Tag Archives: Transport

Chartering a private boat when visiting Mull

Here’s another local business (based out of Oban) with some rather interesting snippets of information on its blog and facebook page. Called Coastal Connections it has quite a lot of attractive pictures taken on past charter trips around the coast and islands on its blog. Just click on the blog archive to see an overview.

Coastal Connections is based out of Oban and runs private charters to Mull and other parts of the Inner Hebrides.Coastal Connections has a rather beautiful website featuring a map of the west coast of Scotland pin-pointing its location and, presumably, the area it services with two boats. “We aim to make your journey to the islands as enjoyable as possible. Both our Redbay 11 metre cabined RIBs provide a safe, dry and comfortable environment in which to relax and take in the scenery and wildlife along the west coast. Cruising at an average speed of 30 knots you will reach your destination in no time at all. Our services range from commercial exercises to scenic tours of the Western Isles as well as private charters.”

Apart from using smaller boats to ferry myself to dive sites up the Sound of Mull, a past-time I can no longer do these days, it’s never occurred to me to charter a boat for a cruise around the islands. But, if you are a large group or have extended family members on Mull for a holiday, it could be a great way to spend a day.

There really is nothing quite like being able to take a view of the land from the sea. It’s more akin to how our ancestors would have seen the world, when the seas were our highways and venturing inland was a dangerous prospect.

That’s also why our forebears would have not seen the national distinctions we recognise today. Peoples from modern Ireland and Northern Ireland would have been ferrying back and forth between Scotland’s Islands and mainland in much the same way we take a car on the M6, to or from the south.

Anyway, if the idea of hiring a private boat to flit you around the islands holds some appeal, you should go check out what they have to offer.

Beach House Self-Catering
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CalMac’s Oban to Craignure ferry now a political football

It seems that one of the UK’s more colourful Union leaders, Bob Crow of the RMT, has waded in to the debate on potentially privatising or outsourcing some of Scotland’s ferry routes.

There’s been recent debate of the options open to the Scottish government when it comes to how critical links, such as the Oban to Mull run, can be maintained and even improved. But there is equal concern that any new approach, such as putting specific routes out to tender, doesn’t simply result in poorer service and higher prices.

It’s this outcome that would be the worst case scenario, causing harm to Island life and the economy on Mull and Iona, much of which benefits from its popularity as a tourist destination.

You can see a previous post on this issue and some comments here.

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Mull’s Ferry may be put out to tender

This one’s for anyone who has a particular love for the Isle of Mull. According to a recent report in Am Muileach, one of the island’s local weekly papers, the Scottish Government is asking for input into the Scottish Ferries Review. The consultation closes on the 30th of September so if you have a view on how Mull (or other islands) are serviced by ferries, this is your chance to make your views known.

The paper explains that the Review document can be found online and warn that it’s quite a lengthy document but has links to the online questionnaire. You do not have to answer all the questions however, so if you have a view, whether as a local, or as a past, present or future visitor, please take a moment to take part.

Ferry routes between Oban and Craignure may be put out to private tender.The big question is what happens to the vital lifeline of the Oban to Craignure route? In this review the Scottish Government has apparently suggested that they are specifically going to consider this single service being put out to tender. The whole point of tendering is to try to get competitive bids, but the reality is that there aren’t many island ferry routes that a private contractor would jump at — they’re just not profitable. The Mull route is however. So, for me at least, even the notion of breaking up the Caledonian Macbrayne routes seems ill-judged. If you take away one of the profitable routes from CalMac, they have even less cash to service the unprofitable island routes.

At the same time, the cost of getting to Mull, which for a standard car and passengers is about 80 pounds with two adults and two kids at the moment, might simply go up. After all, if it were to be tendered successfully the whole point of tendering for the bidder is to secure a route where they believe there’s money to be made. To secure it they need to keep costs to a minimum in the tendering process. The government can then absolve itself of the responsibility to the community of maintaining the vital lifeline to the mainland by getting a bid that takes that burden off its hands. But then the successful private company is going to be looking to make up its low tender offer by squeezing more profit from travellers.

In other words, I can’t see how the Oban to Craignure run can be hived off from the rest of CalMac’s routes without it being bad for tourists, which would then be bad for Mull’s local community. There’s a bigger picture here which says that for Island life on Mull, and elsewhere, to thrive the Scottish Government has to accept that it needs to treat Ferries as a vital utility that must be maintained in order to make these beautiful parts of Scotland viable over the long term. Short term cost-cutting through tendering off profitable ferry routes will, I think, ultimately depress other economic activity on Mull and make it a less appealing destination for tourists. No-one, surely, wants that?

We pay taxes so Goverment and local government can maintain our roads and motorways. Ferry routes are the highways to the islands and, as such, Government must be charged with maintaining them for the benefit of tourists, trade and locals. So, until it can be proved otherwise, it’s probably a case of… better the devil you know!

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