A day on the Campbeltown triangle

Friendly encounter: Isle of Arran and Waverley in Campbeltown Loch on 14 August 2016 -- copyright photo Ian Montgomery

Friendly encounter: Isle of Arran and Waverley in Campbeltown Loch on 14 August 2016 — copyright Ian Montgomery

Of all this summer’s cruising opportunities on the Clyde, one day stood out for CRSC committee member Roy Paterson. Here is his account:

It was Sunday 14 August 2016. Waverley was due to sail to Campbeltown, leaving Glasgow Science Centre at 0900 and calling at Largs 1130, Lochranza 1300 and Campbeltown 1430. Having been on this trip several times in previous years, Gordon Law and I decided to try a different route to Campbeltown but still including a sail on Waverley.

With bus and ferry timetables in front of me, I worked out that we could take the 0950 sailing on Caledonian Isles from Ardrossan to Brodick, a bus from Brodick Pier to Lochranza, Waverley from Lochranza to Campbeltown, and the return leg to Ardrossan on Isle of Arran. This was the only day of the year that such a trip could be carried out.

Caledonian Isles at Ardrossan 'Irish berth' 14 August 2016 (Roy Paterson)

‘Caley Isles’ at the Irish berth — copyright Gordon Law

There were several factors to take into consideration. Depending on wind and sea conditions, would Waverley manage to call at Lochranza and would Isle of Arran sail to Campbeltown? Before setting off from our homes in Largs, I checked AIS and could see that Waverley had left the Science Centre. At CalMac’s office at Ardrossan we collected our single tickets to Brodick and asked if Isle of Arran was sailing to Campbeltown: we got a confirmed ‘yes’. The only doubt in our minds now was Waverley at Lochranza: if she didn’t call, we did not have a Plan B.

Unusually, Caledonian Isles was alongside what is still known as the Irish berth. Boarding was from the car deck and we immediately made our way to the Mariners Restaurant. There is nothing better than starting off the day with a full Scottish breakfast on a CalMac ferry. While we were digging in to our bacon and egg, who should join us but Stuart Craig in full cycle regalia. He was doing the same trip, except that he would be cycling from Brodick to Lochranza.

We left Ardrossan 10 minutes late, which meant that Isle of Arran, arriving from Brodick, had to lie off while we cleared the harbour. It was a smooth sail over to Arran, and the sun was beginning to show through the heavy clouds. On entering Brodick Bay we could see the work to extend the pier and create a brand new terminal building. This was my first visit to Brodick since last year, and the bus terminus had been moved.

Isle of Arran off Ardrossan -- copyright Roy Paterson

Isle of Arran off Ardrossan — copyright Roy Paterson

We managed to be first off the ferry to ensure we could claim a seat on the bus: there was only one bus to Lochranza at 1055 and we had to get it if we were to catch Waverley. We found a seat, but people kept coming on to an already overcrowded bus, and by the time we left we were 25 minutes late. We sat at the back and, as the driver tried to make up lost time, we got bounced about as if we were on a roller coaster.

Halfway between Brodick and Lochranza the bus caught up with Stuart cycling uphill. We gave him a wave from the back window as we bobbed up and down in our seats. At this point I could feel my CalMac breakfast coming up to say “hello”!

We reached Lochranza to find Loch Tarbert already leaving the slip for Claonaig. Gordon asked the bus driver if the bus connected with the ferry, only to be told the ferry must have sailed early. We had missed a photo opportunity by just a couple of minutes.          

With time to spare we searched for a vantage point to photograph Waverley approaching the pier and decided that the adjacent pontoon was the place to be. We could hear the beat of the paddles before we could see her, and got what we hoped would be some some unusual shots of her approach.

That was until the paddler’s wash hit the pontoon: at this point we decided to make a hasty retreat. Although Loch Tarbert had by now returned from Kintyre, we had difficulty getting shots of the two ships together, as Loch Tarbert lay off until Waverley had cleared the pier.

‘Loch Tarbert lay off -- copyright Roy Paterson

Loch Tarbert lay off’ — copyright Roy Paterson

After boarding Waverley I ventured into the dining saloon for a hearty plate of soup, as it would be an hour-and-a-half before we reached Campbeltown; then up to the top deck for a chat with some friends. By the time we entered Campbeltown Loch, Waverley was running slightly behind her advertised timetable. As we approached the pier we could see a lot of the locals had come for the cruise towards the Mull of Kintyre and Sanda. We disembarked and photographed Waverley leaving stern first. She went out quite a distance before turning to exit the loch.

We decided, along with Andrew Clark who was doing the full sail on Waverley back to Largs, to hit Campbeltown’s high spot — the ice cream shop in the main street. We had about two hours to kill before Waverley and Isle of Arran were to arrive (hopefully together), so the three of us had a wander, eventually sitting on a bench along the esplanade, where we admired the magnificent view and discussed steamers of the past. It was like something out of ‘Last of the summer wine’!

Time passed quickly and all of a sudden we could see Isle of Arran rounding Davaar Island — but no sign of Waverley. After taking a few shots of the ferry steaming up Campbeltown Loch we made our way to the ticket office to pay for our single journey back to Ardrossan, by which time Waverley was in sight. We headed for the front of the queue and requested that we board the ship before they loaded the cars, as we did not want to miss another photo opportunity. To our amazement our request was granted, and we quickly made our way to the viewing area in front of the bridge. It was now 1700: Isle of Arran was ready to depart just as Waverley was entering the loch. Sadly, the chance of Waverley leaving at the same time, and the possibility of both vessels racing up the Kilbrannan Sound, had proved a dream too far.

Waverley was first to sound her whistle

Waverley was first to sound her whistle’ — copyright Roy Paterson

Isle of Arran gave a long signal on the ship’s horn to advise Waverley we were leaving the berth, as it is a fairly narrow piece of water for two ships to pass. As the distance between the two vessels narrowed, cameras were clicking sixteen to the dozen. Waverley was first to sound her whistle, followed by a long blast from Isle of Arran.

When we finally passed each other, there was a lot of waving and cheering from the passengers on both vessels. Waverley again gave a long blast, followed by another from Isle of Arran, then a third short blast from both vessels. You could still hear the cheering as Waverley approached Campbeltown Pier. 

With all the excitement over we headed to the cafeteria for our evening meal. I dug into a steak and kidney pie with salad and chips — and a small bottle of wine to round off the day.

It seemed no time at all before we were arriving back at Ardrossan Harbour punctually at 1930. Gordon and I both concluded: what a great day out!

Isle of Arran in Campbeltown Loch 14 August 2016 (Roy Paterson)

Isle of Arran approaches Campbeltown on 14 August 2016, with Davaar Island providing a heather-strewn backdrop — copyright photo Roy Paterson

When we finally passed each other, there was a lot of waving and cheering -- copyright Roy Paterson

‘When we finally passed each other, there was a lot of waving and cheering’ — copyright photo Roy Paterson