Cairnryan is a small Scottish village overlooking Loch Ryan and is notable today for its large modern ferry port which opened in 1973, originally operated by Townsend Thorsen and now by P&O, which links Scotland with Larne in Northern Ireland. The village has been of vital importance in maritime history.
During World War II, Cairnryan became No.2 Military Port, and three harbour piers and a military railway linking the village with nearby Stranraer were built by the army. Only 1 of the piers still remains, one was dismantled and another was destroyed in an ammunition explosion shortly after the war. The remaining pier is now in a state of disrepair and is fenced off to the public. However many anglers still take their chances and use the pier as its offers rich pickings for a variety of seafish such as mackerel, cod, dogfish, mullet and plaice.
Thousands of troops were based locally in military camps. At the end of the war, the Atlantic U-Boat fleet surrendered in Loch Ryan and was anchored in the port before being towed to the North Channel and scuttled. This activity was codenamed Operation Deadlight.
For a period after the war the port was used to load superfluous ammunition onto barges for disposal at sea - a hazardous task, which took the lives of several at the port, while the long-term and wider risks of such dumping have only later become more evident.
Ship breaking became the main industry; the great British aircraft carriers Centaur, HMS Blake, HMS Eagle, HMS Mohawk and most famously the Ark Royal were all sent here for decommissioning. As recently as 1990, Russian submarines have been dismantled here for scrap.
Its status as an important ferry port looks to be secured, with plans currently being drawn up to create a combined P&O/Stena Line ferry terminal with facilities for berthing two conventional ferries and the HSS fast ferry. The decision on whether the port development will go ahead is to be decided by a public inquiry, currently underway in Cairnryan. It is anticipated that the enquiry will continue into the new year.
The new facilities will be created in the area currently occupied by the current P&O port, as well as land reclamation on the north & south side of the village shore. This decision would see a major financial investment in the North Channel routes, and significant long term security for the village and the wider Loch Ryan basin. This decision, however, may have more questionable effects on the small ribbon village itself. All traffic using the North Channel route will be passing through Cairnryan, potentially causing significant congestion, noise and inconvenience; and some argue that the planning authority has missed a trick in not insisting on the reinstatement of the rail link as a condition of planning permission. The concentration of boats themselves may also cause significant amounts of noise and air pollution, docking as they will be, so close to the village