MV Isle of Arran

MV Isle of Arran is a ferry operated on the west coast of Scotland by Caledonian MacBrayne. Built for the Ardrossan to Brodick service, she has more recently been at Kennacraig and the winter relief vessel.


The MV Isle of Arran was launched on the Clyde at the end of 1983. After fitting out, she made her way down to Gourock, where she showed the flag and tested her bow ramp on the linkspan. After further berthing trials at Ardrossan and Brodick, she eventually took over the route on 13th April 1984 from the MV Glen Sannox, which itself had recently replaced the failed MV Clansman. She became a great asset to the Clyde-based fleet, with a crossing time to Arran of 55 minutes. Her winter relieving vessels included the MV Iona of 1970 and even the elderly Glen Sannox.

However, by the turn of the decade, it was clear that the Isle of Arran was becoming inadequate for the role for which she was built. Less than ten years after her launch she made way for the mighty MV Caledonian Isles and left for the Kennacraig to Islay crossings. Replacing the MV Claymore, she brought drive-through capabilities to that route. Despite a much larger vehicle capacity, she could discharge a full load and take on another in the same, if not less time than the Claymore. Throughout the summer she made two or three return trips each day to Islay. On Wednesdays during high summer, her roster took her on past Port Askaig to Colonsay and Oban, returning to Kennacraig into the night. The winter months saw Claymore or Iona on the Islay sailings and the Isle of Arran took on a general relief role for the other large vessels at Oban, Ardrossan, Ullapool and Uig. She saw service on the majority of the drive-through routes on the west coast, while continuing to have her own commitment to Islay during the summer. From the end of 1998, Clansman took the Arran and Lewis relief sailings and the Isle of Arran relieved where needed.

With the introduction of the MV Hebrides on the "Uig triangle" in March 2001, the MV Hebridean Isles moved south to become the regular Islay ship, and the Isle of Arran became the spare vessel. An army charter took her from Ardrossan to Campbeltown in the autumn of 2001.

In 2002 she took up an experimental summer arrangement as a third large ship based in Oban, along with the Isle of Mull and Clansman. The Isle of Arran was able to improve several routes, carrying out additional sailings on a new roster incorporating runs to Colonsay, Coll, Tiree, Barra, South Uist and Mull. A new weekly sailing on a Thursday took her to Scarinish on Tiree, through the Gunna Sound and across the Minch to Castlebay for mid-afternoon before retracing her steps to arrive back in Oban late in the evening. This new duty was a big success with islanders and tourists alike. The Isle of Arran pioneered this new duty roster but MV Lord of the Isles was to continue it in 2003, once the new MV Coruisk arrived at Mallaig. The duty allocations were redefined with Clansman taking the majority of the Coll and Tiree sailings, and LOTI concentrating mainly on the Outer Isles and Colonsay.

2003 and 2004 saw the Isle of Arran back at Islay for the high summer, partnering her replacement, Hebridean Isles on a two-ship roster. There was essentially double capacity on this route and Islay could still be served on a Wednesday, while Hebridean Isles was off to Colonsay and Oban. These additional sailings to Islay were marked as such in the timetable, and could be cancelled at short notice if the vessel was required elsewhere; Isle of Arran was still the relief vessel. Prior to the start of the 2004 season she spent a good deal of time in the James Watt Dock undergoing fairly major work to completely replace her car deck. At the end of that season she ventured north to Stornoway, where she had previously begun a new duty – relief for the freight vessel Muirneag. During this spell, idle on Lewis she was joined by the Clansman – herself relieving the Isle of Lewis on the main ferry roster.

2005 saw Isle of Arran doing the back-up duties, with quite a number of calls to Oban, to cover for the Clansman, Lord of the Isles and the Isle of Mull at different times. Berthing trials at the new linkspan at Dunoon, allowed her to relieve there while the Streakers were all at Rothesay. The middle of the summer saw Isle of Arran handling all Islay traffic for a few days when Hebridean Isles went off to the Tiree and Outer Isles rosters in place of the broken down Clansman. As the season ended the Isle of Arran was once more on the Islay route, covering for the Hebridean Isles' refit.

The Isle of Arran has seen complete contrasts in her regular employment over the years - a ship which started out as the main ferry on a busy route and then was overwhelmed by her own success - redeployed to another route where she brought ro-ro capabilities and finally transferred to a new role which sees her as one of the most well-travelled members of the fleet. She remains a real workhorse providing an essential service.


Of drive-through design, the MV Isle of Arran has an open plan car deck with space for 76 cars in 5 lanes. She is fitted with a bow visor and bow and stern ramps. The open stern allows her to carry tankers and other such vehicles at the same time as passengers. There is insufficient height for lorries and coaches down either side of the car deck due to a gallery deck. From the car deck it is necessary to go outside to access the passenger accommodation.

The small main entrance square lies between the aft cafeteria and the forward lounge and the bar lounge. A popular addition was the open foredeck, accessible under the bridge wings. Above the cafeteria is an open deck with red plastic seating.


1984 - 1993 Ardrossan - Brodick
1993 - 1998 Kennacraig-Islay (summer) and winter relief
1998 - 2001 Kennacraig-Islay
2002 Oban 3rd vessel
2003 - 2007 general relief and Islay 2nd summer vessel
since 2007 Kennacraig-Islay


See also

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