crossings&cruises...
Main Crossings Lochaline - Fishnish
Lochaline - Fishnish
Manland - Isle of Mull

Crossing Time:
c15 Minutes
Regular Ship:
Loch Fyne

SHIP TIMELINE:

1973: Morvern / Bruernish / Coll
1974 - 1975: Coll
1976: Coll / Canna
1976 - 1985: Canna 
1986: Canna / Loch Linnhe / Isle of Cumbrae
1987 - 1996: Isle of Cumbrae
1997: Isle of Cumbrae / Loch Alainn / Loch Dunvegan / Loch Fyne
1998 - Present: Loch Fyne
Additional Ships:
Various members of the Island Class and Loch Class ferries on relief duties.
 

JUMP ON A VIRTUAL CROSSING
 Terminal Facilities:

Lochaline: Slipway and pier facing up Loch Aline. There is also a small cafe located near to the slipway on the stone pier. Vehicles queue back along the access road.

Fishnish: Simple concrete slipway set out into the Sound of Mull. Nearby there is a small cafe and toilets for passengers to use whilst waiting for the ferry. Vehicles queue back along the road. There is also a small car parking area adjacent to the slipway which is used by local service buses for turning.
 

 Route History:
The short crossing from Lochaline, on the Morvern peninsula, to Fishnish on the Isle of Mull was one of the many 'back-door' routes to be started in the 1970s as part of a drive to reduce sea crossing times. Before 1973, Lochaline was served by the Columba on the route from Oban via Craignure. This journey utilised the old Lochaline pier in the Sound of Mull, however 1973 saw a new crossing started by the appropriately named Morvern. She used a new slipway constructed in Loch Aline which was far more sheltered than the exposed old pier in the Sound of Mull - and just as well, for the slipway faced up the loch, meaning a tight 180 turn to get to the berth. The Mull terminal was installed at Fishnish, directly opposite Lochaline and only 15 minutes sail away. The little Morvern was soon replaced on the route she was named after, by the slightly larger Bruernish, then the Coll and eventually, in 1976 the crossing was placed in the care of its first long term resident ship, the Canna.
Ten years passed with the Canna in control of the Lochaline run and as the 1980s progressed, she found herself less and less able to cater for all the traffic on offer. She often required assistance from one of her sister ships to clear the backlog of cars from either terminal, and she was identified as the limiting factor in terms of commercial traffic development, requiring all cars to reverse either on or off. As a result of this, the route was identified as one of those to be upgraded in 1986 following the delivery of four new double-ended car ferries. Initially the new Loch Linnhe began her career on the Lochaline crossing but a month after her arrival, in July 1986 the new dedicated vessel arrived on the scene; the Isle of Cumbrae. With space for 18 cars on the new ferry, the queues simply vanished. Commercial traffic was also seen to rise and this continued for the next ten years.

Picture: SoC Crew
Canna arriving at Lochaline in 1981

Picture: Malcolm McNeill
Canna and Coll at Fishnish
Picture: SoC Crew
Isle of Cumbrae leaving Lochaline
The 1990s again saw an increase in the numbers of cars opting for the scenic drive across Morvern and the shorter hop over to Mull. The Isle of Cumbrae often sailed full during the summer months of 1995 and 1996 and so the route was again chosen to receive a further new ferry with a capacity of 24 cars. The Loch Alainn duly arrived in the height of the summer season of 1997 but only actually served Mull for a month. In mid August the new ferry broke down in a big way and had to be sent to the Clyde for repairs. She was never to return to the Sound of Mull. Following a while in the hands of members of the Island Class, another replacement ferry arrived; the Loch Dunvegan. With a capacity of 36 cars (50% more than the intended ferry) her size was of immense benefit to the route, although sadly she herself followed in the footsteps of the Loch Alainn when she too broke down. 

Picture: SoC Crew
Loch Alainn on her brief stint at Fishnish in 1997

Picture: SoC Crew
Loch Fyne crossing the Sound of Mull

There was only one spare unit left to take over the increasingly busy crossing and so it was that the other redundant Skye ferry Loch Fyne sailed north and took up service - the fourth regular vessel to be associated with the crossing in the space of four months! Fortunately she settled in well and became the regular ferry - role she still fulfils. As a result of this drivers are now virtually guaranteed a space on the next sailing when they arrive at either terminal. The only times when capacity is reduced is for two or three weeks during February each year when the vessel goes to the Clyde for overhaul and is covered by one of the smaller Loch Class ships. Previous relief ships have included Loch Riddon, Loch Linnhe, Isle of Cumbrae and Loch Tarbert, however the future relief ship is likely to be Loch Alainn.

Images from Ships of CalMac Collection


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