MV Hebridean Isles

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MV Hebridean Isles Leaving The Isle of Skye, 8 February 2016.jpg
Leaving Uig for Tarbert, February 2016.
Civil Ensign of the United Kingdom.svgUnited Kingdom
Name: MV Hebridean Isles
Owner: Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited
Operator: Caledonian MacBrayne
Route: Kennacraig - Islay
Builder: Cochrane Shipbuilders Ltd., Selby
Maiden voyage: 5 December 1985
Status: in service
General characteristics
Tonnage: 3040
Length: 85.15 m
Beam: 15.8 m
Draft: 3.11 m
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) (service)
Capacity: 507, 68 cars
Crew: 24
Notes: [1]

MV Hebridean Isles is a ro-ro vehicle ferry owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited and operated by Caledonian MacBrayne on the west coast of Scotland. She was the first MacBrayne vessel to be built outside Scotland and the first to be launched sideways. With bow, stern and side ramps, Hebridean Isles is suitable for all the routes served by the large fleet units. After 15 years crossing the Little Minch on the Uig triangle, she now serves Islay.


MV Hebridean Isles ("Heb Isles" a nickname used amongst crew and passengers alike) was constructed at Cochrane’s yard in Selby and launched sideways into the Ouse in 1985. She was the first MacBrayne vessel to be built outside Scotland, the first to be launched sideways and the first to be launched by royalty - HRH the Duchess of Kent.[2]

Broadly similar to the MV Isle of Arran she was designed to be suitable for use anywhere within the network, although intended for the Uig triangle. Following her delivery voyage, she conducted trials at various ports around the network and did not take up duties at Uig, Skye until spring 1986. MV Columba, the winter relief ship continued there while construction works were carried out at the various piers. New linkspans were required at all three terminals. The new ferry found temporary employment as a winter relief vessel at Ullapool and Oban, where she stood in for the MV Caledonia and MV Glen Sannox. Even when she took over at Uig, she still had to use her hoist at the Skye terminal for eight months while the new berth at the end of the long pier was finished.[3]

She brought vastly improved standards of passenger comfort and became popular, with slightly reduced sailing times and, once she was able to use her bow and stern ramps, greatly reduced turn-round times.[4]


MV Hebridean Isles' design incorporates a bow visor, bow and stern ramps, and a vehicle hoist with side ramps. This made her suitable for all the routes served by the large fleet units. Her spacious car deck can accommodate almost 70 cars, with passenger accommodation on two decks forward of the hoist. One deck comprises the cafeteria furthest aft, then the entrance concourse, shop and information point, with the reclining lounge and bar towards the bow. The bar was converted to a Coffee Cabin in December 2008. Above the cafeteria is the observation lounge with crew accommodation forward of this. The bridge is on the next level at the bow. Externally there is ample deck space including, like the Isle of Arran, a deck area forward of the bridge, giving passengers a view ahead.[3]


MV Hebridean Isles spent her first 15 years almost exclusively on her intended crossing of the Little Minch. She sailed from Uig on Skye to Tarbert and Lochmaddy, using her stern ramp at Uig and her bow visor and ramp at both Tarbert and Lochmaddy. There were no Sunday sailings to Harris. After 15 years demand became too much and in 2001 she was replaced by the new MV Hebrides.[3] Hebridean Isles headed south as the dedicated Islay ferry, taking over from MV Isle of Arran. Operating out of Kennacraig on the Kintyre peninsula, she sailed to Port Ellen and Port Askaig. On summer Wednesdays she continued to Colonsay and Oban, returning to Kennacraig in the evening. Between 2003 and 2011, she was joined by Isle of Arran in the summer, to provide a series of additional sailings throughout the week and to maintain the service on Wednesdays during the Oban extension.[4]

For six months from October 2002, she was chartered to Northlink Ferries and inaugurated their Stromness to Scrabster service. She continues to relieve there each winter.[4]

During June and July 2010, Hebridean Isles was redeployed on the Oban to Coll and Tiree run, replacing MV Clansman, which had suffered major engine problems. She hit the pier at Scarinish, Tiree, on the late afternoon of 29 June 2010, sustaining a hole above the waterline. Reverse pitch was selected prior to the collision but an unspecified problem prevented reverse engaging. The vessel returned to Oban for repair and resumed the Coll and Tiree run two days after the incident.

In summer 2011, MV Finlaggan joined Hebridean Isles as the main Islay vessel, meanwhile Isle of Arran became a spare vessel.[5]

On 28 January 2014, it was announced that Hebridean Isles would temporarily take over freight services between Ullapool and Stornoway in the Western Isles, due to the freight ferry MS Clipper Ranger colliding with the pier at Stornoway.

Hebridean Isles relieved on the Uig Triangle, alongside MV Isle of Arran, in January and February 2016 whilst MV Hebrides was away covering for other vessels.[6] In July 2016, she collided with the pier at Kennacraig, with her traffic being carried by the MV Finlaggan and the cargo boat MV Red Princess.

In October 2016, Hebridean Isles provided a twice-nightly freight service on the Ullapool - Stornoway route whilst MV Loch Seaforth was in dry-dock.

From 3 January to 21 January 2017, Hebridean Isles relieved on the Ardrossan-Brodick route alongside MV Isle of Arran in place of MV Caledonian Isles, which was away for her annual overhaul. She repeated this service in January 2018.

During April and May 2018, Hebridean Isles ran the Oban-Lochboisdale ferry crossing while MV Lord of the Isles was away from the Mallaig-Lochboisdale route, owing to MV Clansman's repair at James Watt dock in Greenock.[7]


  1. ^ "MV Hebridean Isles". Ships of Calmac. Retrieved 30 August 2007. 
  2. ^ John Macleod (21 November 1998). "Postcard from the Pier". The Scotsman. Retrieved 24 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c "History of MV Hebridean Isles". Ships of Calmac. Retrieved 30 August 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c McCrorie, Ian. CalMac Ferries. CalMac. ISBN 0-9507166-7-7. 
  5. ^ "Islay Ferry". Isle of Islay. Retrieved 7 December 2012. 
  6. ^ "Dedicated ferries for Uig triangle during winter". Island News and Advertiser. 7 October 2015. Archived from the original on 12 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015. 
  7. ^ "'Tweaks' to ferry services following Easter demand". Stornoway Gazette. 3 April 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2018. 

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