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© David Williams

Paddleship Waverley trip to Tiree

9 May 2004


The paddleship Waverley was built in Glasgow in 1947 and was named after the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott. During the summer months the ship carries passengers on trips in the Firth of Clyde and between ports on Scotland`s west coast.

This article describes a day trip from the west-coast town of Oban to the island of Tiree, with a brief stop at Tobermory on Mull. The voyage allows passengers to see some of Scotland`s most spectacular coastal scenery.

Oban`s sheltered harbour has many fishing boats as well as a busy ferry terminal. The round hilltop tower at the centre of the picture is McCaig`s Folly, built between 1890 and 1900.
Duart Castle was built in the 13th century and it stands on a rocky promontory overlooking the Sound of Mull. It fell into ruins during the 17th century but was restored early in the 20th century and is the home of Clan MacLean.

Oban North Pier, 9.20am - and a queue of excited travellers snakes alongside the Waverley, the world's only sea-going paddleship. The welcoming smell of hot bacon rolls wafts up from the ship's galley and the sun is beginning to peek out from behind the clouds. Good omens for a superb day. All trips on the Waverley are special - such is the affection west-coast Scots have for the ship - and today's trip is also an historical journey as it will be the first-ever paddleship excursion to the Inner Hebridean island of Tiree.

Slipping the ship is no humdrum matter on the Waverley - the ropes are hauled using a clattering steam-driven capstan - and the ship reverses into Oban Bay. It turns round, passes between the island of Kerrera and Dunollie Castle and heads out into the Firth of Lorne, following in the wake of the Oban to Mull ferry. While still cameras click and video cameras whirr, some mobile phone users capture digital pictures to relay to friends and relatives signalling that they are on their way to Tiree.

As the warming rays of the sun suddenly break through the cloud, we head across the firth towards the island of Mull, its tall volcanic hills draped with early-morning mist. Most of the passengers are holidaymakers, Scots from west and central Scotland, or paddleship fans; few foreign tongues are heard. Many passengers chat, admire the scenery or while away their time reading the Sunday papers. Others busy themselves by looking for minke whales, porpoises and seabirds. One keen traveller keeps his eye on his GPS device, every few minutes entering the ship's position in his notebook; he doesn`t need to watch the scenery to know where he is.

An intermittent commentary points out the main places of interest, notably the small islands of the Garvallachs, the long narrow fertile island of Lismore and, on Mull, Ben More and Duart Castle.


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