Main Crossings Tarbert (Loch Fyne) - Lochranza
  Tarbert (Loch Fyne) - Lochranza
Mainland - Arran
Crossing Time:
1 Hour 25 Minutes (Winter only)
Regular Ship:
Loch Riddon / Loch Tarbert


1995 - Present: Loch Tarbert / Loch Riddon
Additional Ships:
Various members of the Loch Class ferries on winter duties.
 Terminal Facilities:
Tarbert (Loch Fyne): A small vehicle queuing area before the concrete slipway, sticking out into East Loch Tarbert. There is also a car park next to the slipway, with sufficient space for a dozen or so cars. For foot passengers there is a small shelter just up from the slipway. Nearby there is the village of Tarbert with various shops and supplies.

Lochranza: Recently rebuilt pier provides ferry berth when not in use. Slipway and marshalling area located next to the pier, as is the bus stop for public transport routes around Arran.
 Route History:
This winter only service started in the mid 1990s following the introduction of the Tarbert - Portavadie crossing. Initially this service from Tarbert, on the western side of Loch Fyne, to Lochranza on Arran was started to carry dangerous loads such as gas tankers and petrol loads to the island, as an alternative to using the Caledonian Isles on expensive additional sailings to and from Brodick. With the provision of a vessel in Loch Fyne it seemed the perfect scenario. With a passage time of nearly 90 minutes it was not pushing the boundaries by any stretch of the imagination.
It seemed only logical that the Portavadie link could be utilised to provide an alternative solution to the dangerous loads problem. The summer only route across Loch Fyne had proved extremely popular since its start in 1994 and the new plan involved extending the service through the winter months as well. This was only a trial run for the first winter season, using the Loch Striven after she had finished for the summer at Largs. The trial was successful and unwittingly allowed a glimpse of the service to come. As part of the trial run, the Loch Striven would run two or three sailings to Portavadie and back before going off on a three-hour round trip to Arran and back before offering another couple of return trips to Portavadie in the late afternoon.

The 1994/5 winter trial proved successful and seemed to secure the future of the route. At that point in time there was something of a reversal of logic going on. The summer vessel was actually smaller than the winter one and Rhum was starting to struggle in the summer months. It was inevitable, after the 1995 summer season, that a Loch Class vessel would eventually be deployed here beyond the end of the winter.

Loch Tarbert approaching Lochranza having crossed from Tarbert

Loch Riddon setting off to Lochranza, November 2005

More recently the Lochranza crossing was opened up for regular passengers to use as well, although for safety purposes all passengers must be booked on and a limit of 12 passengers applies, in case a dangerous load is being carried. Due to the exposed nature of the latter part of the journey to Lochranza, when heavy weather sets in this is often one of the first routes subject to disruption as the small ferry remains in the safety of Tarbert's harbour.

The winter service is now a well established part of the timetable each year. The crossing is operated by one of the many Loch class ferries. At the start of the winter timetable the Loch Tarbert usually takes the first few weeks of sailings until the regular winter ferry Loch Riddon arrives in November or December.

Images from Ships of CalMac Collection

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