crossings&cruises...
Main Crossings Uig - Tarbert - Lochmaddy
Uig - Tarbert - Lochmaddy
Skye - Harris - North Uist
Crossing Time:
1 Hour 45 Minutes
Regular Ship:
Hebrides

SHIP TIMELINE:

1963 - 1983: Hebrides
1984: Hebrides / Columba
1985: Columba / Hebridean Isles
1986 - 1999: Hebridean Isles
2000 - Present: Hebrides
Additional Ships:
Lord of the Isles / Pioneer / Iona
 
 Terminal Facilities:
Uig: 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.

Tarbert (Harris): Linkspan 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.

Lochmaddy: Linkspan and passenger gangway on the face of the pier. Information office and vehicle waiting areas located adjacent to this.
 
 Route History:
For 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.
The 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 shorter service.  This had an impact on the Hebridean Isles' daily routine.

Picture: SoC Crew
Hebridean Isles leaving Lochmaddy

Picture: SoC Crew
The current Hebrides in North Uist

Hebridean Isles was released from her regular Tarbert – Lochmaddy sailings and all crossings could now be based from Uig. 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.
 
Picture: SoC Crew
Relief ship Clansman loading for North Uist
Picture: SoC Crew
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


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