crossings&cruises...
Main Crossings Oban - Coll - Tiree - Barra
Oban - Coll - Tiree - Castlebay
Mainland - Coll - Tiree - Barra
SEASONAL (Summer Only)
Crossing Time:
6 hours 45 minutes
Regular Ship:
Clansman

SHIPS TIMELINE:

2002 - Present:
Isle of Arran / Clansman
Additional Ships:
Hebridean Isles (relief in August 2005)
Various fleet members on relief duties.
 
 Terminal Facilities:
Oban: 3 storey terminal building with ticket office, waiting area and toilets. Two linkspans, one of which is undergoing redevelopment. Raised walkways leading from the upper floor of the terminal buildding direct to the vessel boarding points.

Coll: 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 Scarinish.

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.
 
 Route History:
The link to Tiree and Barra was originally part of the old mail run from Oban to Lochboisdale, which also included calls at Coll. Originally the old Claymore of 1955 was in charge of the 'Mail Run' and then for a short while the link was entrusted to the Loch Seaforth, however one part of the route, the passage through the Gunna Sound proved particularly hazardous for her and she grounded on rocks. With the coming of the 'Marine Motorway' in the 1970s this link was severed in favour of faster direct sailings from Oban. The routes to Coll and Tiree  and to Barra and South Uistwere split between two ferries, with the faster Iona and then the Claymore looking after the Outer Hebrides, while Columba would look after the Inner Isles.
It was to be 1989 before there was any possibility of the older link being restored. The two ship service using Columba and Claymore came to an end with the arrival with the faster Lord of the Isles which was to combine both routes into her hectic timetable and would sail at all hours of the day.

Despite the routes being served by the one vessel it was not until 2002 that CalMac reintroduced a link to the Outer Isles via the Gunna Sound. By this time the Lord of the Isles had been replaced by the Clansman (the largest vessel that can safely berth at the various terminals)

Picture: SoC Crew
Isle of Arran reopening the route in 2002


It was the presence of a third major vessel based in Oban which allowed this link to be reintroduced. As part of a new experiment which saw the spare Isle of Arran being utilised on additional sailings out of Oban, on various different routes, Thursdays in the summer timetable would see a departure from Oban to Barra which incorporated a call at Tiree both on the outward and inward legs. For the first time in many years there was a scheduled service through the Gunna Sound. The extra vessel in Oban permitted normal sailings to Colonsay and South Uist in addition to the Isle of Arran's roster. Although initially an experimental deployment of vessels, the new route was to return to the summer timetables for every summer since, although following the Lord of the Isles' return to Oban from the Sound of Sleat, and the Isle of Arran's duties at Islay, the Clansman has been carrying out the Tiree and Barra sailings.
 
Picture: SoC Crew
Clansman arriving at Castlebay
Picture: SoC Crew
Hebridean Isles standing in for Clansman at Tiree

Picture: SoC Crew
Clansman passing through the Gunna Sound

In 2006 the full day for the vessel's crew was extended further by inserting a call in each direction at Coll. The long haul crossing has proved popular since it was introduced and indeed in recent summers it has been marketed as one of the many 'Day Sails' available from Oban and the other mainland ports in the network. The Tiree - Barra crossing now provides the basis for three such 'Day Sails'. One of these is a non-landing cruise to Barra and back, taking in the full day on the ferry. The second involves the sail out to Coll and then allows eight hours ashore for a full tour of the island before returning in the evening, while the final option takes in a sail to Tiree and six hours ashore - with an opportunity to take a guided tour of the windy isle before rejoining the vessel for the return crossing.

Given its success and the continued presence of three ferries in Oban, it is likely that this crossing will remain a feature of the summer timetables for some seasons to come.

Images from Ships of CalMac Collection


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