Friday, August 23, 2013

The ferries of West Loch Tarbert.

No sooner had we entered West Loch Tarbert than we came across a long stone pier.

This is the remains of the Portachoillan ferry, which was a passenger ferry across the mouth of the loch to Ardpatrick on the west side.

It was operated by a rowing boat from at least the 19th century until it ceased in the 1930's. The 1856 Admiralty chart (surveyed in 1849) clearly marks it.

 After leaving Portachoillan we left the open sea behind us and entered...

 ...the wooded confines of West Loch Tarbert.

 We chose to paddle in very shallow water as the loch is very narrow and...

 ...a rumble of engines behind us announced...

 ...the return of the MV Finlaggan. We knew we were safe in the shallow water. Although the loch is 700m wide at this point, the deep water channel is only 130m wide, so the ferries do not have much room.

Although West Loch Tarbert is sometimes busy with ferry traffic, the main road to Campbelltown does not follow the shore and so it is mostly a quiet and very beautiful location for sea kayaking. The ferry passed  the ancient walls of Dunsmore castle on the north side of the loch . The tower house is now a ruin but it was the seat of the McMillan clan chiefs in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The MV Finlaggan soon passed by on its way to Kennacraig and we were left to enjoy the loch in peace again.


  1. Hi Ian , I have enjoyed reading your blog. A trip up West loch Tarbert is on our "to do" list though not in a kyak. Your photographs are beautiful maybe we will manage a trip up the loch next summer. We have been cruising around Kintye, Gigha and Isaly also on our ex ring-net boat the Shemaron. I think you have a photo of her on one of your posts.

  2. Hello Fiona, thank you. I have been sailing on the West Coast since 1959 and sea kayaking since 2002 but for some reason I had missed out on West Loch Tarbert. It would be lovely to combine West Loch Tarbert Kintyre with West Loch Tarbert Jura which is an outstanding loch.

    We admired your lovely boat Shemaron as she motored down the Sound of Gigha and later when she was tied up at the old Gigha pier. She has been wonderfully restored, I hope our wakes cross again.

    Ian is one of my paddling friends who also has a sea kayaking blog.

    Douglas :o)

  3. Hi Douglas, thanks for that little bit of info we weren't quite sure where you had seen us, so many blue seas and skies photos this year! The West Lochs combination is a lovely idea.
    You may like to visit our page or indeed read a little more

    Fiona (fellow blogger)

    1. Hello Fiona I have linked to your Shemaron Facebook page from the photo of Shemaron. I hope our wakes cross again. :o)