Crossing Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Regular Ship: Clansman / Hebridean Isles
Oban - Colonsay
Mainland - Colonsay
1975 - 1988: Columba
1989 - 1992: Isle of Mull / Claymore
1993 - 2000: Isle of Mull / Isle of Arran
2001 - 2002: Isle of Mull / Hebridean Isles
2003 - 2016: Isle of Mull / Lord of the Isles / Hebridean Isles
2016 - Present: Clansman / Hebridean Isles
Iona / Pioneer / Glen Sannox
Oban: 3 storey terminal building with ticket office, waiting area and toilets. Two linkspans, one of which is undergoing redevelopment. Raised walkways from the upper floor of the terminal building direct to the vessel boarding points. Large vehicle marshalling area split into two sets of lanes.
Colonsay: Pier and linkspan (dates over twenty years apart!) set out into the bay at Scalasaig on Colonsay. Passenger gangway is located along the pier and vehicle marshalling area in located adjacent to the linkspan.
Before Colonsay received its pier in the 1960s, the island was served by mail boat and tender launch as there was nowhere suitable for the larger vessel to berth. The Lochiel served Colonsay from her base on the Kintyre peninsula. Her runs via Port Askaig were extended to Colonsay every so often, although from 1975 the Columba assumed a general role and, in addition to her duties to Coll and Tiree, she also served Colonsay from Oban, just over two hours away. This vessel brought with her substantial car capacity and for the next thirteen years she served the island as part of her busy routine. Glen Sannox was also a regular sight at Colonsay, particularly during the winter months on certain days while on winter Mull duties.
Ferry services to Colonsay joined the late 20th Century in 1988 when drive-through facilities were finally installed at the pier at Scalasaig. The linkspan was to enable the new Mull ferry Isle of Mull to berth there. In addition to her main duties to Craignure, the new Oban-based giant also sailed to Colonsay three times a week. 1989 saw another vessel provide a second service to and from the mainland. As part of her new commitments to Islay, the Claymore started a new summer trend - a link from Kennacraig to Oban via Port Askaig and Colonsay, travelling out in the morning and returning in the afternoon and evening. This allowed residents of Colonsay a couple of hours in Oban before the return journey. Of course this journey was not required in the winter as the Mull ferry only provided a handful of sailings to Craignure in the morning and late afternoon.
Things remained fairly constant for a number of years. The only real change being that the Isle of Arran took over from the Claymore in 1993, although the weekly sailing still took place. Things did not really change until 2003. It was in the summer of that year that the majority of services from Oban, on a variety of routes, experienced a shake up. By this time the Islay ferry was Hebridean Isles and she carried on the tradition of linking Kennacraig and Oban.
The major change was that there were now three large ferries were based in Oban: Isle of Mull, Lord of the Isles and the 1998 built Clansman. The latter tended to concentrate on the Outer Isles and Coll / Tiree sailings while the smaller Lord of the Isles became the regular ferry for the Colonsay service.
More sailings per week were offered and at more convenient times of the day than the evenings as in previous years. During the winter season however the Mull ferry resumed sole Colonsay duties.
The next big shake-up occurred in 2016 when Lord of the Isles was transferred to the new Mallaig – Lochboisdale route. Her role on the Colonsay service was taken up by Clansman, herself ousted from the Barra service by the Isle of Lewis. The ‘Mighty One’ as she has become known over the years was timetabled to leave Oban at 1630 on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays and at 0900 on Tuesdays. The Hebridean Isles filled in the blanks, continuing with the Wednesday run and also adding a new Saturday run from Kennacraig to Oban and back. The route now has its best service to date.
Text thanks to John MacLeod and updated by Ships of CalMac
Dhuirnish approaching Rhubodach
Dhuirnish and Eilean Buidhe
Bruernish and Dhuirinish, Inchmarnock, 1985
Dhuirnish laid up at Port Bannatyne