Those wanting to cross the Firth of Clyde from Gourock to Dunoon have a choice of ferry operators and routes. Argyll Ferries operate a passenger ferry service between Gourock and Dunoon town centres which replaces the old CalMac service we still describe here, pending a replacement page about the new service.
The second service carries passengers and vehicles and is operated by Western Ferries from McInroy's Point, at the western edge of Gourock, to Hunter's Quay, at the north end of Dunoon. For current timetable and fare information visit Western Ferries' own website.
The crossing between McInroy's Point and Hunter's Quay takes about 20 minutes and operates 365 days per year. Four vessels are used, and at peak times there are four sailings each hour in each direction, giving a capacity of around 140 cars per hour each way. There are no bookings: you simply turn up at the appropriate ferry terminal, park as directed in the area for vehicles waiting to travel, and go.
Western Ferries started to operate this route on Sunday, 3 June 1973. Two straight through roll-on roll-off ferries purchased in Sweden were used initially, which after a refit in Greenock became the Sound of Shuna and the Sound of Scarba. The new route became so popular that in 1974 a third vessel was added, the Sound of Sanda, which in a previous life had operated to the Isle of Wight under the name Lymington.
In June 1986 an ex-Sealink ferry joined the fleet under the name Sound of Seil, and another was added in 1988 as the Sound of Sleat. In the mid 1990s two ferries were purchased from Amsterdam City Council and overhauled at Greenock before entering service as Sound of Scalpay and a second Sound of Sanda to replace the earlier vessel of the same name.
The second ferry to carry the name Sound of Scarba entered service in May 2001, having been built for Western Ferries at Ferguson Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow. Her sister ship, the second Sound of Shuna, also built at Fergusons, entered service in October 2003.
Today the four vessels used on the service are the Sound of Scalpay and Sound of Sanda purchased in the mid 1990s, and the Sound of Scarba and Sound of Shuna, built for the route in 2001 and 2003 respectively. The length of the crossing is so short that many passengers stay in their vehicles. Side viewing decks and passenger cabins are available for those who don't wish to do so.