Tarbert - Lochmaddy
Uig - Tarbert - Lochmaddy
Skye - Harris - North Uist
Crossing Time: 1 Hour 45 Minutes
1963 - 1983:
1986 - 1999:
2000 - Present:
Lord of the Isles
Ferry berth is located at the end
of the long pier which projects out into Uig Bay. Vehicle queuing area is
back on the land, giving around a half mile drive from the lanes to the
ferry for traffic waiting to board.
set along the face of the pier in East Loch Tarbert. Passenger loading
ramp located on the face of the pier. Close by is the information office
and facilities such as waiting room, toilets and ticket office etc.
Vehicle waiting area is also located adjacent to this.
Linkspan and passenger
gangway on the face of the pier. Information office and vehicle waiting
areas located adjacent to this.
many years the northern Outer Hebrides were served by traditional mail.
Things all changed in 1963 when the first of three revolutionary new
ferries were introduced into service. Operating out of Uig on the Isle of
Skye, the Hebrides commenced a twenty year career as the dedicated
ferry on what became known as the ‘Uig Triangle’. Her ports of call
were Lochmaddy in North Uist and Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.
new ferry brought for the first time substantial vehicle capacity and all
of a sudden the islands became readily accessible for motorists. Vehicles
were loaded by the same means as had been introduced on the Clyde ferry
routes almost ten years previously – by hoist and side ramps. This was a
time-consuming loading process and often involved the vessel being tied
to the pier for upwards of an hour at a time, however the Hebrides was a
reliable servant, only rarely missing a day's work.
The Hebrides became a much-loved ferry
during her time on the Triangle. She served faithfully from her
introduction in 1963 until her eventual withdrawal at the end of the 1984
season. The only time she usually deviated from her designated crossing was
for her annual overhaul, at which time she would often be relieved by her
sister Columba. In fact it was the Columba that kept the
routes open in the winter of 1984/5 before the new Hebridean Isles
was able to relieve her in 1985.
The second Hebrides leaving Tarbert
With the new ferry came a radical shake up
of the Uig – Tarbert / Lochmaddy services. For the first time ever,
drive-through operation was a reality on the crossings with the Hebridean
Isles using her stern ramp at Uig’s long and sometimes exposed pier;
and her visor and bow ramp at Tarbert and Lochmaddy. It was a fairly long
process to get the piers upgraded and the new ferry was actually
completed well before the piers were at a stage where she could actually
start using them. Hebridean Isles therefore entered service elsewhere on
winter relief services. It was to be the spring of 1986 before she was
able to enter service, and even then she still had to use her vehicle
hoist at Uig, until such time as the linkspan and dolphin were finished.
As a result there were delays, with the blame for these being laid
firmly on Uig pier. However things change dramatically upon completion
and opening of Uig linkspan and once she settled into
her new career, the Hebridean Isles brought about vast improvements in both the
frequency of services and also levels of passenger comfort. One thing that
did not change however, was the absence of Sunday sailings. Residents of
the islands were, and are to this day strongly opposed to ferry crossings
being provided on Sundays for religious reasons.
Sundays aside, the Hebridean Isles
continued to ply her way across the Minch on a day to day basis, usually
giving one return crossing to Harris and then one return crossing to North
Uist or vice-versa each day. As with the majority of routes over time,
traffic levels grew although the growth observed at Uig was far greater
than elsewhere. Perhaps the biggest single event that could have
contributed to this on the Uig crossings took place in October 1995 when the
infamous Skye Bridge joined the island to the mainland once and for all.
1996 saw another change take place when the new Sound of Harris ferry, Loch Bhrusda
entered service, linking Berneray and Harris directly on a
This had an impact on the Hebridean Isles' daily routine.
Hebridean Isles leaving Lochmaddy
The current Hebrides in North Uist
Hebridean Isles was released from her regular
Tarbert – Lochmaddy sailings and all crossings could now be based from
As traffic demand grew as the end of the
millennium approached, it became inevitable that a new and larger capacity
ferry would be brought in, as has been the routine procedure for years in
this situation. In 2000 the inevitable occurred and the third vessel to
carry the age old name Hebrides emerged from Ferguson's on the Clyde.
Broadly based on Clansman, but incorporating several design
improvements, the new ship underwent trials on the Clyde and then
carried out berthing trials on the 'Triangle' before entering service.At
this point, the Hebridean Isles
left for pastures new at Islay. Hebrides quickly took her
place as the flagship of the fleet and has concentrated the majority of
her 7 year career on the service from Skye to the Outer Hebrides.
Upon Hebrides' arrival the timetable was
completely redesigned to take into account her greater speed. In a typical
day she would normally carry out six sailings, starting at either Lochmaddy
or Tarbert and finishing at the other, with all sailings going via Uig. Her
passage time was around 1 hour 40 minutes on each leg of the triangle and
with a capacity identical to that of Clansman, she had no problem coping
with the traffic available.
Relief ship Clansman loading for North Uist
Hebrides leaving Tarbert, Harris
The Hebrides has only left her home route once each
year when she has sailed for one of the shipyards on the Clyde of the
Mersey, in order to undergo her annual overhaul. The most recent of these,
that in March 2007 saw her undergo a conversion to fuel oil rather than
diesel. While Clansman covered at Uig, the regular ship was put through her
paces on the Barra and Tiree routes to assess her performance on the new
fuel. Once the trials were completed she returned to Lochmaddy in time to
take up her regular route at the start of the summer timetable and has
remained there since.
Images from Ships of CalMac Collection