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old largs pier

A walk around Largs Pier.

In 1971 the Cumbrae ramp was added to the pier and in 11 March 1972 a Largs to Cumbrae vehicle service was started. The first ferry vessels to Cumbrae were the MV Largs and MV Coruisk with the MV Kilbrannan supporting. The Coruisk and Largs (ex Kyleakin) were modified former Skye ferries. All were bow loading vessels with a turntable on deck.

They could carry 6 cars each. After initial teething problems and opposition from the Millport town council the new ferry route won an ever increasing share of the traffic over the more conventional service offered by the Keppel direct to Millport pier.

The Coruisk had only been in service for two months when her sister ship kyleakin II was brought down from Largs to assist. She was quickly converted to bow loading and renamed MV Largs. The following year the MV Kilbrannan joined the flotilla and at peak times the three vessels did an impressive 10 min 3 ship service.
largs ferry
MV Largs
MV Coruisk at Largs pier
Unfortunately the new service was prone to regular mechanical breakdowns and in May 1975 it was announced a new ship was on order. So in December 1976 the new Isle of cumbrae was launched from Ailsa of Troon. The name of the new vessel was chosen by a competition among Millport school children

The MV Isle of Cumbrae, launched in late 1976 and took up the Largs crossing in early April 1977. She had the vehicle capacity of 18 per crossing. She could operate two double runs every hour, with five minute turnarounds at either terminal. To support the new ferry the Cumbrae slip was extended and widened and the Largs slip dredged.

The Cumbrae was a great success with the Cumbrae locals as delays only occurred at busy periods and on these occasions the Coruisk came back to assist. While the Isle of Cumbrae was more than capable with car traffic, problems arose with passengers during peak periods and the old reliable Keppel had step in and support.

In 1984 the Cumbrae ferry was delayed for a very unusual reason. That was to allow Michael Rilley from Linwood to land a 91 lb trout off the Largs Pier.

In July 1986 it was announced that two new car ferries had been ordered, the MV Loch Striven and MV Loch Linnhe. Each side of the car space would have passenger shelter unlike the Cumbrae and each ferry was designed to take 250 people and 12 cars.

After leaving Largs the MV Isle of Cumbrae operated in the Loch Fyne Tarbet run. She was later moved to Mallaig - Armadale station. She is still in use today by Calmac and is now the oldest vessel in their fleet.
Largs ferry and the waverley at largs
The Largs ferry and the Waverley sharing Largs pier.Photo by kind permission of Grahame Ross.
Isle of Cumbrae ferry at largs
isle of cumbrae at Cumbrae slip
MV Isle of Cumbrae approaching the Largs slip. Also shown is the old Calmac ticket office.
MV Isle of Cumbrae at the Cumbrae slip.
largs pier
A busy Largs pier showing the Isle Of Cumbrae ferry approaching the Largs Slip. In the middle is the Glen Sannox (Built 1957). On the far right is the Keppel.
The new ferry’s Loch Striven and Loch Linnhe started the Largs route on 4th July 1986. They could carry between them 48 cars in each direction per hour when they were both in service. They were paired with each other for ten years, until 1997 when the Loch Striven was transferred to the Western Isles and took over the Raasay crossing.

The Loch Riddon arrived at Largs to partner the Loch Linnhe. In 1998 seen another arrival to Largs, the former Sound of Mull ferry Loch Alainn, replacing the Loch Linnhe. This pairing serviced the crossing from Largs for over six years. During the winter the Loch Alainn maintained the service on her own.

In 2005 Calmac announced that the Largs was getting a new ferry. The order was placed with Ferguson's of Port Glasgow and construction began in early 2006. The vessel was named Loch Shira and launched on 8th December 2006. She had a capacity for 36 cars and 250 passengers. After arriving at Largs she partnered the Loch Riddon. Loch Alainn left Largs and became the main Sound of Barra ferry. She still makes the occasional visit to Largs to stand in for the two main ferries when they undergo maintenance.

Another visitor to Largs when the Shira and Riddon are otherwise busy is the Electric & Hybrid Propulsion MV Catriona.

largs ferry
largs ferry
Loch Striven
Loch Linnhe
largs ferry
loch shira
Loch Alainn
Loch Shira

The Largs to Millport Hovercraft

A hovercraft service between Largs and Millport started in June 1970 on an experimental basis. A new stairway was quarried out of the south side of the Largs pier to provide a berth for the hovercraft. As well as the Largs and Millport run the hovercraft also did cruising round Cumbrae and trips to Rothesay Bay and Dunoon.

The hovercraft carried 60 passengers traveling at 30 knots. The journey time between Largs and Millport was about 11 minutes. The single fare was 6s. Built largely of plastic the HM2-011 had three propellers driven by three diesel engines and soon was given the nickname of the 'scooshin' cushin'

In its first season the hovercraft attracted 26,0000 passengers. However the service was not a great success as the craft suffered frequent mechanical issues. Also the summer of 1970 was a very wet affair and this served to dampen the Clyde excursion trade overall. In addition the HM2-011 was more restricted in certain weather conditions than most boats. She was not allowed to operate in waves more than four and a half feet high. Caledonian Macbrayne who had the job of running the service were never enthusiastic about it and the service was eventually cancelled at the end of the 1971 season.

An earlier hovercraft, operated by Clyde Hover Ferries, in the 1960s often beached at Aubrey Crescent. This earlier hovercraft was very noisy with "air props". The Largs Town Council placed a ban on the Hovercraft due to the mounting protests by locals against the disturbance caused by the noise of the craft.

The HM2-011 passing Gourock
A movie clip of MV Keppel and the HM2-011 hovercraft leaving Millport.

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