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The Islay Ferry from Kennacraig

Updated on December 24, 2017
The Hebridean Isles - seen preparing to dock at Kennacraig - is one of the two passenger ferries that services the route from Kennacraig to Islay
The Hebridean Isles - seen preparing to dock at Kennacraig - is one of the two passenger ferries that services the route from Kennacraig to Islay

The most popular way of reaching the Isle of Islay is to take the ferry from Kennacraig on the Scottish mainland. Ferry timetables vary at different times of year and should always be checked carefully in advance but there are on average three sailings per day in either direction. The ferries leaving Kennacraig call alternately at Port Askaig and Port Ellen on Islay with the crossing taking a little over two hours in either instance. It is always worth remembering that in severe weather conditions, crossings can be cancelled at very short notice for safety reasons.

A
B
Kennacraig:

get directions

C
Port Askaig:

get directions

D
Port Ellen:

get directions

How to Get to Kennacraig

The Glasgow to Campbeltown service bus calls at Kennacraig
The Glasgow to Campbeltown service bus calls at Kennacraig

There are two ways to get to Kennacraig from the main population centres of Central Scotland. You can either drive your own vehicle or take the public service bus (Glasgow to Campbeltown service). The bus leaves Buchanan Street Bus Station in Glasgow and stops at a number of pick-up points en route. There are no railways on the Argyll peninsula in modern times. The good news is that the bus is timed to have you at the ferry terminal around half an hour before each sailing.

The bus journey from Glasgow to Kennacraig takes approximately three and a half hours. The first hour or thereabouts is spent getting out of the city and its suburbs but after that, when you reach and pass by the south-western shore of Loch Lomond, you will start to see some of the beautiful scenery Argyll has to offer. The photos below are just a small sample and were all taken from the public service bus. Interestingly, those most used to driving the route or travelling as a passenger in a car will find that they see much more from the slightly higher vantage point of a seat on the bus.

Usually - and when time permits - the bus will make a brief comfort stop at the town of Inveraray on Loch Fyne. This is a short stop only and the driver will tell you when he is leaving again. Do not make the mistake of thinking that the bus will wait for you beyond this time. Remember this is a public service bus with a timetable to follow, not a private coach. If you're not back at the coach in time, you risk being left behind. A quick cigarette or short, leg stretching walk along the front is about all you have time for.

Pictures from the Bus Journey from Glasgow to Kennacraig

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The road is climbing towards the Rest and Be ThankfulDescending from the Rest and Be Thankful towards Geln KinglasLooking along Glen KinglasLoch Fyne from the shore roadInveraray seen across Loch Shirra, off Loch FyneLoch Fyne widening, by InverarayArdrishaig viewed from across Loch FyneEntering Tarbert, about four miles short of KennacraigTarbert waterfrontThe Hebridean Isles ferry ready for loading at Kennacraig before it sets sail for Islay
The road is climbing towards the Rest and Be Thankful
The road is climbing towards the Rest and Be Thankful
Descending from the Rest and Be Thankful towards Geln Kinglas
Descending from the Rest and Be Thankful towards Geln Kinglas
Looking along Glen Kinglas
Looking along Glen Kinglas
Loch Fyne from the shore road
Loch Fyne from the shore road
Inveraray seen across Loch Shirra, off Loch Fyne
Inveraray seen across Loch Shirra, off Loch Fyne
Loch Fyne widening, by Inveraray
Loch Fyne widening, by Inveraray
Ardrishaig viewed from across Loch Fyne
Ardrishaig viewed from across Loch Fyne
Entering Tarbert, about four miles short of Kennacraig
Entering Tarbert, about four miles short of Kennacraig
Tarbert waterfront
Tarbert waterfront
The Hebridean Isles ferry ready for loading at Kennacraig before it sets sail for Islay
The Hebridean Isles ferry ready for loading at Kennacraig before it sets sail for Islay

Arriving at Kennacraig Ferry Terminal

Hebridean Isles ferry is ready for boarding at Kennacraig
Hebridean Isles ferry is ready for boarding at Kennacraig

If you arrive at Kennacraig by bus, the bus will drop you immediately outside the bookings/ticket office. Drivers will have to follow the signposts either to the ferry boarding area or the long term parking area, whichever is applicable.

Cars and other vehicles should wait in line to board as directed by terminal staff. Tickets should be collected if applicable by the driver from the ticket office. Foot passengers will board via a gangway on the port side of the ferry and should have their tickets ready for inspection.

Aboard the Islay Ferry at Kennacraig

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Kennacraig Ferry Terminal bookings office as seen from on board the Hebridean Isles ferry about to depart for IslayVehicle waiting area at Kennacraig Ferry Terminal for boarding the ferry to IslayLooking down the West Loch and towards the Sound of Jura from the berthed ferry at Kennacraig
Kennacraig Ferry Terminal bookings office as seen from on board the Hebridean Isles ferry about to depart for Islay
Kennacraig Ferry Terminal bookings office as seen from on board the Hebridean Isles ferry about to depart for Islay
Vehicle waiting area at Kennacraig Ferry Terminal for boarding the ferry to Islay
Vehicle waiting area at Kennacraig Ferry Terminal for boarding the ferry to Islay
Looking down the West Loch and towards the Sound of Jura from the berthed ferry at Kennacraig
Looking down the West Loch and towards the Sound of Jura from the berthed ferry at Kennacraig

Kennacraig Ferry Terminal and The West Loch

Departing Kennacraig for Islay

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View down the West Loch as the Islay ferry departs KennacraigLifeboat and safety information announcements are made as the ferry makes to departIsle of Jura can just be discerned in the far distance from the Hebridean Isles on the West LochApproaching the mouth of the West Loch and the Sound of JuraStern view from the Hebridean Isles, back up the West Loch towards Kennacraig
View down the West Loch as the Islay ferry departs Kennacraig
View down the West Loch as the Islay ferry departs Kennacraig
Lifeboat and safety information announcements are made as the ferry makes to depart
Lifeboat and safety information announcements are made as the ferry makes to depart
Isle of Jura can just be discerned in the far distance from the Hebridean Isles on the West Loch
Isle of Jura can just be discerned in the far distance from the Hebridean Isles on the West Loch
Approaching the mouth of the West Loch and the Sound of Jura
Approaching the mouth of the West Loch and the Sound of Jura
Stern view from the Hebridean Isles, back up the West Loch towards Kennacraig
Stern view from the Hebridean Isles, back up the West Loch towards Kennacraig

The usual sailing time from Kennacraig to Port Askaig on Islay is just over two hours. It is about fifteen minutes longer if the ferry is bound for Port Ellen. The ferry for Port Askaig proceeds down the West Loch and crosses the Sound of Jura to enter the Sound of Islay, near the top of which is Port Askaig.

Food on the Islay ferry

Food is available on the Islay ferry from the point of boarding, either in the form of hot meals or as snacks such as sandwiches. The meals are reasonably good considering this is after all transport food and a fairly wide choice is usually available. Some of the options on the menu are made to order and a small waiting period will be required. In this instance, hunger resulted in steak pie and chips (which was ready to serve) being ordered.

If the ferry is busy, tables will fill up quickly, so it is advisable to either eat immediately or wait half an hour to an hour for the initial rush to die down. An announcement will be made via the tannoy system when the galley is about to close, though snacks will continue to be available throughout the crossing.

Steak pie, chips and veg on the Islay ferry
Steak pie, chips and veg on the Islay ferry

The Bar on the Hebridean Isles Ferry

The bar on the Hebridean Isles ferry to Islay
The bar on the Hebridean Isles ferry to Islay

The bar on the ferry opens as soon as the ferry sets sail. It is stocked with a fair variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. This trip saw a few Islay Ales sampled. It is important to note that while it is permissible to take your drink out on deck, you can not do so in a glass container for safety reasons. If taking your drink outside, you will have to ask the bar staff to pour it in to a plastic drinking vessel.

The Sound of Islay and Port Askaig

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The Paps of Jura seen from the Islay ferryPort Askaig, Islay, from the deck of the approaching ferryFerry docking area at Port Askaig, IslayNorth end of dock at Port AskaigPort Askaig Hotel and the Islay-Jura ferryHebridean Isles ferry docking at Port Askaig, Islay
The Paps of Jura seen from the Islay ferry
The Paps of Jura seen from the Islay ferry
Port Askaig, Islay, from the deck of the approaching ferry
Port Askaig, Islay, from the deck of the approaching ferry
Ferry docking area at Port Askaig, Islay
Ferry docking area at Port Askaig, Islay
North end of dock at Port Askaig
North end of dock at Port Askaig
Port Askaig Hotel and the Islay-Jura ferry
Port Askaig Hotel and the Islay-Jura ferry
Hebridean Isles ferry docking at Port Askaig, Islay
Hebridean Isles ferry docking at Port Askaig, Islay

When you enter the Sound of Islay, the Isle of Jura is to starboard (your right, facing forward) and the Isle of Islay to port. The Paps of Jura (the three famous hills) will soon come in to view and you will have excellent views of them on a clear day.

There is plenty of time to stand on deck and watch Port Askaig come in to view, before either returning to the vehicle deck to collect your car or collecting your luggage and disembarking via the gangway.

A public service bus is available to take you elsewhere on Islay if you do not have your own transport and this usually meets the ferry, leaving shortly after everyone has disembarked.

Arriving at Port Askaig, Islay, from Kennacraig

© 2013 Gordon Hamilton

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