Main The Fleet Ships of the Fleet Loch Riddon History

Loch Riddon’s history goes back to the early 1980s when the order for four new drive-through ferries was placed with Dunston’s of Hessle on the Humber. For years previously a number of routes had seen traffic levels build up steadily and were now at the point where the small ferries that were used could no longer cope with demand. Prime examples of this were the Largs – Cumbrae Slip, Lochranza – Claonaig, Colintraive – Rhubodach and Fishnish – Lochaline routes.

The new ferries were modified versions of the Isle of Cumbrae, at that time operating the Cumbrae route on her own. Their overall size was roughly the same as the 1977-built vessel, however their car decks were only wide enough to take two lanes of vehicles as opposed to three. The space that would have been allocated for the third vehicle lane, on the port side of the ships was actually given over to a second passenger lounge in addition to that on the starboard side. This modification reduced car capacity to 12 but increased passenger capacity to around 200.

As with the Isle of Cumbrae, the new ferries received Voith Schneider propulsion units fore and aft which meant they could manoeuvre around the tightest turns and berth with ease at their given slipways. The newbuilds were also more aesthetically pleasing when they emerged in 1986 and 1987. They had no funnels as such so their wheelhouses were painted red and given a black top. The lion emblem was added to either side of the wheelhouse and the mainmast rose at an angle above it

Picture: ???
Arriving at Colintraive

The first and second of the four new ferries had been named Loch Striven and Loch Linnhe respectively.
Loch Riddon was the third vessel to make the long delivery voyage round from the Humber and she eventually arrived towards the end of 1986. Her launch was actually delayed when she refused to budge on the slipway in the yard! The next route earmarked for a new vessel was that between Colintraive and Rhubodach in the Kyles of Bute. The Loch Riddon’s arrival spelt redundancy for the Portree and Broadford – two ex Skye ferries converted to bow-loading in the early 1970s.

Unlike the previous two new ferries which found themselves working at Cumbrae, the Loch Riddon was not readily called upon to go off and provide winter relief services. For many years she would not venture further west than Rhubodach slipway in one direction, whereas Ardmaleish boatyard would be the furthest east she would be seen. There was the odd occasion when she would make it as far as Largs or Gourock for repairs, but in general during her first 11 years in service the only time she would be with another fleet member would be on Bute Highland Games weekend for example when a Cumbrae ferry would assist her in clearing traffic at the busy periods.

Picture: SoC Crew
Arriving at Cumbrae Slip

Changing over with Loch Buie

All this changed in 1997 however. A new Loch Class ferry entered service in July of that year. The Loch Alainn began her career with a three week spell of duty on the Colintraive route before switching with the Isle of Cumbrae in August, so the Loch Riddon moved out of the way and sought refuge at Largs where she partnered the Loch Linnhe on the 10 minute crossing to Cumbrae Slip. This new route was her first real taste of life outside of the Kyles of Bute and it has been her main occupation for over seven seasons now.

Since spring 1998 she has been very much the secondary Cumbrae ferry, following the reintroduction to service of the Loch Alainn. The very vessel which replaced her at the Kyles of Bute was now her partnering ships at Largs and between them the two ferries could carry 36 cars across every 15 minutes throughout the day.

In addition to her duties at Largs for most of the year the Loch Riddon has also seen action far from her usual home. For example in the winter seasons she has covered on the Tarbert – Portavadie/Lochranza crossing in recent years. She has also been called away from Largs on emergency relief duties in the summer seasons on occasion, for example in July 2004 when she was called across to Arran to cover for the Loch Tarbert which had broken down, and in September 2004 when she battled to clear all the traffic while covering for the Loch Fyne at Fishnish. She has also been to the Outer Hebrides and has relieved the Loch Bhrusda on the Ardmhor – Eriskay route in the not-too-distant past.

Picture: SoC Crew
Unloading at Portavadie while on winter duties

Picture: SoC Crew
Joining Isle of Cumbrae at Lochranza
Picture: SoC Crew
Entering Tarbert's inner harbour

The last few years have provided the Loch Riddon with far more variety than in the first years of her career when she would not venture far from Colintraive. As for the next few years, it is hard to say where she will end up. There was a fair amount of speculation that she might be the Loch Class ferry to be moved upon the arrival of the new Cumbrae ferry, announced in 2006. In reality it was not the Loch Riddon to be moved but the Loch Alainn, and the smaller vessel is to remain as the second Cumbrae ship. Loch Riddon now sails on the secondary roster at Largs in the summer and is employed on the relief circuit in the winter months, operating on the Fionnpohrt - Iona and Tarbert - Portavadie / Lochranza runs.

Text thanks to SoC Crew (C)

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