Current / Last Route
Caledonian Steam Packet Co.
Named after the 1928 built KYLEAKIN, the very first vehicle ferry at Kyle of Lochalsh.
Ailsa Shipbuilding Co. Ltd, Troon
Gleniffer Engines Ltd., Glasgow.
2 Oil 4SCSA 4 cyl 6” x 7”.
Hoist & Lifts:
1 x Vehicle Turntable
1960 - 1970: Kyle of Lochalsh - Kyleakin
1970: Kyles Scalpay - Scalpay
1971: Kyle of Lochalsh - Kyleakin
1972 - 1976: Largs - Cumbrae
1977 - 1983: Largs - Cumbrae (Peak Back Up) / Colintraive - Rhubodach (Relief)
Traffic at the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. Ltd's goldmine of a ferry at Kyleakin continued to increase through the 1950s, and in July 1960 another 6-car turntable ferry took her place on the station. Her name revived that of the very first vehicle ferry at Kyle of Lochalsh, the one-car KYLEAKIN turntable ferry of 1928; this pioneering craft was finally sold in 1951 to W T Forsyth for his rival ferry service from Glenelg to Kylerhea, and lost in a storm at Broadford in 1959.
Built by Ailsa of Troon in only five months, the new KYLEAKIN was virtually a repeat of the 1957 LOCHALSH; the two could be distinguished only by subtle differences to railings on the vehicle deck, especially around the counterweight mechanism by which the manually controlled ramps were raised. KYLEAKIN was the last turntable ferry built for the Company and she and LOCHALSH were in fact the largest turntable ferries ever built – beaten by only one, the 9-car Corran ferry LOCHABER (1974) for capacity, and never by any turntable ferry for length or gross tonnage.
With KYLEAKIN's commissioning, the fleet at Kyleakin swelled to four small vehicle ferries; as pressure on the service grew, the Kyle of Lochalsh slipway was in 1961 enlarged so that two of the turntable craft could load there simultaneously. Nevertheless, by 1964 the service was simply overwhelmed by high-summer traffic: over 83,000 cars were taken across the straits that season, and the Kyleakin ferries earned a surplus exceeding £30,000 a year. There were endless delays, lengthy queues and much adverse publicity.
But the Company's decision to introduce Sunday sailings at Kyleakin, in June 1965, was emphatically against the wishes of the community and was opposed by the huge majority of Skye residents. Certainly a petition opposing these sailings was signed by the mass of the island's population.
Feelings ran high, scarcely helped by the irresponsible outburst of Caley boss Alexander Stuart - “We intend to operate a Sunday service and put an end to this humbug.” When KYLEAKIN – the first vessel to arrive from Kyle that day – finally tied up at the slip on Sabbath 6th June, she berthed amidst chaotic scenes with distressed demonstrators, an austere minister and a gleeful contingent of reporters and TV crews. Fourteen people, including the clergyman – Rev. Angus Smith, then Free Church minister at Snizort – were actually arrested for attempting to obstruct the cars disembarking from KYLEAKIN. The Sunday service was at first seasonal; from October 1969, there were Sunday ferries at Kyleakin all year round.
In the spring of 1970 her name was earmarked for one of the new 28-car double-ended ferries then under construction, and the 1960 side-loader became KYLEAKIN II. In April that year – in an early gesture of joint CSP-MacBrayne operations – she was sent across the Minch to relieve on the Scalpay station, with such success that her sister LOCHALSH II followed suit the following year and indeed became the permanent vessel there.
Once the new LOCHALSH was commissioned, in the spring of 1971, the three surviving side-loaders at Kyleakin were at a distinct loss. MacBraynes at first had no great interest in the dated turntable design though CORUISK, the 1969 side-ramper, had been rapidly identified for service on the Clyde. She was finally taken to Troon in September 1971 for conversion to bow-loading operation, and inaugurated the new Largs-Cumbrae Slip service the following March. Though strongly opposed by Millport Town Council – who preferred the Caley's direct passenger service from Largs to Millport, and managed against all logic to keep it going into the late Eighties – the new, short vehicle crossing won rapid favour and by May the CORUISK was beginning to struggle.
KYLEAKIN II was duly summoned from Skye; rapidly converted likewise to bow-loading operation, and renamed LARGS, she took up station on the Cumbrae service in July 1972. She and CORUISK could carry about nine cars in their new incarnation, and the Kyleakin.
refugees rendered yeoman service – assisted by one of the new “Small Island Class” bow-loaders at peak periods. Yet, as traffic expanded, history duly repeated itself; bow-loading is inherently inefficient, especially as neither of the ex-Skye ferries had even a deck turntable to help out the motorist.
With the advent of ISLE OF CUMBRAE in April 1977, CORUISK became spare vessel and subsequently enjoyed quite far-flung service; LARGS was retained as Cumbrae back-up, assisting at peak periods or while ISLE OF CUMBRAE was enjoying her overhaul. Sometimes the LARGS relieved other ex-Skye stalemates, PORTREE and BROADFORD, on the Colintraive - Rubodach station. In her last years, as parts grew scarce, her Gleniffer engines profited by cannibalising her laid-up sister SCALPAY – ex LOCHALSH (1957). Unlike the “Small Island Class”, these converted vessels had a fast-operating ramp which, however, did not conform to Class IIA requirements of a watertight seal, and their sphere of operation was – especially for LARGS – accordingly much restricted.
An in-depth report on CalMac operations in 1983, from the Monopolies & Mergers Commission, recommended the disposal of one of the Company's ageing bowloaders and in the end LARGS got the bullet. She gave her last public sailing at Largs on 26th September 1983, and then retired to the East India harbour. Sold – like SCALPAY – to the Ardmaleish Boatbuilding Co. Ltd at Port Bannatyne, Bute, she moved to Rothesay on 24th November. She languished for some years but at length quit the Clyde in some style – borne away by cargo-ship, in 1987, for South Yemen.