4th September 1986
RIB and inflatable liferafts
Current / Last Route
28th October 1986
The small loch at the north end of the Kyles of Bute
Richard Dunston (Hessle) Ltd
6-cyl 2x Voith-Schneider Propellers
Hoist & Lifts:
1986 - 1997: Colintraive - Rhubodach
1997 - present: Largs - Cumbrae Slip (summer) / Spare vessel (winter)
Claonaig - Lochranza / Tarbert - Portavadie / Tayinloan - Gigha / Oban - Lismore / Lochaline - Fishnish /
Fionnphort - Iona / Tobermory - Kilchoan / Ardmhor - Eriskay / Sconser - Raasay
Loch Riddon’s history goes back to the early 1980s when the order for four new drive-through ferries was placed with Dunston’s of Hessle on the Humber. For years previously a number of routes had seen traffic levels build up steadily and were now at the point where the small ferries that were used could no longer cope with demand. Prime examples of this were the Largs – Cumbrae Slip, Lochranza – Claonaig, Colintraive – Rhubodach and Fishnish – Lochaline routes.
The new ferries were modified versions of the Isle of Cumbrae, at that time operating the Cumbrae route on her own. Their overall size was roughly the same as the 1977-built vessel, however their car decks were only wide enough to take two lanes of vehicles as opposed to three. The space that would have been allocated for the third vehicle lane, on the port side of the ships was actually given over to a second passenger lounge in addition to that on the starboard side. This modification reduced car capacity to 12 but increased passenger capacity to around 200.
As with the Isle of Cumbrae, the new ferries received Voith Schneider propulsion units fore and aft which meant they could manoeuvre around the tightest turns and berth with ease at their given slipways. The newbuilds were also more aesthetically pleasing when they emerged in 1986 and 1987. They had no funnels as such so their wheelhouses were painted red and given a black top. The lion emblem was added to either side of the wheelhouse and the mainmast rose at an angle above it.The first and second of the four new ferries had been named Loch Striven and Loch Linnhe respectively. Loch Riddon was the third vessel to make the long delivery voyage round from the Humber and she eventually arrived towards the end of 1986. Her launch was actually delayed when she refused to budge on the slipway in the yard! Loch Riddon's first revenue earning sailing was on 28th October when she relieved on the Lochaline - Fishnish route for a short spell. However the route she was earmarked for was that between Colintraive and Rhubodach in the Kyles of Bute. The Loch Riddon’s arrival spelled redundancy for the Portree and Broadford – two ex Skye ferries converted to bow-loading in the early 1970s.
Unlike the previous two new ferries which found themselves working at Cumbrae, the Loch Riddon was not readily called upon to go off and provide winter relief services. For many years she would not venture further west than Rhubodach slipway in one direction, whereas Ardmaleish boatyard would be the furthest east she would be seen. There was the odd occasion when she would make it as far as Largs or Gourock for repairs, but in general during her first 11 years in service the only time she would be with another fleet member would be on Bute Highland Games weekend for example when a Cumbrae ferry would assist her in clearing traffic at the busy periods.
All this changed in 1997 however. A new Loch Class ferry entered service in July of that year. The Loch Alainn began her career with a three week spell of duty on the Colintraive route before switching with the Isle of Cumbrae in August, so the Loch Riddon moved out of the way and sought refuge at Largs where she partnered the Loch Linnhe on the 10 minute crossing to Cumbrae Slip. This new route was her first real taste of life outside of the Kyles of Bute and it was to become her long term summer role and in 1998 she found herself partnered by Loch Alainn, the very vessel which replaced her at the Kyles of Bute . Between them the two ferries could carry 36 cars across every 15 minutes throughout the day. 2000, incidentally, saw Loch Riddon and Loch Linnhe switching places for one summer only and she ran that summer between Tobermory and Kilchoan.
In addition to her duties at Largs for most of the year the Loch Riddon has also seen action far and wide, well away from her usual home. Being based in Largs meant she was often the goto relief vessel for the nearby Lochranza and Portavadie routes, however following the turn of the millennium she would be dispatched anywhere she was required. As such she found herself in such exotic locations as Lochaline (September 2004) and even Eriskay (November 2005).
Following the announcement of a new ferry to be built for Cumbrae, there was a fair amount of speculation that the Loch Riddon would be moved elsewhere, with Lismore being mentioned more than once. As events transpired however, it was her running mate Loch Alainn that left Largs and Loch Riddon remained in place, playing second fiddle to the new Loch Shira.
The years since 2007 have provided the Loch Riddon with far more variety than in the first years of her career when she would not venture far from Colintraive. The winter months tended to follow a pattern - after the end of the summer season at Cumbrae she would venture up to Ardmaleish or down to Troon for her annual overhaul. Once back in the water she would venture next to the Sound of Iona to cover for the Loch Buie before taking over the combined Portavadie and Lochranza run for the majority of the remainder of the winter. In more recent years however, following the arrival of the hybrid vessels, Loch Riddon has seen a far less predictable routine with stints on the Tobermory - Kilchoan, Oban - Lismore and Tayinloan - Gigha and has seen not insignificant spells laid up at the Sandbank Marina in the Holy Loch.