The Rothesay Hovercraft in 1966

Location: Bute
ships and boats, travel by sea

Island hopping by by hovercraft

When hovercrafts were trialled in Scotland’s west coast in the 1960s, it was thought that hoping on a hovercraft would become as common as taking a bus!

Entrepreneur Peter Kaye who started the Clyde Hover Ferries in 1965, boldly predicted that within 10 years, hovercrafts would be the most commonly used mode of transport in the Clyde. The hovercraft shuttle service he operated run between Rothesay, Wemyss Bay, Gourock, Dunoon, Millport, Tarbert and Largs from 9.30am – to 7.00pm at a cost of £1. The Hovercraft SR.N6 provided 38 seats and cruised at 50 knots, unlike today's ferries which cruise at only 15 knots.

Sadly the shuttle service only lasted a year, owing to passenger dissatisfaction with noise and levels of comfort. 'It felt like a very noisy and bumpy plane ride' was the main complaint. The company suffered huge losses which were blamed on the weather. It was a great pity as this service connecting Cumbrae to Bute was never replaced. Today, anyone wanting to island hop between Bute and Cumbrae needs to cross by ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay, drive eleven miles along the coast to Largs, take the ferry to Cumbrae and drive a further half-mile or so to Millport!

More information on visiting the area can be found here.