The Islay ferry, ferry ports, ferry routes and ferry review keep the Islay community very busy. Week after week we find articles in the Ileach Newspaper, and this blog, with opinions, protests and ideas on how to efficiently run the ferry service to the various ports on the island keeping in mind the interest of the locals, businesses and tourists too. Everyone seems to have an opinion or an idea of how future ferry services should be run, and some people asked me what my opinion is, well here we go: "I know that my opinion won't make any difference but I personally think that Port Ellen would be better off when it would still be a small port for freight, fishing and barley boats etc, but no longer for Calmac Ferries. Why? Instead of having visitors arriving at Port Ellen and racing off the ferry to their final destination, I think the village could profit more if the current Marina facilities would be further expanded to allow more yachts to overnight at Port Ellen, making it a bit more of a luxurious coastal village. This could attract more and more day trippers, either arriving on yachts, boats or occasional cruise liners all in line with plans for creating a breakwater and making Port Ellen more sheltered. All these people would, hopefully, spend their money in the village in the local restaurants and bars, which could improve the local economy. This could well be a good boost for the village and as a side effect it could attract even more tourists who stay on the island which would further enhance the positive economic effect. In the meanwhile the ferry could run from Kennacraig to Port Askaig, the shortest route and the most reliable route too, weatherwise that is. But like I said, it's merely my opinion and I'm sure it probably doesn't make any sense what so ever." continue reading....
I also believe that there are as much different opinions as there are people and I found another interesting opinion in the Ileach of 13 February. Do you remember the post I wrote early February about the overland route to Islay where the Isle of Jura acts as a sort of stepping stone to get to Islay from the mainland? That post was based on a tweet by the Ileach Newspaper "Overland route through Jura, move freight Clydeport/Port Ellen and service cattle sales from Oban. See next issue". Based on that information I wrote the post Via Jura to Islay. And as Carl announced on Twitter, the Ileach published the article which is written by David Boyd, former factor of Islay Estates, titled: â€œPort Ellenâ€™s future as a community depends on it being a major centre for Islayâ€™s ferry traffic.â€ David suggests the following options:
Port Ellenâ€™s future as a community depends on it becoming a major centre for Islayâ€™s ferry traffic. Lord Robertsonâ€™s letter, published in the Ileach of 30th January, refers to it. The decision will be a political one by the Scottish Government and it is good to have a politician of his standing backing its future. What Islay needs is design and support for a ferry system based on its geographical location, local needs and the most up to date ship and terminal technology.
The existing Port Ellen pier should be replaced with one designed to take a 100m cargo boat, calling daily with all the islandâ€™s bulk and large indivisible freight. This would enable a commercial route to Greenock involving a ten hour sailing to Clydeport. The incoming ferry would leave Clydeport at midnight and arrive at Port Ellen at 10 am. After a two hour discharge it would return to Greenock to prepare for its return trip to Port Ellen. This capacity would more than cope with the current volume carried by the present ferries. It would make Port Ellen the centre for the islandâ€™s lorry trade. The pier would only be occupied two hours out of 24, giving plenty of time for its other harbour activities.
The remaining lightweight traffic would go to and from Islay on a fast and frequent route through Jura and Knapdale to Lochgilphead. This will involve two short sea crossings. It makes sense to reduce the sea crossings to the minimum as this is the slowest way of travelling. The existing roads need little improvement to cope with the level and weight of traffic involved. Cars and vehicles up to 5m or three tons weight would make the one mile crossing from Port Askaig to Feolin, and drive 16 miles to Lagg on the east side of Jura. Here a slightly larger ferry would make the six mile crossing to Keilmore prior to the 15 mile journey to Lochgilphead. Eighteen and thirty-six car capacity ferries would more than cope with present daily loads.
Livestock from seasonal â€˜on islandâ€™ sales would move on floats brought in on the commercial ferry and taken out overnight from Port Askaig, on one of the Mull ferries which otherwise spends the night tied up.
Foot passengers would travel on regular 18 seat minibuses through Jura and Knapdale to join mainland services at Lochgilphead. The overland journey from Port Askaig to Lochgilphead is only twelve miles more than the road distance from Kennacraig to Lochgilphead. Fares at Road Equivalent Tariff would be based on seven miles for the Light Weight Route compared with 29 miles by the present sea route. Commercial vehicle fares would be based on 100 miles RET but would save the 95 mile mainland trip to Glasgow. This year the politicians in our life will be at our door asking us to support them in forthcoming elections. We should remind them that we â€˜all got votesâ€™ and they will not be getting them unless they give us a 21st Century ferry service. It will also keep Port Ellen going as one of Islayâ€™s important ports.