The Gourock to Dunoon Car Ferry Era

At 11:30 on Monday 4th January 1954, PS Waverley departed Dunoon on a passenger only service to Gourock (CRSC)

At 12:10 on Monday 4th January 1954, MV Arran left Gourock for Dunoon with 12 cars on board.

The new “Car Ferry” age had arrived!

MV Arran arriving at Dunoon in 1954 (CRSC)

By Easter ’54, MV Cowal had also been delivered and the two new vessels worked together on the route to Dunoon.

MV Cowal approaching Gourock early in her life with bow of Saint Columba also in view. (CRSC)

Later in the year MV Bute was also delivered. Over the next 15 years, all three vessels are seen regularly on the route, with passenger-only vessel assistance from time to time.

The three purpose built Car Ferries were referred to as the “ABCs”

PS Waverley and MV Bute at Dunoon late 60s shows the hoist facility of ABC vessels well and blue hull livery (1965 to 69) (CRSC)

Gourock Pier pre linkspan era showing Duchess of Hamilton, Queen Mary II and MV Cowal at the berth (1960) (CRSC)
MacBrayne’s MV Clansman (with yellow funnel) appeared to cover the route from January to May 1970 when MV Iona (new) took over. At that time, Clansman and Iona were the largest vessels to serve the route. A Maid class vessel provided cover to meet trains at Gourock, and Bute gave extra morning and evening sailings.

MV Clansman (1964) on CSP charter Jan to May 1970 at the north berth Dunoon in its last years before major alteration and addition of linkspan (CRSC)

In the early ABC years, Kirn had a morning and evening call which ceased in December 1963.

Arran moved to the Islay service.

New arrival, MV Iona off Gourock on charter to CSP – after May 1970 (CRSC)


In July 1971, the Gourock linkspan became available for use.

Iona operated the service until November 1971 when MV Glen Sannox relieved and then Iona and Glen Sannox shared the service over the next few months.

Glen Sannox leaving Dunoon. The foreground today is dominated by the new pier (Edward Quinn)



MV Maid of Cumbrae (converted to Car Ferry) and Glen Sannox offered a daily service of 17 runs on a 45 minute schedule.

Converted for the route, mini car ferry Maid of Cumbrae, in 1972 off Gourock swimming pool (Edward Quinn)



In November 1973, the new MV Jupiter was on trials and then entered service on the Gourock to Dunoon service on 19th March 1974 under the marketing banner of the “New Marine Motorway Service”.

Jupiter and Maid of Cumbrae now operated this service on a half-hourly schedule

Jupiter confusing passengers at Rothesay with the route markings for the Gourock to Dunoon service on her hull (Ian Colquhoun)



Arran, which had been modified to allow linkspan loading, assisted frequently on the route.

Relief vessel MV Arran in converted condition off Gourock in Mid 70’s condition with mini side ramp facility for Dunoon and Rothesay (CRSC)



MV Juno entered service in December 1974 and MV Maid of Cumbrae was no longer required for the Gourock to Dunoon route, but continued in various roles as a member of the fleet for a few more years.

Juno arriving at Dunoon (Ian Colquhoun)

Jupiter and Juno revolutionised the traditional Gourock to Dunoon service with their ease of manoeuvring and fast loading/ unloading capability. However, they were now facing stiff competition from Western Ferries who were also offering a similar cross firth service from McInroys point to Hunter’s Quay.

In the 80’s, due to conditions imposed on subsidy payments, the Gourock to Dunoon service was reduced to an hourly schedule with additional sailings at peak times.



Over winter 1979/80, MV Pioneer provided winter relief on the service during overhauls periods(Ian Colquhoun)


Pioneer at Dunoon, with Saturn in the distance (Ian Colquhoun)

RMS Claymore on Gourock to Dunoon duty for a few days only at Easter 1996 (Ian Colquhoun)

In 1986, MV Saturn which had been operating on the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route, together with Jupiter and Juno, joined the “three vessel” pool for the upper firth and operated a month at a time on the Gourock to Dunoon service.

The three vessels were affectionately known as the “Streakers”.

Saturn leaving Dunoon (Charles McCrossan)

Pioneer continued to see regular service on the upper firth services until withdrawal at the end of 2003.

Pioneer departing Dunoon for Wemyss Bay as Gourock linkspan was out of service (Ian Colquhoun)

Winter 2003/2004 saw the MV Coruisk relieving on the service for a short period (Charles McCrossan)


Juno operated until April 2007, ending her days on the Rothesay route with Saturn while construction work was carried out on Rothesay pier. Therafter she was moved to layup at Roseneath and never returned to service.

On the 18th June 2011, Juno moved for the last time when she was beached alongside the pier at Roseneath for scrapping

Juno beached at Roseneath (Paul Hunter)



Jupiter remained on the Gourock to Dunoon service, relieved from time to time by Saturn, until October 2010, after which she moved to lay-up at Roseneath.

Despite being kept at some level of readiness, and having the odd “spin” around the river, she never operated a passenger service again.

Jupiter Heading for Gourock (Charles McCrossan)


On Saturday 25th June 2011, Jupiter departed Roseneath, and the Clyde, for ever, under the tow of Danish tug Luna A, destined for Denmark.

Jupiter catches her last rays of sun on the Clyde (Lesley Wild)

Saturn became the final Gourock to Dunoon Car Ferry on a service which finished on Wednesday the 29th June 2011, after which a new passenger only service began between Gourock and Dunoon

Further details of Passenger Only service

Saturn heading for Gourock (Charles McCrossan)

Saturn arriving at Dunoon for the last time on Wednesday 29th June with a good load of passengers -many Club members among them making the last round trip (Charles McCrossan)

The last sailing from Dunoon which closed the service carried 14 passenger cars and 1 trailer – not much more than on Arran’s inaugural sailing in January 1954

I wonder how many cars have been carried by the various ferries over the years?

Passenger cars loaded, ramps up and all ready to go for the last time at Dunoon.(Charles McCrossan)

After fifty seven years, Car Ferry services between Gourock and Dunoon ceased with the arrival of Saturn at Gourock with the 20:45 departure from Dunoon on 29th June 2011.

The end of the Car Ferry Era!

Passenger cars unloaded, and ramp up. Last foot passengers still disembarking (Charles McCrossan)

An album of photographs from the last day of this service can be viewed here
There is a video record of the last round trip on Saturn here

Saturn arriving at Gourock