Five Ferries (Scottish Islands)

New Tour for 2017

Updated 24 August

Here is the menu for The Stags Pavillon, Lochranza on Arran. We will be eating here on the Thursday evening, it’s the 2-course option. I will need to forward our choices to the chef ahead of our visit, please make your selections and text them to ASAP. Thanks, Neil.

Stags Pavillion menu 2or 3 courses 06-17

Updated 4 July
Revised Itinerary for both 5 Ferries Tours

Monday 4 or 18 September

Meet at Newcastle Central Station, 7:20 latest. Please bring a packed lunch and maybe a snack to eat before we start cycling.

Catch train, arriving in Edinburgh at 09:21. Change trains (24 minute transfer time), arrive in Glasgow Queens Street at 10:36.

Walk to meet van and collect bikes, walking time is around 35 minutes.

Note: originally I thought that we would need to take all our bags on the train, I now think that there will be sufficient room in the van to carry one pannier bag per person.

Start cycling at 11:45 latest, there’s a ferry to catch. The route chosen is less direct than first planned, as we now avoid the marshy and hilly areas, as such it it also longer at 43 miles.

There is an opportunity to stop for a short 15 to 20 minute break (tea, coffee etc.) at around 2 hours in to the route. However, we must not dawdle and need to keep moving as there is a ferry to catch.

Ignoring the route closure and detour, a landslide, in order to avoid an extra very steep climb we will aim to arrive at the ferry terminal for 18:00 or 18:45. The absolute last and final ferry to Bute leaves at 19:30.

Arrive at Rothesay (Bute) and cycle to the hostel, a distance of less than 1 mile. Evening meal will be at ‘The West End Cafe’, about a 5 minute walk back in to Rothesay centre.

Neil will pop along to the local supermarket and buy the ingredients for breakfast on Tuesday morning (eggs, bread, tea, coffee, milk etc.)

Tuesday 5 or 19 September

An early start as we need to arrive before the coach parties flood the chosen lunch cafe venue (Suzy’s Tearooms).

Breakfast at 7:30 latest with a view to being on our bikes and heading north to catch the ferry at Rhubodach no later than 8:45. The route is easy going and covers a distance of about 10 miles, the ferry we are aiming to catch leaves Rhubodach at 10:10, allowing a leisurely morning ride.

The route from the ferry landing at Colintraive heads north along the shore of Loch Riddon before heading south along the western shore of the same Loch.

Note: There is a challenging climb (equivalent to Hartside on the C2C route) to negotiate before lunch. The good news, we have plenty of time to complete this climb and also enjoy the scenery from the viewpoint at the top.

The ride is all downhill into Tighnabruaic and lunch at Suzy’s, where we can spend about an hour taking a leisurely lunch.

After lunch the route to the next ferry crossing, Portavadie, does involve a few more climbs, none of them very demanding. The ferries to Tarbert run on the hour and we will aim to catch the 13:45 ferry and arrive in Tarbert for 14:15, but there’s no rush and coffee etc. can be purchased in Portavadie if there’s time to kill.

Our accommodation is at The Tarbert Hotel, situated on the harbour road at a distance of half a mile from the ferry landing. Our evening meal will be at the hotel tonight.

Wednesday 6 or 20 September

Note: Very good news follows for those cycling on the first tour and some good news for those on the second. Pete and Lesley (our van drivers) will be visiting Arran whilst the first tour is taking place and they have offered to buy the ingredients for or Wednesday evening meal. You will recall that I had expected that we would have needed to buy and transport these ingredients from Tarbert. Unfortunately the second group will still need to buy and transport some ‘fresh ingredients, but the bulky purchases will be waiting at the hostel.

A more relaxed start to the day today, leaving Tarbert at around 10:30 we will aim to catch the ferry from Claonaig (to Lochranza, Arran) at 12:35. Ferry crossings are every 75 minutes. The route to the ferry is along a fast (not particularly busy) ‘A’ road, at a total of 10 miles the first 5 of which are reasonably flat, however the next 5 miles involve one significant climb (I estimate it will take 20 minutes to reach the summit).

The ferry crossing to Arran takes 30 minutes, giving plenty of time to explore the local area for the rest of the afternoon. Todays evening meal will be a ‘self catering’ style meal at the hostel.

Thursday 7 or 21 September

Breakfast, a continental style breakfast at the hostel. Then it’s a free day to explore Arran either by foot, bike or perhaps bus. Evening meal will be at The Stags Pavillion tonight.

Mini Cycle Excursion

Considering a day ride to Machrie Tea Rooms? Located on the west coast, the cafe is a shared community resource forming part of the golf club clubhouse.

Stats… distance 13.5 miles, duration 1 1/2 hours (total distance 27 miles), the highest climb is 144 Ft, total climbing 187 Ft.

Lochranza to Machrie Map

Friday 8 or 22 September

Breakfast, a continental style breakfast at the hostel before leaving for Brodick. The ferry leaves for Ardrossan at exactly 11:05, the advice for cyclists using the ferry is to arrive at the ferry port at least 30 minutes before departure.

The distance to Brodick is 15 miles and starts with a long climb, which is similar in profile to the hill out of Witton Gilbert and up to Burnhope (and maybe slightly longer). I estimate that the 15 miles will take about 2 1/2 hours to complete, as such we will need to be leaving the hostel no later than 8 o’clock to give us sufficient time to ride the 15 miles and have some spare time (for any unforeseen issues) to catch the ferry at 11:05 latest. Arriving in Ardrossan ferry port at 12 o’clock.

The crossing to Ardrossan takes about an hour, there are good facilities on the ferry (cafe, a comfortable lounge and toilets etc). Soon after disembarking the bikes will be transferred to the van before catching the train (from the harbour station) back to Glasgow Central Station.

Train times, depart Ardrossan harbour at 12:35, arrive Glasgow Central 13:20, walk to Queens Street (15 minutes), next train depart Queens Street 16:00 arriving Edinburgh Waverley at 16:49. Change trains ( 10 minutes transfer time ), leave Edinburgh 17:00 and arrive back at Newcastle Central for 18:30.

Updated 18 June

The full and comprehensive recce now completed, 14 to 16 June, photographs taken during this trip follow below…

Recce Day 1 (Glasgow to Rothesay on Bute)

Pollock Park




Coffee Stop (time permitting)


First View of the Islands


Ferry to Bute (Rothesay)


Rothesay, views from the Hostel


Recce Day 2 (Rothesay to Tarbert)


Heading North to Ferry Number 2

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Riding up the Loch, Viewpoint (after steep climb)

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Pete at Lunch Stop


Waiting for Ferry Number 3 & Onboard

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Tarbert Harbour and Rest


Recce Day 3 Tarbert to Lochranza and Brodick

Ferry Terminal for crossing to Arran

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Heading to Arran, Lochranza and on route to Brodick

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Due to the design of this route, having many ferry crossings, this tour will not be supported by a back-up vehicle. You will be using pannier bags, and taking these with you on the train to Glasgow and then back to Newcastle.

The bikes will be transported to the start, Glasgow Riverside and will be collected at the Ardrossan Ferry terminal at the end of the cycle tour.

A towel will be required for some of the evening stops.

I will be completing a full recce of the route, including train journeys (mid June), I’ll update the details below with any major changes that result.

Updated Itinerary added to the top of the page, updates made 4 July.