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Caledonian MacBrayne: Isle of Mull and Clansman


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I spent last week staying in a beautiful house just south of Oban, which allowed me to finally try out a couple of CalMac vessels. I had been wanting to visit the west coast of Scotland for many years and it certainly did not disappoint in any respect, and neither did sailing with Caledonian MacBrayne from Oban to Mull and Coll, aboard the Isle of Mull and Clansman respectively.

 

My first trip was the 46 minute journey to Craignure on the Isle of Mull aboard the vessel bearing the same name. When we arrived at the port to check in for the 10.00am sailing the vessel was nowhere to be seen and it was only once we had been parked in the vehicle lanes for around twenty minutes that she came eventually came in to view. I was able to take a few photos of her coming alongside before driving aboard.

 

The Isle of Mull struck me as a pleasant, compact vessel, very well appointed for what is a very short crossing; compared to an Isle of Wight ferry, for example, I thought she was much nicer although what the experience would have been like at the height of summer might be another matter entirely. I spent about half the crossing just marvelling at the stunning scenery as we steamed towards Mull, it was a beautifully sunny but very cold day and you really did not know which way to turn for amazing views. I purchased a coffee from the Still bar area at the stern of the vessel, in order to warm up, and found this area to be very comfortably fitted out.

 

After a nice afternoon exploring Mull, in particular Tobermory and Calgary beach, we headed back to Craignure for the 5.00pm return sailing to Oban. With darkness having descended we spent most of the return crossing in the bar area where a good range of drinks was available including, naturally, some good local Whiskys, there is even a malt of the month promotion. Having very much enjoyed my first CalMac experience, I was looking forward to sampling a longer voyage to Coll the next day.

 

The 07.15 departure of the Clansman for Coll and Tiree necessitated a rather brutal 6.00am alarm, not to mention much de-icing of the car! For this trip we would be travelling as foot passengers, spending around two hours on Coll before re-joining the Clansman for the return trip to Oban. The crossing to Coll was scheduled to take 2 hours 45 minutes, so this would be a much more relaxed journey than that of the previous day, with ample time to enjoy the ship.

 

Our first stop was the Mariners cafeteria for a full Scottish breakfast. This was very pleasant and we were able to find a nice seat by a window in order to watch the sun rise as we left Oban. The Clansman immediately struck me as a step-up from the Isle of Mull, larger and more imposing. The only open deck space available is at the stern of decks four and five which underlines the fact that she is very much a ro-pax vessel, with potentially hazardous goods being carried on the open deck below. The Clansman features some very comfortable lounge areas with nice reclining chairs, as well as a lovely forward observation lounge, overlooking the bow. I spent much of the crossing here watching our progress up the sound of Mull, with Coll eventually coming in to view in the distance. It was another cold but beautifully sunny day with very calm seas, and a relatively small number of passengers on board.

 

The berth at Coll seemed to come in to view very suddenly and it was immediately apparent that this is a very sparsely-populated island, with there being very little to look at other than the berth and a very small terminal building adjacent to that. We had an enjoyable walk around Arinagour, the islands main village, and were able to hear the Clansman arriving back from Tiree before we could actually see her! As we walked up to the passenger gangway, just one solitary car was seen driving over the stern ramp. Just prior to moving off the berth the Captain addressed us over the P.A. system and confirmed that it would be another calm sailing back to Oban.

 

We spent the much of the crossing in the lounge area at the stern of the vessel, with easy access to the outside decks. Here there Is a kind of combined shop/bar/café branded as coffee cabin and I sampled some very pleasant Colonsay beer whilst watching the beautiful scenery pass us by. All too soon we were swinging off the berth in Oban harbour and alongside for 3.30pm.

 

The CalMac vessels are clearly proper working boats and this was one of the things I liked best about them; they are still very much a lifeline for the Islands they serve and therefore accommodating tourists is just one of their many functions. I was very impressed by both vessels, not least with them both being British-built, but I think it was the Clansman which was my favourite of the two as she was just such a comfortable and relaxing vessel to travel on that day. I look forward to trying out more of the fleet in the future, hope this has been of some interest.

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I was in Mull in October. Fabulous!! Tried all the ferries out too! Found the Isle of Mull like a mini old fashioned cross channel ship in many ways. Glad to see she was built here! One important thing to note is the introduction of the RET -Road equivalent tariff, which has seen the cost on many routes halve.

Thanks for posting

Edited by Skipcool3
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  • 2 weeks later...

If you ever get the chance I recommend Oban to Barra or South Uist from memory the short crossing (whichever they land at first is about 5 hours) We went a few years ago Tuesday afternoon from Oban it was a very rough crossing as a hurricane was just working itself out after crossing the Atlantic and after we had traversed the sound of Mull the swell was "significant" The boat was Lord of the Isles, my all time favourite Calmac vessel having been on her many times. A great sea keeping boat and I have to say a truly fascinating crossing, despite a fair amount of pitch and roll I saw no one ill. The Labrador sitting next to us happily ate crisps and even sipped beer. I have to say our car parked at the back of an open deck was plastered in salt. A truly great start to several days of island hopping with Calmac

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Great report!

Living in Scotland and being from uist originally I know all the calmac routes well, one to try as redwards said is the barra sailing, also the MV Hebrides is a must, close sister to clansman but better internally!

Finlaggan and loch seaforth too.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Great report, it really is that good! I posted my first experience of Cal Mac on 26/10/14 under the title 'Normandie 06 Oct & Cal Mac x 3' & since that time have done Hebrides s to Lochmaddy, Clansman from Lochboisdale to Oban via Castlebay & return trip on Loch Seaforth Ullapool to Stornaway. Great boats great staff & fantastic scenery not & many people around , bliss.. A few photos attached.

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