Fairlie - Brodick - Tarbert
Mainland - Arran - Kintyre
No Longer in Operation
3 hours 5 minutes
1970 - 1971: Cowal
1971: Bute (between 10th March and 23rd April)
Fairlie: A former steamer pier with rail connection. Vessels berthed alongside and hoist loaded. Used for Arran and Cumbrae services as well as the short lived Tarbert service.
Brodick: Terminal building located next to passenger boarding area and at the end of the vehicle lanes. Linkspan and passenger gangways are accessed via causeways due to water depth nearer the shore. Public transport facilities are also located close by, with Arran tour buses drawing up next to the queuing area.
Tarbert: Steamer pier set along the shore, Cowal had to hoist load at the pier.
In 1970 the Royal Route from Gourock to Tarbert ceased. The route had been operated continuously for a century and a half, sometimes starting from Glasgow, sometimes finishing in Ardrishaig. The 1970 timetable was a bit of a mish mash with sailings being operated by one of the four 'Maids' or Waverley depending on the day of the week. The final official passenger sailing was made on Friday 29th May, although some cruises still touched on the piers.
The next day Cowal introduced a new daily year round service (except Sundays in winter) between Fairlie, Brodick and Tarbert. The original plan had been to use Lochranza instead of Brodick but the pier there needed modifications to accept the Cowal. She hoist loaded vehicles at all three piers
Based at Fairlie, Cowal served Cumbrae before and after her sailings to Arran and Kintyre, but over the winter the call at Millport was added both ways on the Kintyre run, for passengers only. It could have been a great excursion but the connecting train from Glasgow arrived too early at Fairlie and there was no shore time allowed at Tarbert. Also, being a mainland to mainland sailing with calls at the already well served Arran, if there was a breakdown elsewhere on the Clyde, this route was the first to be cancelled, usually with Cowal heading up to Wemyss Bay to cover on the Rothesay run. When Glen Sannox went off to overhaul Cowal omitted the Tarbert call and instead gave a return sailing from Brodick to Ardrossan before resuming her timetable back to Fairlie. Unfortunately the route was not advertised well and never carried many passengers.
Slight changes in 1971 saw Cowal head back to Brodick from Fairlie on a Sunday night before returning on Monday morning to Fairlie meaning a slightly later departure for Tarbert that year, at 10 am. As the previous year, if required elsewhere in the network for cover or additional services for fairs and holidays the Tarbert service was cancelled or curtailed.
The final sailing on the route was made on the 30th September 1971. Over the winter no service was provided but from the summer schedule of 1972 a link was provided between Lochranza and Claonaig, meaning travellers with vehicles could cross via Arran to the Kintyre peninsula.
Dhuirnish approaching Rhubodach
Dhuirnish and Eilean Buidhe
Bruernish and Dhuirinish, Inchmarnock, 1985
Dhuirnish laid up at Port Bannatyne