Day Away on Scottish Ferries

caledonian macbrayne ferry

Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Ramblings

With news accounts of day trippers to England’s south coast beaches being packed like sardines into trains, and the story of the Millport ferry turning turtle due to the sheer weight of passengers (maybe some exaggeration there), I was beginning to feel left out. I hadn’t actually heard an official announcement that tourist travel on public transport was now permitted, so I emailed Citylink, and got the reply that it was, so decided to resume excursions.

Bus services to many key destinations have been restricted, and the Fort William and Inverness trips are now not doable. The Glasgow to Campbeltown bus service seems to have escaped the cuts, with still five buses on a Saturday and four on weekdays, according to the online timetable. But that may have changed recently, without the website being updated, as I was to find out today. More on that later.

To Arran, getting the bus from Brodick to Lochranza, ferry to Claonaig, on the Mull of Kintyre, and bus to Ardrishaig

approaching claonaig slipway

Today’s trip would take me back to Arran, this time getting the ‘back door’ ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig, on the Mull of Kintyre, where I’d get the bus to Lochgilphead, getting off at Ardrishaig, at the start of the Crinan canal, to walk two miles along the canal towpath to Lochgilphead. From there, I’d get the Campbeltown bus returning to Glasgow at 1603.

Ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick

Goatfell from Brodick Ferry

goatfell from brodick ferry

The 0945 ferry from Ardrossan arrived in Brodick at 1040. Cost of single fare, £4. It wasn’t as crowded as last year, but that was a Saturday trip with expected sunny weather. Today’s Wednesday trip, with cloudy skies, still had a fair amount of tourists on board. Masks had to be worn below deck, and there was no catering.  The 1055 Brodick to Lochranza bus had the same thirty something Italian driver as last year. He obviously likes the job. Can’t say I blame him. The bus was a little more than half full leaving Brodick, but was only about a third full by the time it reached Lochranza at 1138. Most had got off for the hiking trails up Goat Fell. Three young guys who had been sitting on the seats next to me, got off at the whisky distillery. Their conversation the whole way had been about whisky, the cost of whisky collections, and the distilleries they’d visited. I didn’t know that ‘distillery bagging’ was even a thing, and I’m temperamentally unsuited to be trusted with a whisky collection.

Ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig

all aboard ferry masks

The 12.00 ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig cost £3 for the single, and took 30 minutes to make the crossing. Strangely, the passengers on deck were all wearing masks. None of the Brodick ferry passengers had been wearing masks on deck. As we sailed across, the sun made valiant efforts to break through the clouds, but the clouds weren’t giving up. Of the nine foot passengers who got off at Claonaig, I was the only one who got the Lochgilphead bus. The others headed along the coast on foot to the nearby tiny village of Skipness, which has a well preserved castle, a beautiful beach, and other attractions.

Ardrishaig, Crinan Canal and Lochgilphead

scale model of kelpies ardrishaig

Scale Model of The Kelpies, Ardrishaig

The bus travelled across the peninsula to Kennacraig ferry terminal, which services Islay and Colonsay. Timetables are different from last year, making the Islay trip I had planned a non starter now. The bus continued north through Tarbert, before arriving at Ardrishaig, 55 minutes after leaving Claonaig. Ardrishaig sits at the start of the Crinan canal. It’s much smaller than Lochgilphead, but far more photogenic. By this time, the sun had finally won the battle with the clouds, and the rest of the day was a scorcher.

Crinan Canal

crinan canal

I walked the two miles along the canal towpath to Lochgilphead, passing about half a dozen other walkers coming the other way, and about a dozen cyclists. That was just a wee ‘snapshot’ of the towpath, which is 9 miles long, from Ardrishaig to Crinan. Lochgilphead’s a fine looking place, but strangely lacking in photo opportunities. Walking around, I noticed three cafes, and an Indian restaurant, but no fish and chip shop. It’s not some sleepy little backwater, and I was surprised at the amount of non stop through traffic, so there seems to be a gap in the market for a chippy.

Crinan Canal Towpath

crinan canal towpath

Lochgilphead to Glasgow

lochgilphead

The 1603 bus from Lochgilphead to Glasgow didn’t show up, so I sat on a bench on the main street for almost three hours, before one finally arrived. I asked the driver about this, and he said something about a lack of drivers, and Citylink timetables reverting to their winter schedule, due to reduced demand. It seems that 1603 from Lochgilphead only runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – looks like they have been updated. Perhaps best to confirm bus times in future. Apart from that, and the coronavirus issues, it was a cracking day out.

Wullie Davidson, 13 August, 2020

Wullie Davidson Bus Pass Ramblings: Glasgow - Inverness - Fort William

This section: Travel, Wullie Davidson: Blogging about Bus Pass Jaunts in Scotland

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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