier to
her car deck. Through 1991, neither Coll, Tiree nor Tobermory possessed
one either, so if there were vehicles to offloaded or taken on at all
three calling points then the journey could be a lengthy one indeed.
were light for the summer-only crossing and the majority of those who used
it were tourists or residents of Mull nipping over to Coll or Tiree and
returning on the Monday sailing for example. Nevertheless, the Iona
continued throughout the summer of 1991 until the timetable expired in
autumn and winter service was resumed.
1992 came around and the
summer timetable once again advertised the Mallaig – Coll – Tiree
sailings on high summer Sundays, although this year saw the opening of
linkspans at Arinagour on Coll and Gott Bay, Tiree. The Iona could now
operate on a semi drive-through basis, although she still required her
hoist for her home port of Mallaig. In fact she would require this until
1994 when the linkspan was finally installed there, along with one at
Armadale on Skye.
this time however, the service to Coll and Tiree had been withdrawn.
Loadings had not proved sufficient to warrant the additional sailings from
Mallaig and the situation returned to as it had been previously, with all
sailings now departing from Oban.
some ways this particular route was doomed to failure from its very
beginnings. Mallaig is very isolate compared to Oban and has poor
transport links. Perhaps if the route had been modernised years earlier,
with linkspans enabling quick unloading and reloading, and perhaps if the
sailings had been retimed for late afternoon / evening time during the
week, minus the call at Tobermory then more people may have taken
advantage of this interesting route past the Small Isles, Ardnamurchan
Point and north west Mull.
Iona passing Calve Island heading into the Sound of Mull
Iona arriving at Tiree
As things stand at the moment,
there are no plans to reintroduce this service. Coll and Tiree are
currently served by either Clansman or Lord of the Isles every day from Oban during the summer months,
and four times a week during the winter, with additional sailings
occasionally laid on if demand requires it and a vessel is available. Mallaig continues to be the base port for just two routes; Mallaig –
Armadale and Mallaig – Small Isles, and the Mallaig - Coll – Tiree
route remains consigned to the history books.
Photos by Stewart Mungin and Allan Comrie