In my postings of the past week, you will have seen images of a new ferry, the MV Loch Seaforth, coming and going at Stornoway. The vessel arrived from the shipyard in Germany back in November, but has been unable to enter service. The reason is that her berth is not ready. Works to upgrade Stornoway ferry terminal started last May, but a series of setbacks (let's put it that way) have caused a delay of at least six months. The Loch Seaforth is sailing up and down the coastline of northern and eastern Scotland, a ferry without a port. The ship costs £42m and although it is good that any teething troubles become apparent now, it would have been better if she had been on the run.
Another problem is that the linkspan at Ullapool suddenly needs to be replaced. A linkspan is the adjustable bridge for driving on and off the ship, and the one at Ullapool is 42 years old. As soon as the works in Stornoway are complete, the Loch Seaforth can start operating the route. And that will be without vehicles. While the linkspan works are being carried out at Ullapool, only foot passengers can come to Ullapool. Vehicles will have to travel to Uig, Skye on a different ship. This is a 3 hour journey, and because of tidal conditions at Uig, timetables will vary day by day. At times, this means a 3 am departure. The distance by road from Ullapool to Inverness is 55 miles; the road distance between Uig and Inverness is about 125 miles, and add to that the road distance between Stornoway and Tarbert, 40 miles.These works are due to start in late April, when the summer tourism season is well and truly underway. You can imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth that is currently going on in these islands about this whole unholy saga.
Sunday, 25 January 2015
After an early breakfast, headed for the bus station. The Ullapool bus left at 8.10 sharp, following an explanation by the driver about facilities on board. It soon got very snowy, particularly west of Loch Glascarnoch. A minor blizzard gave us a taste of things wintry. At Ullapool, the ferry was just arriving, so we did not have to wait long to go on board. I esconced myself in the observation lounge, and soon enjoyed the views down Loch Broom and across the Minch. It did get a little choppy after an encounter with the new ferry Loch Seaforth, but the snow clad hills of the island made up for all of that. Arrived into Stornoway at 1.15pm, and had to drag the case through about half an inch of hail and snow on the ground.
After an uneventful journey to Schiphol Airport (let's not mention the case etc), I flew to Inverness in good time. The flight, which took place in the last hour before sunset, afforded me some stunning images of the east coast of the UK. Arrived in Inverness around 4.30, and I found myself freezing outside the terminal building, waiting for a bus into town. It had been snowing, and the roads had not been treated very well. My B&B was a bit further away than I had thought, but I eventually got there. After some 'emergency food' at Mcdonald's, I made it an early night.