You know you are getting well off the beaten track in Scotland when you find yourself on an island that can only be reached from another island. The island of Raasay, some 14 miles long and a maximum of a little over 3 miles wide, lies off the east coast of the Isle of Skye. The ferry serving the island leaves from Sconser, near the mouth of Loch Sligachan on the Isle of Skye, before crossing the southern end of the Sound of Raasay to a slipway at Suisnish, at the south western tip of Raasay.
At least, it did in April 2009 when most of the photos illustrating this page were taken. In March 2008 work began on a new ferry terminal and access road at the head of Churchton Bay, about a mile and a half to the north, close to Raasay's only significant harbour at Clachan, and close to Raasay House. This project was due to cost £12m and the new facility opened in August 2010. The images on this page reflects the use of the old pier, and will be updated when we are next in the area.
Until the new terminal opened for business, the ferry used the slipway at Suisnish, a pier which was originally built to export iron ore from a now long-disused mine on Raasay and which by 2008 was in an advanced state of decay. Even when it was in good repair the pier at Suisnish did not offer very good overnight shelter for the ferry, which is based on Raasay. The hillside above the pier still has built into it a vast concrete hopper used to hold the iron ore prior to its being shipped out.
The ferry used on the Raasay service is the MV Loch Striven, named after a loch that bites deeply into the southern side of the Cowal peninsula in Argyll and Bute, to the north of the Isle of Bute. MV Loch Striven can carry 12 cars or 203 passengers, a few more than the island's total population of 194 in 1997. She was built by Richard Dunston Ltd of Hessle near Hull in 1986, and spent her first eleven years operating on the route from Largs to the slipway at the northern end of the island of Great Cumbrae.
She moved to take up her current route in 1999, replacing the smaller MV Raasay, whose six car capacity was by then no longer able to keep pace with the demands placed on the service. The arrival of the MV Loch Striven also meant it was no longer necessary for drivers to reverse their vehicles onto the ferry.
Accommodation on board MV Loch Striven includes a passenger lounge below the bridge and seating along both sides of the upper deck of the vessel. As the crossing takes around 20 minutes, many passengers prefer to remain in their vehicles. The service operates seven days per week, with around nine sailings each way six days per week, and two each way on a Sunday. For current timetable and fare information, and for bookings, visit CalMac's website.
At the Isle of Skye end of the service there are public toilets near the queueing line for the ferry. There are similar facilities provided at the more exposed Raasay end of the service at Suisnish: and these will be replaced when the new terminal at Churchton Bay is is opened.