Lord of the Isles – 14th January 2012

Normal Service sailing – Ardrossan; Brodick; Ardrossan
Coach tour (south of island), Lunch at Kinloch Hotel,
Blackwaterfoot and return to Brodick via String Road 
A group of 95 members and friends took part in the Club’s nominated excursion to Arran aboard the Lord of the Isles on Saturday 14 January 2012. It was the biggest turn-out for a Club outing for some time, and we were pleased that members of the West Highland Steamer Club also took part.
Photographs:  Andrew Clark and Charles McCrossan

Whereas the attraction of the CRSC’s last big Arran outing in 2004 had been Round Arran sailing on the Caledonian Isles, the regular service boat, this time it was the chance to make the Ardrossan-Brodick return crossing on a CalMac ferry rarely seen on the Clyde, and one that had never undertaken a scheduled sailing on that run before this year.
Club members have always taken a keen interest in CalMac’s choice of winter relief vessel on the Arran run, and the novelty of the Loti – after a run of winters in which the Clansman filled the slot – ensured a steady flow of enthusiasts to Ardrossan in the days preceding the nominated excursion, with many impatient to sample a whiff of change on the Clyde’s otherwise predictable point-to-point ferry crossings.

The advantage of ‘sailing together’ – one of the Club’s aims – on January 14 was not merely to get a reduced fare or explore Arran in the middle of a winter’s day, but to enjoy each other’s company, which seemed very much the case as members boarded in time for the 9.45am departure from Ardrossan.

Charles McCrossan, David Robertson and Neil Guthrie

Grace Rogerson, Ruth Jamieson, Iain Jamieson and Douglas Rogerson

Stewart Sinclair, Iain Wilson and Gordon Evans


The Club’s pennant flew from the foremast on the way across to Brodick.
Although the skies remained cloudy throughout the day, there was no rain. Those who braved the Loti’s top deck on the morning crossing to Brodick enjoyed reasonable views and a southerly breeze, which produced enough wave power to create a gentle rolling motion on the open sea.

Many Club members commented on the Loti’s excellent timekeeping: she shaved a good five minutes off the Caledonian Isles’s schedule, thanks to her quick manoeuvrability in Ardrossan Harbour and her speed underway. It wasn’t long before we were disembarking at Brodick.

Deryk Docherty, Aidan McGhie and Ian McGhie

Alex Russell, Bob Lambie and Norrie Leitch

Billy Tomlinson, Andrew Anderson, Richard Orr, John McFarlane and Stuart Craig


At Brodick we were met by two buses for our journey to Blackwaterfoot. But first things first: ample time had been set aside for the ritual recording of the ship’s departure from Brodick pier. A large group of photographers positioned themselves strategically along the prom.

Gordon Law, Ian Montgomery and Robin Love Graeme Hogg, Eric Schofield and Robert Cleary

The bus journey followed the coastal route round the south of the island, with a short detour along the beach road at Kildonan. This caused a problem for one of the buses, which lacked the power to make the climb out of the village. About half the bus-load got out and walked 100 yards up the steepest part of the hill, lightening the bus sufficiently to let it continue. Although Ailsa Craig had been shrouded in gloom, the island of Sanda was clearly visible off the southern end of the Kintyre peninsula as we arrived at the Kinloch Hotel at Blackwaterfoot.

 Lunch – a sit-down affair at long tables, which encouraged the making of new acquaintances – consisted of soup and sandwiches, and as much tea and coffee as anyone could want.

In a word of welcome to all present, Gordon Law, CRSC President, paid tribute to Neil Guthrie, the Club’s Cruising Coordinator, whose excellent organisational work proved crucial to the day’s success. 

CRSC President Gordon Law (left) gives a vote of thanks to Cruising Coordinator Neil Guthrie Harold Mills (second from left) and friends at the Kinloch Hotel, Blackwaterfoot
After lunch some went for a walk along the shore. Others repaired to the bar, but it seemed no time at all before we were all boarding the bus again for Brodick.
Colin McNab, Ken and Elsie Hinshalwood, Yvonne and Rob McPhie, and Val McNab

The return journey by “The String” road was accompanied by commentary from the Stagecoach driver and sightings of deer on the hillside.

The shops in Brodick were well patronised in the hour before the Loti hove into view and prepared for a punctual 4.40pm departure.


 Some members who had prior engagements in the morning joined us at Brodick for the sailing back to Ardrossan.

John Newth and Douglas Rolland    Gordon McNeil and James Gryn 

There was a general air of satisfaction as everyone disembarked at Ardrossan and went their separate ways. It was a memorable day for all who took part – and a notable morale booster for the Clyde River Steamer Club.


A personal view of the January 2012 sailing on Loti from Stuart Craig, Membership Secretary

CRSC members and their friends turned out in a veritable tour de force for this ‘New Year’ excursion. The solution to the age-old problem of trying to do something different fell into the Club’s lap when Lord of the Isles appeared out of the gales and storms and arrived at Ardrossan to take over the Brodick service from Caledonian Isles.

The latter heads off for annual overhaul and survey in early January every year. She had been relieved by a handful of different vessels over these years, such as Isle of Arran, Isle of Mull and latterly Clansman. Clansman‘s larger capacity was required up at Oban in January 2012 where she could better cope with disrupted services than her older consort Lord of the Isles.




Lord of the Isles had never served on the Ardrossan – Brodick service before, and so our cruise convenor Neil put together an attractive package of return sailings, coach rides and lunch. Amazingly 95 souls booked for this trip, and I was one of them.

I am not really a ‘coach n cruise’ person. I prefer to do my own thing rather than being herded about and cosseted from ship to bus. However this was a great day out. Two buses were needed to accommodate us and the day ran like clockwork.

I had been down to Ardrossan’s crumbling harbour wall a few days before to film Lord of the Isles departing – shots I could hardly take if I was going to be aboard her. I planned to be atop the wall, a lofty but breezy vantage point, ten minutes before the ship arrived in from Arran. But her speed almost caught me out as she was about to enter the hole-in-the-wall just as I got my cameras together. But I got my pictures and on the day of the excusion, Saturday 14th, I was able to film her arrival from a different perspective.

Had the trip been planned for the previous week the sailings would have been cancelled due to the severe and persisitant gales which had battered Scotland since Christmas. This day, however, we were blessed with a calm, quiet and dry day. Low cloud blanketed Arran and the lower firth but the cold January air was easily bearable.

Ocean greyhound LOTIwas straining at her ropes keen to get away several minutes before her scheduled departure. But the skipper demonstrated his patience and we slid astern at 0945. Her 90 degree spin was over in aflash and we were out through the gap into the gentle swell in jig time.




Up on the top deck a crewman was inspecting the two large lifeboats. This was reassuringly poignant, for news was breaking this morning of the capsize of the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of Tuscuny with the loss of several lives. The crewman started both engines of the boats.

CRSC magazine editor Andrew Clark was also on the top deck, tottering on the edge of a seat tying to find the best angle for a group photo of CRSC members. “Why don’t you climb the mast,” retorts one wag.

I don’t think I have ever seen LOTI as busy. Apart from 95 anoraks there were the usual family parties heading over for the weekend. Fellow Island Hopper Andy was there and once the roll-and-sausage queue had shrunk he and I and Deryk Docherty indulged at a table shared with an energetic looking granny from Ayr. She had just spent five minutes trying to find her seat after a visit to the ‘Ladies’. “This is a different boat, I’m not familiar with it. I got lost.”

She is mystified by the number of passengers, so she gets an abridged history of the CRSC and an explanation of our raison d’etre. “We’ve been around since 1932, you know,” proclaims Andy. “My you don’t look that old.” But I spot the subtle twinkle in her eye.

This lucky woman has two daughters who live on Arran. One in Lamlash, one in Whiting Bay. “I think I’m with the Whiting Bay one this weekend.” Great to have a choice.

At Brodick the keenest of our group form a line along the promenade railing to watch Lord of the Isles’s departure. Rather than simply spin his ship around the skipper obligingly moves forward ahead of the pier and gives us a traditional departure and a lovely side-on view.

Andrew Clark has now climbed up onto a bench to gain the appropriate altitude for his photograph. “He’s determined to fall off something today,” observes Andy.

The two buses headed off southwards. I am on the leading bus and to our surprise we are taken down the narrow, steep road down to Kildonan.This charming, sleepy little bay seems to have had a few more houses added since my last visit here. The road back up onto the main drag gives us a bit of drama and hilarity. Half way up the incline it becomes clear that our bus’s gearbox isn’t too healthy. It is clearly struggling and we slow to a crawl before juddering to a standstill. The driver turns to our leader Neil. “Twenty off the bus and walk please!”

And so the fittest of us stumble outside and march in giggling single file up the next hundred metres of hill. The asthmatic bus regains her poise and crawls up behind us until she reaches a flattening of the incline. Everyone back on. Then we completed the journey to the Kinloch Hotel at Blackwaterfoot where lunch awaits us.




Our carefully planned itinerary had allowed us plenty of time back at Brodick before the ship returned. This was utilised by the real anoraks to take up camera positions. For although it was now 1600 hours in early January there was still sufficient light to record a few decent pictures. I set up stall just beyond the pier in front of the little industrial complex. Above me on the low hill was a lone figure with his camera poised. Who else but Andrew.

Lord of the Isles performed well today, and indeed during her two week spell as Brodick ferry. She raced across back to the mainland in 45 minutes. This time Johnny Newth and Ian McCrorie were aboard and Andy, Johnny and I sat and watched Ian demolish a plate of haddock and potatoes. A good start to the year for the CRSC and I think everyone enjoyed their day.