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How far ahead to book ferry

We'll be visiting in mid-September and need ferry reservations from Oban to Mull and also from Mallaig to Skye. How far in advance should I book my sailings? I live in a heavily touristed area only accessible by plane or ferry, so get a little worried (paranoid) about these things. Thanks, Jenny

Posted by
341 posts

Hi neighbour from Sidney, B.C! Know what you mean about ferries…..

Are you driving or going as a foot passenger? If taking car book early rather than later. .The fall schedule probably won’t be posted yet. The tourist season will be over by the time you are there but routes are heavily used by locals. Have you looked at the CalMac website for information etc.. Also if driving a rental make sure it’s ok to take it on the ferry. And lastly be prepared for ferry cancellations due to weather any time of the year. If you are planning on visiting Iona, no cars allowed except for residents. Park by the foot ferry and walk. Beautiful area.

Posted by
115 posts

Hi landlubber and thanks for the info! We will be taking our car over to Mull and staying in Fionnaphort. This is a month long trip that was originally planned for 2020 and has been rescheduled 3 times! I have checked the CalMac website but not recently. I'll make sure to book our spots as soon as the schedule opens for our dates. Ferry cancellations are something I'm very familiar with, sadly. Thanks again!

Posted by
796 posts

Jenny, I noticed from another thread that you are renting a car from Arnold Clark. They do allow you to take their cars on to the CalMac ferries. The CalMac ferries are very old. Even older than the Washington State Ferries!

Posted by
606 posts

Jenny
I just checked Mallaig to Armadale and you can book now for September. If bringing a car then I would book now. At the moment there are significant problems with vessels being rerouted e.g. one of the vessels used in summer for Mallaig/Armadale is current running to the Outer Hebrides because their usual ferry is broken! I can't see the overall situation getting better until our two new (overdue and over budget) ferries are delivered.

Best wishes
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
182 posts

My attitude is that compared to the damage done to my itinerary by a missed ferry, not booking as soon as I know when I want to travel and when bookings are open is a silly risk, even if the ticket is non-refundable. In the case of Mallaig, the ferry is frequent enough that the damage is contained.

I already made all my reservations on the WSF for this summer on the day the summer routes were released. My wife sometimes thinks I'm a little OCD :-)

Posted by
1345 posts

It is always advisable to book in advance if possible. Although in theory all are available on a drive up basis, you might be waiting for a space a long time. At least with Malaig/Skye you have the option of a long drive if you miss it.

Posted by
115 posts

Thanks everyone! I just booked my tickets except for the crossing that is "show up and go". As an islander myself, I would never risk not having a ferry reservation, even in winter. Jjgurley, even though our WSF reservation system is a total mess, I'm always amazed that people would try to get on without a reservation in summer. And San Juan county residents don't get any sort of priority so we all feel the pain. CalMac's system was a breeze. It's been about 7 years since I was last in Scotland and I honestly couldn't remember how far in advance I booked. I had no idea the ferries in Scotland were as old as ours here in Washington but it seems like the newer ones break down just as often. Thanks again, Jenny

Posted by
1345 posts

Islands don't get priority on CalMac except in certain circumstances. Which has become a political issue, featuring in this year's local elections. Even in my council area and we are landlocked!