Turning the Tables

The 1964 built Glen Loy was the Glenachulish’s running mate on the Ballachulish ferry until its closure in 1975.
The 1964 built Glen Loy was the Glenachulish’s running mate on the Ballachulish ferry until its closure in 1975.

Scotland has a rich history of ferry services with an eclectic mix of vessels large and small. The roll on-roll off concept (both drive-through and single end loading formats) is taken for granted nowadays but in the past lifts were used to levitate vehicles from piers to vehicle holds as well as cranes. Slipways have long been a popular solution for transferring vehicles from shore to ship and back again, via manually or hydraulically operated prow ramps. Small rural vehicle ferries generally use slipways or basic linkspans if conditions dictate. Falling into this category are cross-river, waterway, coastal and cable/chain guided ferries. Those that do not offer a drive through facility often have a bow ramp with vehicles leaving the same way as they boarded, or via a side ramp. Some bow loaders are equipped with a turntable on the deck upon which the crew can turn cars so that they can be driven both on and off in a forward direction.


Ferries in operation today that were built with such a facility include CalMac’s Island Class vessels and the 2010 built Cromarty Queen. Eight Island class vessels were built at Port Glasgow, between 1972 and 1976, as the predecessors to the Loch class. They were of a very simple design, based on World War II landing craft. Only two of the original eight remained in the CalMac fleet at the time of writing, the Eigg and the Raasay. They are the smallest vessels in Calmac’s fleet and at 22.5 metres long can carry 164 passengers and 6 cars. A third member, the Canna, is now operated by Rathlin Island Ferry Ltd. with the Kilbrannan, Morvern, Bruernish, Rhum and Coll also finding new careers in Ireland. The Cromarty Queen was built at Southampton and entered service on the Nigg-Cromarty route in 2011. One of the smallest vehicle ferries in operation, the four car and 47 passenger capacity vessel replaced the even smaller 1987 built Cromarty Rose that could carry just two cars. An alternative to the aforementioned operation is a Scottish phenomenon – the turntable ferry.

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