Crossing Time: 4 Minutes
Regular Ship: Loch Dunvegan
Colintraive - Rhubodach
Mainland - Bute
Pre 1970: Eilean Buidhe / Eilean Dhu / Dhuirnish
1970: Dhuirnish / Portree
1971: Dhuirnish / Portree & Broadford
1972 - 1985: Portree & Broadford
1986: Portree & Broadford / Loch Riddon
1987 - 1996: Loch Riddon
1997: Loch Riddon / Isle of Cumbrae
1998: Isle of Cumbrae
1999: Isle of Cumbrae / Loch Dunvegan
2000 - Present: Loch Dunvegan
Various members of the Island Class and Loch Class ferries on relief duties.
Colintraive: There is a new pier and ferry berth next to the slipway. Information is available from the terminal office next to the pier. Vehicles queue up in a small marshalling area set off the road.
Rhubodach: A single widened slipway with electronic display giving information for passengers. Vehicles queue along the road and there is a small car parking area adjacent to the slipway.
Until 1970, the so-called ‘back door’ to Bute had been served by several small landing-craft type ferries of a very simple design. 1970 however saw the then Caledonian Steam Packet with several redundant car ferries from their Western Isles outpost at Kyle of Lochalsh and new employment was needed for each.
Two of the relatively recent ferries, the Portree and the Broadford were converted to a bow-loading arrangement; their ramps being operated by a system of pulleys as opposed to hydraulics – and were placed on the three minute crossing between Colintraive on Cowal and Rhubodach, nine miles north west of Rothesay on Bute.
Most of the time only one ferry was in service, but at peak times they were both on duty, carrying 10 cars each on the stone’s-throw route, and the situation did not change until 1986 when the third of four new drive-through ferries was commissioned and placed on the Kyles of Bute crossing. The new Loch Riddon could carry twelve cars when full, but had the advantage of being able to achieve faster turnround times as reversing on or off was not required.
She was to remain on this crossing, seldom deviating, for 11 years. Only at peak times such as the Bute Highland Games weekend did she require assistance from one of her sisters at Largs. In the 1997 cascade of ships, the Kyles of Bute crossing’s new resident ferry became the Isle of Cumbrae, and then in 1999 the massive Loch Dunvegan took over offering space for up to 36 cars per crossing in the process, but much of the time sailing with less than a quarter of that onboard. Unlike all the other members of the ‘Loch Class’, the Colintraive ferry sails with her ramps unfolded, to save time at each terminal. The new pier at Colintraive was completed in time for this vessel’s arrival and she has remained there since. Only during times of breakdown or in November for annual overhaul does the route see some variation, usually in the form of Loch Alainn.
New slipways were constructed during 2018 and Colintraive’s terminal was expanded significantly at the same time – no longer do card have to queue out onto the road at busy times! To allow the rebuild of the slipways, temporary slips were built adjacent – the one at Colintraive survives to this day and is often used by visiting ferries, arriving for overhaul and dropping off crew vehicles. As a result, most of the Loch Class can be seen passing through during the winter months.