Crossing Time: 2 hours 40 minutes (Coll), 3 hours 35 minutes (Tiree)
Regular Ship: Clansman
Oban - Coll / Tiree
Mainland - Coll - Tiree
Pre 1975: Claymore / Loch Seaforth
1975 - 1978: Columba
1979 - 1988: Columba / Claymore (Winter)
1989 - 1997: Lord of the Isles
1998: Lord of the Isles / Clansman
1999 - 2002: Clansman
2003 - 2016: Clansman / Lord of the Isles
2017 - Present: Clansman
Iona / Pioneer / Claymore / Isle of Mull / Isle of Arran (Relief duties)
Oban: 3 storey terminal building with ticket office, waiting area and toilets. Two linkspans, two raised airbridge walkways linking the passenger gangways to the upper floor of the terminal building. Enlarged vehicle marshalling area.
Coll: Pier and linkspan are located at the islands main village; Arinagour. Terminal office contains usual facilities and ticket sales etc. Nearby is the pick up point for island tours.
Tiree: Ferry terminal comprises the office, vehicle marshalling area, pier, linkspan and passenger gangway. The main village on the island is Scarinish.
Before the placement of the much travelled favourite Columba on the route from Oban, the islands of Coll and Tiree were served by the 1955-built Claymore and then the ill-fated Loch Seaforth. The route originally formed part of a long haul run which also took in Castlebay and Lochboisdale after passing through the Gunna Sound, site of Loch Seaforth’s grounding which led to her sinking at Tiree in March 1973.
Change came after this and the Outer Isles mail run was split up. Coll and Tiree were now served by the last of the 1964 trio, the Columba. She was a reliable and popular vessel, if a little slow, but upon her introduction the two islands she served were provided with a proper car ferry service for the first time. The Columba, in addition to her Coll and Tiree duties also served Colonsay and, following the withdrawal of King George V, carried out the Iona cruises as well. This ferry was rarely off duty.
The Columba also called at Tobermory as part of her service to Coll and Tiree. She called both on the way out from and when returning to Oban. This was particularly useful to the islanders as it allowed the easy transfer of people, vehicles and supplies from one isle to another without the need for a time-consuming trip to the mainland. Loading at all of her ports was via the hoist (Oban had a linkspan but the ferry did not have suitable ramps to use it) and this did lengthen the round trip to some extent. From 1979 winters saw the island being served by the new Claymore whereas the Columba returned for the summer timetable.
The latter half of the 1980s was a time for change and as part of a modernisation programme initiated by Calmac, it was announced that Coll and Tiree would be receiving a new ferry.
The Lord of the Isles entered service on a very hectic schedule in 1989. Her duties not only included Coll and Tiree but also the long sail from Oban to the Outer Isles (previously by handled by the Iona and then the 1978-built Claymore). Calls at Tobermory were still a regular feature although these soon became for passengers only so as to save time and avoid shunting cars round on the car deck.
Hoist loading continued on Coll and Tiree until 1992 when linkspans were finally installed and the ferry could use her stern ramp. This greatly accelerated her timetable and she could now fit in a morning run to Coll and Tiree before returning to Oban and then loading up for a sailing out to Barra and South Uist in the afternoon and evening.
In 1998 another new ferry was placed on the route; the larger Clansman which had just been brought into service. Calls at Tobermory were no longer possible due to the size of the new ship - not a popular move with the people of Mull who had visions of an overland route from Oban via Craignure and Tobermory to Coll and Tiree. Nevertheless the new ferry settled in quickly and made the route her own over the next few years and into the new millennium. Other infrequent visitors to Coll and Tiree included Isle of Mull, sometimes substituted whenever there was the need for a higher passenger load, or the Pioneer or Iona on relief duties at various times.
Lord of the Isles was back on the scene in 2003 however when she was reintroduced on the routes out of Oban in a bid to enhance services to the islands. Coll and Tiree were now served by two ferries and enjoyed more regular services. Lord of the Isles would serve on Sundays and Mondays with the Clansman running Tuesdays to Saturdays – each ship ‘s own schedule being designed to integrate with the other’s.
Fast forward to 2016 and Lord of the Isles was again moved away. This most versatile member of the fleet was once again shifted and this time to a new year-round Mallaig – Lochboisdale service. Clansman was stripped of her direct Barra sailings in favour of the larger Isle of Lewis and now ran full time to Coll and Tiree, 7 days a week, in addition to providing Colonsay sailings. Wednesday sailings were extended out to Castlebay via the Gunna Sound making for a long day trip from Oban during the summer timetable. The winter months now saw sailings on 5 days out of 7.