Oban - Coll - Tiree - Barra
Oban - Coll - Tiree - Castlebay
Mainland - Coll - Tiree - Barra
SEASONAL (Summer Only)
Crossing Time: 6 hours 45 minutes
2002 - Present:
Isle of Arran
Hebridean Isles (relief in August 2005)
Various fleet members on relief duties.
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.
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
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
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
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 By this time the Lord of the Isles had been replaced by the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
Isle of Arran reopening the route in
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
Clansman arriving at Castlebay
Hebridean Isles standing in for Clansman at Tiree
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