The Kyles of Bute is famous for its maritime history and very strong transport links with the central belt of Scotland, via the River Clyde. In the 1890s, not only did Tighnabruaich Pier receive 15 calls a day, but unbelievably, there was a steamer based overnight at Kames, allowing people to commute from the Kyles to Greenock and Glasgow. Imagine boarding the steamer at 07.30, having breakfast on board, disembarking in Greenock to catch the train to Glasgow, in time to be at your desk for a day’s work, to return in the evening.
The Steamers did not only provide a crucial link for travelling passengers, but most supplies to the area were brought in twice a day on a boat to either Tighnabruaich, Kames or Auchenlochan piers.
By 1939, the number of calls was down to 10 per day and the Kames pier was closed. Sadly, the commuter boat was also no longer staying overnight ready for the early morning sail.
In the 60s, steamers would call in the morning and some evenings, either the Duchess of Montrose or Duchess of Hamilton, on the cruise rosters from Gourock, heading for Inveraray or Arran. The Loch Fyne would call on her way to Tarbert and Ardrishaig, and on the return and Queen Mary II would arrive in the afternoon on her cruise from Glasgow. Later on in the afternoon, Waverley or Jeanie Deans would call on the Round Bute Cruise.
Less regular calls were a Maid on an evening cruise from Rothesay on Wednesdays and the Countess of Bredalbane arriving late on a Friday with weekenders. The Ayr steamer, Caledonia would call once a week or so. Weekday calls would have been down to about 6 or 7 in number. On Sundays, there were fewer calls, with a cruise from Gourock, one from Millport and Largs and a Round Bute cruise. MacBrayne’s Lochfyne did not sail on the Sabbath.
Today, the last sea going paddle steamer in the world, the Waverley, calls 3 times a week and coach parties come and go once or twice a week on the Cruiser or Clyde Clipper during the summer months. The Tighnabruaich Pier Association work to ensure the pier is staying safe for future generations, and who knows, perhaps a revival of the popularity of boats as a reliable mode of transport!