An early start would be required. A quick study of the service schedules showed that, with an even earlier start, I could make a circular tour involving sailings on five different ferries. That would mean heading off from my home in Giffnock to McInroy’s Point in time for the first crossing of the day at 0630 on Sound of Soay, driving from Hunter’s Quay to Portavadie for Isle of Cumbrae’s first return across Loch Fyne to Tarbert, and continuing to Kennacraig to meet up with Hebridean Isles. Over at Islay there would be ample time to cross to Jura on Canna and finally get Finlaggan’s 1530 sailing to Kennacraig, followed by a drive on the A83/A82 back to Glasgow.
This almost ‘spur of the moment’ decision to take advantage of standard ferry crossings would prove thoroughly enjoyable, with a couple of interesting surprises to entertain me.
The early morning cloud and bitter cold wind meant that, on the crossing to Hunter’s Quay aboard Sound of Soay, my camera stayed in its bag, but by the time I was on the road high above the Kyles of Bute the sun was up, the view of the west Kyle hinting at a fine day to come and just begging to be recorded. I bagged first place in the queue for the crossing to Tarbert on Isle of Cumbrae (or Eilean Chumraigh if you prefer it in Gaelic).
On arrival at Kennacraig, the prompt Hebridean Isles was just nosing into the usual berth. Surprise No. 1: having loaded vehicles and foot passengers, the ramp was raised, gangway off and Hebridean Isles began reversing out from the berth 15 minutes before schedule, with the master coming on the tannoy to advise that we were backing round into the other berth to stern-load an extra-wide mobile home that I had earlier seen sitting on a trailer in the marshalling area. The tricky loading manoeuvre was smoothly accomplished in one go: I felt like giving a round of applause to the driver of the trailer.
Surprise No. 2: this would come roughly half way on passage when none other than Catriona crossed ahead of us as she made her way back to the Clyde from her spell as relief vessel on the Fishnish/Lochaline run.
Arriving at Port Askaig, I looked over to Feolin, and there was Canna instantly recognisable even in her Arranmore Ferry Company colours but with a different forward mast (although similar in style to her original). I filled the next hour by taking pictures from sea level, and then from the hill above the pier, including a sequence showing Hebridean Isles on her 1245 departure to Kennacraig. I then took Canna across to Feolin and sauntered off for a walk down the peaceful Jura coast to an ideal spot, sheltered from the cold north wind, to enjoy my sandwich lunch in glorious solitude.
Later, after returning across the Sound of Islay to Port Askaig, I climbed the hill again in time to take photographs of Finlaggan’s arrival. On the sail back to the mainland, a final scenic shot of Hebridean Isles against a backdrop of the Paps of Jura seemed to sum up a day of perfection.
On return to Kennacraig there was the possibility of making it back to Tarbert in time to catch the final crossing to Portavadie and later Western Ferries’ sailing from Hunter’s Quay — but I was out to enjoy my day and did not fancy the stress of worrying whether the slight delay in getting my car out of the haphazard Kennacraig car park could cause me to miss Isle of Cumbrae’s final run. A laid-back approach to the day was my favoured option. I allowed ample time for photo opportunities at each stage of my journey: I hope the accompanying selection gives a flavour of a thoroughly absorbing day out.
SOME MORE IMAGES FROM ERIC’S DAY OUT: