This fine study of the Isle of Lewis in the dramatic environs of Castlebay, Barra, is a reminder she has been operating between Oban and Castlebay for a year now.
Delivered in 1995 specially for service between Ullapool and Stornoway, latterly she was a victim of success with traffic outstripping her capacity so she was displaced in early ’15 by Loch Seaforth delivered from Flensburg. These two remain the two CalMac vessels over 100 metres (328ft) in length.
Isle of Lewis is now a handy back up vessel when Loch Seaforth is off for maintenance and she has also seen service on the Uig, Lochmaddy and Tarbert triangle. She seems rather large for the Barra route, but as of 2016 she serves Barra all year round, on Barra’s first full daily dedicated service. This deployment allowed Lord of the Isles to commence daily return sailings between Lochboisdale and Mallaig.
Isle of Lewis was built by Fergusons, Port Glasgow, reportedly their largest ship to date. In June 2015 to assess where she would be most suited for long-term deployment, she undertook trials at several of the larger capacity terminals: Lochmaddy, Castlebay, Oban, Craignure, Brodick, Ardrossan, Troon, Campbeltown, and Tarbert. Major work would be required to her stern ramp to work Mull and Arran. For now she has settled on her present route and she would be sorely missed if shifted.
Her capacity came into its own in early June on duty at Oban and Castlebay to undertake special sailings laid on June 4-6 to transport those travelling to attend the funeral of young Eilidh MacLeod, the Barra girl tragically killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing as she enjoyed one of her favourite pop artists, Ariana Grande. As a mark of respect, the ship flew her CalMac pennant and the Barra flag at half mast.
Barra also links to the other outer Hebridean isles from Ardmor to Eriskay which is linked to the Uists by causeway. Here we see the Buckie built Loch Alainn 398,’97 at Ardmor and at the lovely little harbour on Eriskay.
Finally: CalMac expansion! But only just! They are to take over the short hop to the island of Kerrera off Oban, the privately owned old landing-craft ferry Lady Gylen is running until a new-build from Shetland arrives later this year.