Wemyss Bay - Rothesay
Wemyss Bay - Rothesay
Mainland - Bute
Regular Ships: Argyle
1954 - 1969:
1970 - 1971:
1972 - 1977:
1978 - 1985:
1986 - 2003:
2008 - Present:
*On relief at first then as 2nd full time vessel
2003 - Present:
of the Isles
(Relief duties or additional sailings).
Bay: Pier with passenger
gangway located right outside the railway station. Vehicle waiting area
and linkspan are adjacent to this. On-shore ticketing recently introduced
so all passengers and vehicles require tickets before boarding the ferry.
Terminal set on the pier with the old linkspan set into the face - as at
Dunoon. Newly introduced end-loading linkspan now in use. Vehicles queue back along the pier access road, next to the
Victorian gardens. The inner faces of the pier also provide extra ferry
berths for spare vessels - especially used by 'Loch Class' ferries during
the winter months.
This crossing was the second to be revolutionised in the 1950s in the
initial wave of route upgrades brought about by the 'ABC' ferries. These
ferries made up the regular ferries to serve the route until 1970. The
Bute and Cowal regularly changed among the Upper Clyde
routes to Dunoon, Bute and Cumbrae. New tonnage on the Clyde in 1970 saw
Following her replacement on the Ardrossan - Brodick crossing in May 1970,
the Glen Sannox was switched to the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay route,
utilising her hoist at both terminals as linkspans would not be installed
for another seven years. She was not overly successful on that route due to
Rothesay pier's height above the water (or lack of) at high tide.
1972 until 1977 saw the route back in the hands of the Bute and
the Cowal as they neared the ends of their service lives with
1977 saw linkspans installed at Wemyss Bay and Rothesay in readiness for a
major shake up on the crossing the following year.
From 1978 the newly converted crossing was in the hands of the Saturn,
a semi-sister to the Jupiter
built four years previously. Like the two older vessels, the Saturn
used her stern ramp on the mainland and her starboard side ramp at
Rothesay, where the linkspan was set into the face of the pier like that a
few miles away at Dunoon.
From 1986 the Saturn
was no longer as closely tied to the Bute crossing, as the three sisters
switched between the Upper Clyde routes on a regular basis. During this
period the Rothesay crossing continued to produce more traffic.
Glen Sannox arriving at Wemyss Bay
The third Streaker, Saturn arriving from Bute
Pioneer pulling away from Rothesay pier
From 1989 Rothesay also started to be served by the Pioneer,
on a relief basis at first but as the 1990s progressed, the route grew
busier and the latter ferry was brought in as the dedicated second vessel;
the 'Streakers' continuing to change between routes. Since that time the
crossing from Wemyss Bay has continued to be served by two vessels at any
one time - the only exception being during the Cowal Highland Games when
service is often reduced to one vessel running.
Since the end of 2003 though, there had not been the luxury of a spare
vessel to rely on in case of breakdowns due to the laying up of the very
Although winter now saw the new Coruisk
on Clyde relief duties, summer timetables now relied on all three 'Streakers'
operating without failures.
It was announced in 2004 that the next generation of Upper Clyde ferry was
destined for the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay crossing. The contract for the new
vessel was controversially awarded to the Remontowa Group in Gdansk, Poland
and the introduction to service was expected in late spring 2005. The name
of the new ferry was announced a few months later - she was to become the
seventh Bute to ply the Clyde. The launch took place in March 2005 and the
new ferry was introduced to her element sideways - as had happened in 1985
with Hebridean Isles in Selby. To look at, the new ferry had more than a
passing resemblance to the old 1978 Claymore
as she had most of her passenger accommodation towards the bow.
was delivered via the English Channel in late June 2005 and following
berthing trials at her new home ports, she undertook a VIP cruise round
Cumbrae before taking up her new occupation. Around the same time, CalMac
announced that the second such new ferry had also been ordered - again from
the Polish yard. This move re-ignited the arguments and controversy
surrounding the contract and tendering process, meanwhile Bute
settled down into regular service. There were the usual teething troubles
surrounding her inability to berth as quickly as the streakers but this was
down to the fact that the new ferry was not blessed with the well tried and
tested Voith Schneider units - the company having instead opted for azimuth
pods like on Coruisk.
Juno passing Toward Point
settled down into her new run during the 2006 season and was partnered for
the whole of the summer timetable by Juno. It had been planned for the
second new ship (named Argyle) to be launched in early summer but numerous
delays in Poland led to the new ship being launched as late as September. In
fact it was to be early May 2007 before Argyle finally entered service! With the onset of the winter timetable in October
was sent up to Rosneath for lay-up alongside Saturn.
It was not to last for long though as the two were called back into service
in January. Part of the long-term plans for Rothesay included a new ferry
berth and long overdue end-loading linkspan. In order to accommodate the
required construction work, Bute and
Coruisk were laid up for what was supposed to be 6 weeks (but
actually turned out to be over 2 months) and the Wemyss Bay - Rothesay
crossing was once again in the reliable hands of the Streakers. Because of
the construction delays, Juno
actually had to have a 2 month extension to her passenger certificate
granted by the MCA and the survey was carried out on 24th February.
Winter ship Coruisk leaving Rothesay
New ships Argyle and Bute off Wemyss Bay
was finally brought over from her builders' yard in Poland in late April
2007 - several months late. Her VIP cruise took place on Friday 4th May and
on that date she took about 100 guests (two of the SoC Crew included) down
the east coast of Bute, between the Cumbraes and back via the Largs Channel
before entering public service with the 1815 sailing from Wemyss Bay that
same evening. Both ships still had to use their side ramps though as the
contract work to install the new stern-loading linkspan was running many weeks behind
schedule due to technical problems and a partial structural collapse.
The route became a true
drive-through service in mid-December 2007 with the opening of the new
linkspan. Bute and Argyle were now able to use their stern ramps at Rothesay
while continuing to berth bow-in at Wemyss Bay.
Argyle, Bute and Coruisk pictured together (very
Images from Ships of CalMac
Collection except the Argyle, Bute and Coruisk photo by Zak