Crossing Time: 50 Minutes
Regular Ship: Loch Striven
Oban - Lismore
Mainland - Lismore
19?? - 1964: Lochnell
1964 - 19??: Loch Toscaig
1974 - 1975: Morvern
1976 - 1995: Eigg
1998 - 2006: Eigg / Bruernish
2006 - 2013: Eigg
2013 - Present: Loch Striven
Various members of the Island Class and Loch Class ferries on relief duties.
Oban: 3 storey terminal building with ticket office, waiting area and toilets. Two linkspans, one of which is undergoing redevelopment. Raised walkways under construction to replace the older passenger loading gangway. Large vehicle marshalling area. Small slipway located near berth number 1.
Lismore: Very minimal facilities at Achnacroish on the island. There is a small waiting area just up from the slipway.
The Lismore car ferry service was initiated back in 1974 when the Morvern, displaced the previous season from Lochaline, commenced the 50 minute crossing from Oban. This route back then was most definitely in the category of lifeline service, being used by islanders, commuting to and from Oban to the shops etc. Prior to the construction of the slipway at Achnacroish, Lismore was served from Oban by passenger vessels such as Loch Arkaig, Lochnell or Loch Eynort, or by calls from passing steamers such as Claymore, Lochnevis, Lochearn or similar.
The Morvern remained on the Lismore route for two seasons before being supplanted by the larger Eigg which was looking for new employment after being replaced herself from the Raasay crossing. The Eigg could carry up to six cars on her little car deck and once she commenced her duties on the route she would remain on it for the next 20 years. The only exceptions to this were when she was required to come off service for her annual overhauls or when she required repairs. During these times one of her sisters would provide the necessary cover.
The Eigg enjoyed a simple routine during her time on the Lismore route, providing a two hourly service from each end when on a peak timetable. It was not until 1996 that she eventually left what was by now her route and she was switched with the former Kilchoan ferry; the Coll. The destination sign was transferred across to this new replacement as if to indicate an allegiance to her new route, but it was not to last however.
The Coll, only the following year, found herself being replaced on the Lismore route by her older sister Bruernish while she herself was put on the sales list. And so the crossing Lismore was entrusted to another vessel once again. The following season saw yet another change taking place - although admittedly it was more of a return than a change for events on the Clyde, involving various 'Loch Class' ferries had conspired to release the Loch Linnhe for service in the Western Isles. She was assigned to the Tobermory - Kilchoan route which in turn freed up the former Lismore ferry Eigg to return once more to Oban and resume her occupation of the service. This time the change was to last and once again the Eigg became the long-term ship.
In 1999 when the Eigg returned from her annual overhaul, she looked very different. She had sprouted a high level bridge so as her master could see over high loads such as hay lorries that were often carried to Lismore. The black paint on the hull had also been raised, with the company name down the side now being white as on the larger units of the fleet. With the bridge modification it was clear that the Eigg was destined to remain as the regular Lismore ferry once again, providing faithful service to ‘her’ island.
Over time the number of Island Class ferries dwindled and from 1998 there were only three to serve Lismore; Eigg as full time vessel and Bruernish (until her departure for Irish waters in 2006) or Raasay as relief. Full drive-through operation came to Lismore eventually in 2013 when the Loch Striven became available after the Hallaig had appeared at Raasay. Eigg was retained as spare vessel but in practise saw only very occasional service outside of Loch Striven’s overhaul periods - she was surplus to requirements and was eventually sold in 2018, heading for Irish waters and a new life around Clare Island. The switch to full drive-through operation at Lismore wasn’t all plain sailing however– the angles of the slipways weren’t compatible with the ferry’s ramps and the Loch Striven had to be withdrawn for modifications to be made. Since then however Loch Striven has settled in as the regular ferry.
Lismore has seen occasional other visitors over the years - Loch Bhrusda , for example, was used as emergency relief for a few days in February 2019 when Loch Striven required additional maintenance following her visit to the Clyde, while a notable mention goes to the Loch Fyne which carried out a one-off sailing for a large load and became the largest ferry serve in the route’s history.
As for the future, it is hard to imagine how capacity for vehicles going to Lismore is likely to be swamped by levels of demand, however nothing in this world is certain. Every so often the age old argument of Oban versus Port Appin rears its head and there are calls from certain corners to shift the vehicle service from its current Oban – Achnacroish route to a short hop at Port Appin to the northern end of Lismore, while creating a faster passenger only link with Oban. Every few years this possibility gets brought up for consideration – will it ever happen? Anything is possible.
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