Crossing Time: 35 minutes
Regular Ship: Argyle/Bute
Kyle of Lochalsh - Kyleakin
Mainland - Skye
Pre 1970: Lochalsh / Kyleakin / Portree / Broadford / Coruisk
1971 - 1990: Lochalsh / Kyleakin
1991 - 1995: Loch Dunvegan / Loch Fyne
Isle of Cumbrae and various members of the 'Island Class'.
Kyle of Lochalsh: Slipways next to the town centre. The main slipway was widened and enhanced ready for the introduction of end-loading ferries. This is now used as a car park next to the Kyle of Lochalsh Hotel.
Kyleakin: Slipway built out at the end of the village. Very minimal facilities at the terminal due to the high frequency of service.
Despite being well into David MacBrayne territory, the short crossing from Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland to Kyleakin on Skye was operated for many years by the Caledonian Stem Packet Company (CSP). The route was quickly established as the main route across to the island and as such there were, for a while, a fleet of five small ferries operating the route. At first there were turntable ferries - a familiar sight across the west coast not so long ago. These ferries could carry six cars on every crossing but it became clear that more capacity was required. It was for this reason that three new side loading vessels, Portree, Broadford, and finally Coruisk were introduced in the late stages of the 1960s.
These latest ships had a capacity of 9 cars on their open car decks, but by the end of the decade, even with these three ferries running alongside the two remaining turntable ferries; Kyleakin and Lochalsh, larger ships were urgently needed as traffic queues often stretched back to four hours in length.
The first of these new ferries was launched in early 1970 and entered service on 14th August of that year under the name Kyleakin. She was basically the forerunner of what is now known as the 'Loch Class' and could carry up to 28 cars on her spacious car deck. Ramps at either end of the car deck allowed unloading and reloading to be carried out in a matter of minutes. The new ferry was an instant success and the queues were gone. To add to this success the new Lochalsh joined Kyleakin on 31st March the following year.
Loch Fyne and Loch Dunvegan in the Kyle
Loch Dunvegan sitting at Kyleakin
Kyleakin loading at Kyle of Lochalsh
For twenty years these two ferries plied their way to and fro across Loch Alsh. Disquiet grew throughout the late 1980s about the lack of night sailings and it was only a matter of time before 24 hour running was instigated. This began at the turn of the decade with sailings every half hour from each terminal using one of the two ferries.
Into the 1990s history repeated itself and traffic grew to previously unrecorded levels, prompting Calmac (which had inherited the route in 1973) to order the largest ever double-ended ferries to ply the west coast.
Loch Dunvegan was first into service, replacing the Lochalsh on 27th May 1991. She could carry 36 cars on each sailing, as could her sister Loch Fyne which entered service on 12th September, spelling redundancy for the Kyleakin in the process. These two new sisters operated the crossing to the end of its days. Even as they entered service the end for the crossing had been confirmed as the go ahead for the Skye Bridge had been given.
And so it was, for four years the Loch Dunvegan and Loch Fyne kept the Kyleakin crossing running 24 hours a day, every day as the bridge slowly took shape in the background. The last sailings between Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin took place on October 16th 1995 as the bridge was opened. It fell to the Loch Fyne to carry out the last ever sailing and upon completion both she and her sister had their ramps folded and they sailed to the James Watt Dock on the Clyde.