My recent visit to the Firth of Clyde coincided with the final sailings between Rothesay and Wemyss Bay by the sisters Bute and Argyle, before their temporary move to Gourock while the terminal at Wemyss Bay is the subject of major investment and renovation.
This isn’t a moment too soon as the magnificent architecture of the railway/ferry terminal dating from 1903 built for the Caledonian Railway looks in need of much tender care, but it is indeed a national treasure of a complex.
What an eye for style and beauty those architects and engineers had in their day, where the steamships met the steam trains, carrying trippers, commuters and the ‘well heeled’ (and their servants) going to their mansions on Bute and around the Firth.
This gem of transport infrastructure must, in its day, have seemed the height of sophistication and good taste. I’m not sure the trains or car ferries nowadays do justice to the Wemyss Bay terminal, but maybe by restoring the latter some style will rub off on the former.
Within a few days of my visit the CalMac ferries from Rothesay were taking the longer route to Gourock. But inevitably there were teething troubles and grumbles that the Gourock turnround was not ready with some procedural holdups.
For example, whether the passengers could or could not use the vehicle ramp, a matter which is now getting pretty standard elsewhere, though not everywhere. Then to cap it all, there was a scare apparently due to WW2 ordnance being discovered in the Gourock approaches and ferries were stopped for half a day, affecting the Rothesay car ferries and the Dunoon passenger boats.
Western Ferries collaborated with CalMac to assist those diverted to the Hunter’s Quay-McInroy’s Point (Dunoon-Gourock) crossing, which was outside the exclusion zone – it was hoped!