Our Colonsay excursion on Saturday 13 February 2016 encapsulated three ferry crossings, a coach journey round the Kyles of Bute and Loch Fyne, a generous CalMac meal, a host of inspiring Hebridean vistas and the company of friends and fellow enthusiasts — all for £45. It was the latest in a series of offbeat events organised by CRSC this winter, underlining — after the Five Ferries Tour, the Hebridean Princess visit and the Martin Dorchester lunch — the value of Club membership.
Just under 50 gathered at Bishopton station car park at 9am beneath skies that promised a cold but rain-free day. The coach, driven by CRSC member Lawrence Macduff, left promptly for McInroy’s Point, where we joined Western Ferries’ Sound of Seil for the crossing to Hunter’s Quay — including a close-up view of a nuclear submarine, edging its way past the Cloch towards Faslane as Argyll Flyer zoomed past.
After driving from the Holy Loch via the head of Lochs Riddon and Striven to Portavadie on Loch Fyne, we took the 11.45 crossing to Tarbert by CalMac ferry Lochinvar. Finlaggan was awaiting us at Kennacraig, and suddenly the pent-up anticipation of a voyage to the Inner Hebrides became face-to-face reality. A lucky few received an extended bridge visit courtesy of first officer Lee McDowell, while others tucked into a two-course meal in the Mariners Restaurant.
With a flood tide sweeping her up the Sound of Islay, Finlaggan hugged the shore on the approach to Port Askaig, where we were entertained by loading manoeuvres on Jura ferry Eilean Dhiura and the sight of CRSC membership secretary Stuart Craig filming our arrival from the cliff above the pier. A battle of wind and tide enlivened the crossing to Colonsay, where few disembarked and even fewer boarded. This has become a rare port of call for Finlaggan: her Saturday visits this winter were occasioned by the fact that, for a limited period, she was the sole Islay ferry.
As we returned via Port Askaig to the mainland, skies darkened, conversations lengthened and Finlaggan’s capacious lounges became a warm refuge from bitter head-winds. By 8.15pm we were nicely settled back in our coach for the home run via the head of Loch Fyne, Rest and Be Thankful and Loch Lomond. As we reached Bishopton and went our separate ways, we could all reflect on a day of fabulous scenery, conviviality and ferry-fuelled freedom.
Thanks are due to our tireless driver Lawrence Macduff, to CalMac’s Annie and Hazel for overseeing arrangements on Finlaggan, to the crews of the three ferries and to CRSC cruise coordinator Neil Guthrie for organising a wonderful excursion.