Book Review: Finally… Away with the Ferries

Rob Beale finds himself enjoying Stuart Craig’s latest book so much that he is already planning more holiday trips on Hebridean ferries. Finally… Away with the Ferries can bought through this website or from Stuart direct (see details below).

Finally… Away with the Ferries — the final Island Hops 2009-2013. The book has colour illustrations throughout and can be purchased on this website

As a child I recall many family holidays to the west coast of Scotland, visiting the various islands. Whilst doing this we travelled on a multitude of ferries, and over time I grew more excited by the prospect of the ferry crossing than reaching the destination. At the age of 14, and in those pre-internet days, I didn’t think there were others like me, who would plan week-long holidays using the Island Rover ticket and trying to get on as much of the fleet as possible.

How wrong was I, and how glad was I, when on one crossing from Barra in 2003 I spied Stuart’s first book, Away with the Ferries. Here was a group of friends doing exactly what I loved, and with a great sense of humour to boot! I devoured the book, as well as the various follow-ups over the next decade-and-a-half, which between them portray the Island Hops from 1989 to 2008.

I was equally delighted when, a couple of years ago, we were drip-fed the 2009 and 2010 Island Hops in a series of articles on the CRSC website. These two hops now form the first two chapters of Stuart’s latest book Finally… Away with the Ferries. It recounts the trips made between 2009 and 2013, visiting ports across the network from Ardrossan to Stornoway on a variety of vessels ranging from Waverley to Lochnevis.

But it is much more than a series of trip reports. It details the intricacies of planning these hops, to get as much ferry time as possible, or to catch a certain ship on a certain route.

What shines through it all is the camaraderie between this group of four friends — Stuart, Ian, Andy and Gibbie. The sheer range of ship and route combinations these friends have travelled on boggles the mind, but one crossing that features prominently is from Oban to Kennacraig via Colonsay and Islay, or vice-versa. Over the years the group have sailed the crossing in one go, or with overnight stops on Islay and Colonsay. They’ve had bridge visits and travelled on nearly half the fleet across those waters. They’ve tried almost everything on the ship’s food menu, and drunk the bars dry!

What’s not to enjoy when the Hebrides, the ships, and the humour are all blended excellently into 86 pages?

It made me want to see more Island Hops in the future. Sadly, the passing of Gibbie just two weeks after the final Island Hop — Number 25 — brought the book to a close.

Reading Finally… Away with the Ferries at home, on a grey winter’s evening, I was transported to the Hebrides with the four friends. I felt a part of the journey with them. The book is not only a great read in itself, but I found it reminded me of my own past travels, and made me want to plan new trips in the upcoming months. I really do recommend this book for anyone remotely interested in the ferries and islands of Scotland.

Finally… Away with the Ferries is available either direct from Stuart (email him at, or click here to buy it via this website. The price is £12 including postage, but £2 will be refunded if the book can be hand-delivered.

Ferry camaraderie: Stuart Craig (left) with Andy Anderson, Ian McLaren and the late Gibbie Anderson

Published on 17 May 2022