Caledonian MacBrayne (Scottish Gaelic: Caledonian Mac a' Bhriuthainn), usually shortened to CalMac, is the major operator of passenger and vehicle ferries, and ferry services, between the mainland of Scotland and 22 of the major islands on Scotland's west coast. Since 2006 the company's official name has been CalMac Ferries Ltd although it still operates as Caledonian MacBrayne. In 2006 it also became a subsidiary of holding company David MacBrayne Ltd, which is owned by the Scottish Government.
|CalMac Ferries Ltd|
|Firth of Clyde,|
|Robbie Drummond (Managing Director)|
|Parent||David MacBrayne Ltd|
MacBrayne's, initially known as David Hutcheson & Co., began in 1851 as a private steamship operator when G. and J. Burns, operators of the largest of the Clyde fleets, decided to concentrate on coastal and transatlantic services and handed control of their river and Highland steamers to a new company in which Hutcheson, their manager of these services, became senior partner. Their main route went from Glasgow down the Firth of Clyde through the Crinan Canal to Oban and Fort William, and on through the Caledonian Canal to Inverness. David Hutcheson was married to Margaret Dawson who was born at her parents home 'Bonnytoun House' in Linlithgow. She was the sister of Adam Dawson who owned the St. Magdalene Whisky Distillery in Linlithgow and sister to James Dawson who were also born at 'Bonnytoun House'. In 2011 Glasgow historian Robert Pool added over 200 letters and documents to his collection relating to David Hutcheson and the Dawson family.
The Caledonian Railway at first used the services of various early private operators of Clyde steamers, then began operating steamers on its own account on 1 January 1889 to compete better with the North British Railway and the Glasgow and South Western Railway. It extended its line to bypass the G&SW's Prince's Pier at Greenock and continue on to the fishing village of Gourock, where they had purchased the harbour.
After years of fierce competition between all the fleets, the Caledonian and G&SW were merged in 1923 into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) and their fleets were amalgamated into the Caledonian Steam Packet Company. Their funnels were painted yellow with a black top. At the same time the North British Railway fleet became part of the London and North Eastern Railway (which built the PS Waverley in 1947). With nationalisation in 1948 the LMS and LNER fleets were amalgamated under British Railways with the name Clyde Shipping Services. In 1957 a reorganisation restored the CSP name, and in 1965 a red lion was added to each side of the black-topped yellow funnels. The headquarters remained at Gourock pierhead.
At the end of December 1968 management of the CSP passed to the Scottish Transport Group, which gained control of MacBrayne's the following June. The MacBrayne service from Gourock to Ardrishaig ended on 30 September 1969, leaving the Clyde entirely to the CSP.
On 1 January 1973 the Caledonian Steam Packet Co. acquired most of the ships and routes of MacBrayne's and commenced joint Clyde and West Highland operations under the new name of Caledonian MacBrayne, with a combined headquarters at Gourock. Funnels were now painted red with a black top, and a yellow circle at the side of the funnel featuring the red Caledonian lion. In 1974 a new car ferry service from Gourock to Dunoon was introduced with the ferries MV Jupiter and MV Juno.
In 1990 the ferry business was spun off as a separate company, keeping the Caledonian MacBrayne brand, and shares were issued in the company. All shares were owned by the state, first in the person of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and (after devolution) by the Scottish Government.
A joint venture between Caledonian MacBrayne and the Royal Bank of Scotland named NorthLink Orkney and Shetland Ferries won the tender for the subsidised Northern Isles services, previously run by P&O Scottish Ferries, commencing in 2002. The ambitious programme ran into financial difficulties, and the service was again put out to tender. Caledonian MacBrayne won this tender, and formed a separate company called NorthLink Ferries Limited which began operating the Northern Isles ferry service on 6 July 2006. On 29 May 2012, NorthLink Ferries Ltd lost the contract for provision of the Northern Isles ferry services to Serco.
To meet the requirements of European Union Community guidelines on state aid to maritime transport, the company's routes were put out to open tender. To enable competitive bidding on an equal basis, Caledonian MacBrayne was split into two separate companies on 1 October 2006. Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) retained ownership of CalMac vessels and infrastructure, including harbours, while CalMac Ferries Ltd submitted tenders to be the ferry operator. Their bid for the main bundle, Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services, succeeded and on 1 October 2007 CalMac Ferries Ltd began operating these services on a six-year contract. The Gourock to Dunoon service was the subject of a separate tender, but no formal bids were made. In an interim arrangement CalMac Ferries Ltd continued to provide a subsidised service on this route, until 29 June 2011, when Argyll Ferries took over the service.
On 14 July 2009, it was announced that CalMac would begin Sunday sailings to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis from Sunday 19 July. These had historically faced strong opposition from Sabbatarian elements in the Lewis community, particularly the Lord's Day Observance Society and the Free Church of Scotland. However, CalMac stated that EU equality legislation made it unlawful to refuse a service to the whole community because of the religious beliefs of a part of it.
The company enjoys a de facto monopoly on the shipment of freight and vehicles to the islands, and competes for passenger traffic with number of aircraft services of varying quality and reliability. Nonetheless, few if any of the routes currently operated by CalMac are profitable, and the company receives significant government subsidies due to its vital role in supplying the islands - these routes are classified as "lifeline" services. In 1996 CalMac opened its first route outside Scotland, winning a ten-year contract to provide a lifeline service to Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland. This service continued until 2008 when CalMac lost the tender.
Various versions of a local poem (based loosely on Psalm 24) refer to MacBrayne's long dominance of Hebridean sailings:
The Earth belongs unto the Lord
And all that it contains
Except the Kyles and the Western Isles
And they are all MacBrayne's
Several groups have proposed privatising the service, and there has been a long commercial and political struggle with a privately owned company, Western Ferries, which has run a rival unsubsidised service from Gourock to Hunters Quay (near Dunoon) since 1973. In 2005, the Scottish Executive put the collective Hebrides routes out to competitive tender, with the Dunoon route being a separate tender. Some island and union groups opposed the tendering process, fearing it would lead to cuts in services and could be a prelude to full privatisation.
During the tendering period, the company of David MacBrayne Ltd., which had been legally dormant for many years, was re-activated on 4 July 2006. David MacBrayne Group Ltd. acquired the full share capital of NorthLink Ferries Ltd, and took over operations of the NorthLink routes on 6 July 2006. Three operators submitted bids for the block of routes with CalMac retaining all its existing routes. During September 2006, David MacBrayne Group Ltd., acquired the entire share capital of CalMac Ferries Ltd. Thus, from leaving the hands of David MacBrayne 78 years earlier in 1928, the west coast ferry service returned to the fold in 2006, vastly enlarged.
At the time, no bids were made for the separate Gourock–Dunoon route and the service continued as before. In August 2006, David MacBrayne Group Ltd., directed two of its subsidiary companies, Cowal Ferries Ltd., and Rathlin Ferries Ltd., to take over operation of the Gourock to Dunoon, and Rathlin to Ballycastle services. Following a European Commission decision to not subsidise a passenger and vehicle service, the route was again put out to tender. In May 2011, Argyll Ferries Ltd, a newly formed subsidiary of David MacBrayne, was named as the preferred bidder for a passenger-only Dunoon-Gourock service. The timetable was extended into the early hours over weekends, with additional sailings integrated with rail services. Two passenger-only ferries, MV Ali Cat and MV Argyll Flyer (formerly MV Banrion Chonomara), were arranged for the run. When the service began on 30 June 2011, preparation of the Argyll Flyer was incomplete, and as an interim measure the cruise boat MV Clyde Clipper was leased from Clyde Cruises.
Argyll Ferries was incorporated into Caledonian MacBrayne on 21 January 2019.
|Mainland or inner port||Island or outer port||Crossing||Voyage Time||Regular vessel(s)|
|Portavadie, Cowal||Tarbert, Kintyre Peninsula||Loch Fyne||25 minutes||MV Isle of Cumbrae (summer) |
MV Catriona (winter)
|Gourock, Inverclyde||Dunoon, Cowal||Firth of Clyde||25 minutes||MVs Argyll Flyer & Ali Cat|
|Wemyss Bay, Inverclyde||Rothesay, Isle of Bute||Firth of Clyde||35 minutes||MVs Argyle & Bute|
|Colintraive, Cowal||Rhubodach, Northern Bute||Kyles of Bute||5 minutes||MV Loch Dunvegan|
|Largs, North Ayrshire||Cumbrae Slip, Isle of Cumbrae||Firth of Clyde||10 minutes||MV Loch Shira |
MV Loch Riddon (summer only)
|Ardrossan, North Ayrshire||Brodick, Isle of Arran||Firth of Clyde||55 minutes||MV Caledonian Isles |
MV Isle of Arran (summer only)
(summer only service)
|Campbeltown, Kintyre||Firth of Clyde||2 hours 40 minutes||MV Isle of Arran|
|Claonaig, Eastern Kintyre Peninsula
(summer only service)
|Lochranza, Isle of Arran||Kilbrannan Sound||30 minutes||MV Catriona|
|Tarbert, Kintyre Peninsula
(winter only service)
|Lochranza, Isle of Arran||Loch Fyne / Kilbrannan Sound||1 hour 25 minutes||MV Catriona|
|Tayinloan, Western Kintyre||Ardminish, Isle of Gigha||Sound of Gigha||20 minutes||MV Loch Ranza|
|Kennacraig, Western Kintyre||Port Ellen, Southern Islay||via West Loch Tarbert, Argyll||2 hours 20 minutes||MVs Finlaggan & |
|Kennacraig||Port Askaig, Eastern Islay||Sound of Islay||2 hours 5 minutes|
|Port Askaig||Scalasaig, Isle of Colonsay||1 hour 10 minutes|
|Oban||Scalasaig, Colonsay||2 hours 20 minutes||MV Clansman |
MV Lord of the Isles (winter only)
|Oban||Craignure, Isle of Mull||Firth of Lorne||46 minutes||MV Isle of Mull |
MV Coruisk (summer only)
|Oban||Achnacroish, Isle of Lismore||Lynn of Lorne||50 minutes||MV Loch Striven|
|Oban||Arinagour, Isle of Coll||Firth of Lorne / Sound of Mull||2 hours 55 minutes||MV Clansman|
|Oban||Scarinish, Isle of Tiree||Sound of Mull / Little Minch||3 hours 20 minutes|
|Oban||Castlebay, Isle of Barra||Sound of Mull / Little Minch||4 hours 45 minutes||MV Isle of Lewis|
|Oban (winter only service)||Lochboisdale, South Uist||Little Minch / Sound of Mull||5 Hours 10 Minutes||MV Lord of the Isles|
|Gallanach||Balliemore, Kerrera||Sound of Kerrera||5 minutes||MV Carvoria|
|Lochaline, Morvern Peninsula||Fishnish, Mull||Sound of Mull||15 minutes||MV Lochinvar|
|Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan Peninsula||Tobermory, Mull||Sound of Mull||35 minutes||MV Loch Tarbert|
|Fionnphort, Ross of Mull||Iona||Sound of Iona||10 minutes||MV Loch Buie|
|Mallaig||Armadale, Sleat Peninsula, Skye||Sound of Sleat||30–45 minutes
varies dependent on which vessel
|MV Lord of the Isles (summer)|
MV Loch Fyne (summer)
MV Lochnevis (winter)
|Mallaig||Small Isles (Eigg, Muck, Rùm & Canna)||Varies||MV Lochnevis|
|Mallaig||Lochboisdale, South Uist||Little Minch||3 hours 15 minutes||MV Lord of the Isles|
|Sconser, Skye||Raasay||Narrows of Raasay||15 minutes||MV Hallaig|
|Ardmhor (Barra)||Isle of Eriskay
(connected to South Uist by causeway)
|Sound of Barra||40 minutes||MV Loch Alainn|
|Uig, Skye||Lochmaddy, North Uist||Little Minch||1 hour 45 minutes||MV Hebrides|
|Uig||Tarbert, Harris||Little Minch||1 hour 45 minutes|
|Leverburgh, Harris||Isle of Berneray
(connected to North Uist by causeway)
|Sound of Harris||1 hour||MV Loch Portain|
|Ullapool, Wester Ross||Stornoway, Lewis||The Minch||2 hours 45 minutes||MV Loch Seaforth|
|Change (2016–17)||% change||Passengers
Vessels are owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Ltd (CMAL) and operated by CalMac Ferries Ltd. There are 31 vessels in current service, with ten 'major units' – ships of 80 m (262 ft) or more in length. The largest is MV Loch Seaforth at 116 m (381 ft) in length. MV Finlaggan (2011) is almost 90 m (295 ft) long and able to carry 550 passengers with 88 cars. She was built in Poland, at a cost of £24.5 million and operates the Islay service. The others are MV Isle of Lewis, MV Clansman, MV Hebrides, MV Caledonian Isles, MV Isle of Mull, MV Hebridean Isles, MV Isle of Arran and MV Lord of the Isles.
There are 13 "Loch Class" vessels in different shapes and sizes. These double-ended ferries are mostly symmetrical when viewed from the side, with no operational bow or stern (although in official documents the designation of such is given). MV Loch Portain is able to handle Force 7 gales and carry 36 cars and 149 passengers, with a crew of five. The smallest vessel in the fleet is MV Carvoria, built in Shetland for the Kerrera route.
The company is adapting to the demands of 21st century. MV Lochnevis (2000) was designed for the Small Isles service. MV Bute (2005) and MV Argyle (2007), both built in Gdansk are on the Wemyss Bay–Rothesay route. A new "super loch", MV Loch Shira entered service in 2007 on the Largs–Cumbrae route. MV Hallaig (2013; for Raasay), MV Lochinvar (2013; for Tarbert) and MV Catriona (2015; for Lochranza), built by Ferguson Marine Engineering are pioneering seagoing roll-on roll-off vehicle and passenger diesel-electric hybrid ferries. The latest vessels are two dual fuel ferries under construction by Ferguson Marine Engineering: MV Glen Sannox (2017) is due to be delivered for the Arran service in summer 2019 and Hull 802 is due to be launched in 2018 for the Uig triangle.
Armadale (Scottish Gaelic: Armadal) is a village near the southern end of the Sleat Peninsula, on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, and is a village in the Highland council area of Scotland. Like most of Sleat, but unlike most of Skye, the area is fairly fertile, and though there are hills, most do not reach a great height. It looks out over the Sound of Sleat, to Morar and Mallaig.
Clan Donald has a visitor centre situated next to the ruins of Armadale Castle and surrounded by large gardens, while the nearby Sabhal Mòr Ostaig is a centre of Gaelic learning.
The village is also a small port, and has a regular Caledonian MacBrayne ferry service to Mallaig. It is at the southern end of the A851 road.
When walking on the beach near the pier, it is possible to see otters and seals.Caledonian MacBrayne fleet
The Caledonian MacBrayne fleet is the largest fleet of car and passenger ferries in the United Kingdom. With 33 units in operation (with another 2 under construction), the company provides lifeline services to 23 islands off the west coast of Scotland, as well as operating routes across the Firth of Clyde.
Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) vessels can be readily identified by their black hulls and white superstructures. They have red funnels with black caps that display the Lion Rampant badge with masts in buff. The fleet can be categorised into various groups. All vessels are owned by the asset holding company Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited, which is in turn wholly owned by the Scottish Government.MS Clipper Ranger
MS Clipper Ranger is a freight ferry built in 1998, which was in service with Seatruck Ferries on the Heysham–Belfast route until the latter half of 2012. In September 2013, she was chartered to Caledonian MacBrayne for the freight service between Ullapool and Stornoway.MV Ali Cat
MV Ali Cat is a motor catamaran passenger ferry owned by David MacBrayne Ltd and operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, which along with MV Argyll Flyer provides a service from Dunoon to Gourock across the Firth of Clyde.MV Argyle
MV Argyle is a ferry owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and operated by Caledonian MacBrayne on the route between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay. She is the seventh Clyde ship to have the name Argyle.MV Bute
MV Bute is a ferry owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, on the route between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay.MV Eigg
MV Eigg is a landing craft car ferry built for Caledonian MacBrayne in 1974. She is owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and operated mostly on the Oban to Lismore route from 1976 until 2013. She was the oldest vessel in the CalMac fleet at her retirement in April 2018. As of June 2018, she is based at Clare Island in County Mayo.MV Hallaig
MV Hallaig is a pioneering Diesel Electric Hybrid ferry built for the Caledonian MacBrayne service between Skye and Raasay.MV Isle of Cumbrae
MV Isle of Cumbrae is a Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited ro-ro car ferry, built in 1976 and operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. For ten years she was at Largs, and operated the Loch Fyne crossing from 1999 to 2014. She was replaced by the MV Lochinvar in 2014, a new diesel-electric hybrid ferry capable of holding 23 cars and 150 passengers. She returned to Tarbert in 2016 after MV Lochinvar was moved to the Mallaig - Armadale station. She is now the oldest vessel in the Calmac fleet.MV Isle of Mull
MV Isle of Mull is one of the larger Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited ferries operated by Caledonian MacBrayne from Oban on the west of Scotland.MV Loch Alainn
MV Loch Alainn is a Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited ferry built in 1997 and operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. Berthing problems on her intended route at Fishnish meant she began a decade of service at Largs. Since 2007, she has operated across the Sound of Barra.MV Loch Bhrusda
MV Loch Bhrusda is a Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited water-jet propulsion ro-ro car ferry operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. After 11 years operating in the Outer Hebrides, she is now a Clyde-based relief small vessel.MV Loch Striven
MV Loch Striven is a Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited ro-ro car ferry, built in 1986 and operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. After over ten years at Largs, she spent 16 years on the Raasay crossing. Since 2014, she is has been stationed on the Oban - Lismore crossing.MV Lochmor
MV Lochmor was a ferry operated by Caledonian MacBrayne serving the Small Isles from 1979 until 2001. Since 2009 she has operated cruises from Poole as MV Jurassic SceneMV Lochnevis
MV Lochnevis is a Caledonian Maritime Assets ferry, launched in 2000. She is operated by Caledonian MacBrayne, serving the Small Isles of Scotland.MV Maid of Argyll
MV Maid of Argyll was a passenger ferry operated by Caledonian Steam Packet Company, initially based at Craigendoran. Rendered redundant by the car ferry revolution, she was sold to Greek owners in 1975. She caught fire in 1997 and was left to decay.MV Muirneag
MV Muirneag is a ro-ro freight ferry, built in 1979 as MV Mercandian Carrier. From 1986 to 2002, she was named MV Belard, serving initially across the Irish Sea. From 2002 to 2013, she was chartered by Caledonian MacBrayne on the Stornoway to Ullapool freight crossing, until she was replaced by Clipper Ranger.MV Suilven
MV Suilven was a vehicle ferry built in 1974 and operated for 21 years by Caledonian MacBrayne on the Ullapool to Stornoway route. She subsequently operated in New Zealand and later in Fiji.Uig, Skye
The village of Uig (Scottish Gaelic: Ùige) lies at the head of the sheltered inlet of Uig Bay on the west coast of the Trotternish peninsula on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.