Crossing Time: 25 Minutes
Regular Ship: Hallaig
Sconser - Raasay
Skye - Raasay
1976: Canna / Raasay
1977 - 1996: Raasay
1997: Raasay / Loch Striven
1998 - 2012: Loch Striven
2013: Loch Striven / Hallaig
2014 - Present: Hallaig
Various members of the Island Class and Loch Class ferries on relief duties.
Sconser: Minimal facilities, as with many of the shorter crossings. Slipway and pier jutting out into the loch at Sconser. New vehice marshalling area and car park with adjoining waiting room and toilets built for the arrival of Hallaig. No ticket facilities - these are purchased on the ferry.
Raasay: Newly built harbour incorporating a wide slipway and long breakwater, providing a sheltered berth for the ferry and also local fishing vessels. Waiting room and toilets located adjacent to the car park and marshalling area.
The current route to the small island of Raasay opened in early 1976 when the new Canna entered service and also opened the new terminal at Sconser on Skye. Prior to this happening, Raasay was served by a mail steamer from Portree; the Loch Arkaig. In 1975 the little Eigg took over the route from Portree but less than a year later the crossing from Portree to Raasay ceased.
The Canna brought with her a new, shorter and much more convenient service which ran unchanged for almost 35 years. The new crossing only took a mere 15 minutes to complete in either direction. The ferry was also based on the island as opposed to Skye - thus providing a means of transport out of hours - for example in a medical emergency.
Later on in 1976 however, the route was placed in the care of what was to become its dedicated ferry for the next 21 years. The appropriately named Raasay entered service as the eighth and final member of the 'Island Class' ferries. Her capacity was for 6 cars and she quickly settled into a routine.
The Raasay remained on the crossing to her namesake isle for over twenty years. She achieved quite a rare record in that she did not miss a single full day of service through either being stormbound or struck down by mechanical failure of some sort. Raasay was the main ferry to serve but this did not mean by any stretch of the imagination that she was the only ferry to be seen; various sister Island Class ferries turned up to provide overhaul reliefs – Bruernish, Rhum and Coll being the main visitors.
The Raasay crossing in the 1990s, as with almost everywhere else in the CalMac network, saw traffic levels grow considerably. The Raasay, with her capacity of only six cars per sailing began to suffer the same problem as had dogged her sisters some ten years previously and found herself leaving cars behind more and more.
As had been the solution elsewhere in the network, it was decided that a larger ferry should assume the Sconser - Raasay duties at the earliest opportunity. Newbuild tonnage would be needed somewhere along the line. The new Loch Alainn’s arrival allowed some shuffling of the small fleet further south; the return of Isle of Cumbrae to the Clyde meant the 1986-built Loch Striven could be moved into the Western Isles. Upon Loch Striven’s arrival, Raasay became a spare vessel.
Loch Striven remained in charge of the Raasay run for the next 15 years. Towards the end of her tenure the terminal on Raasay was abandoned in favour of a new purpose-built pier a couple of miles to the north, on the edge of the island’s main village. This actually increased the crossing time to 25 minutes but the overnight berth was far superior to the increasingly rickety old iron ore pier that had served as the harbour before.
2011 saw the announcement that the next generation of small ferries was being developed. Hybrid technology was the buzzword of the day and the first new ferry – destined for Raasay – was to be powered by a combination of batteries and regular diesel engines. The claim to fame was that she would be the world’s first diesel electric hybrid ferry. The specifications of the new ship called for space up to 22 cars, almost doubling capacity and allowing for more commercial traffic to use the route. The name of the new ferry was put out to a public vote and the options to choose from were a departure from the well-established practise of naming the small fleet after lochs. Instead the voters were presented with the following: Glamaig / James Watt / Hallaig / Dun Caan / Fulmar. The subsequent hybrid newbuilds would follow with names taken from the same genre (ie mountains / inventors/discoverers / literary / seabirds). The winning name was Hallaig, taken from a poem. This sadly meant that all subsequent hybrid vessels would adopt names with a literary connection rather than following with the Loch Class tradition.
Nevertheless, the new ferry Hallaig took to the waters of the Clyde on 17th December 2012, although it would be nearly a year before she took up service. Introduction took its time as a result of the new technology and crew familiarisation, but once she was put into service and the inevitable teething troubles had been ironed out she proved to be a reliable unit. Overhauls tended to take place during the first half of the winter season and at these times one of the smaller Loch Class would appear. This was usually Loch Linnhe, though with the increase in traffic that Hallaig had allowed, Loch Linnhe would often have to put in additional runs during the day. More recently the overhaul period has been covered by either Loch Bhrusda or Loch Tarbert for additional carrying capacity.