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July 2004
Ferry Photographer's Guide
South West Scotland


South West Scotland is a wild and windy world full of sheep, gorse bushes and ferries.   Photographically it is fairly bleak apart from the sea that is on all sides, dictating how industry and tourism has developed.   The original ferry service to Ireland operated from the picturesque village of Portpatrick (still worth a visit).   However the Irish Sea was just too powerful for a safe harbour, so the route retreated to the calm of Loch Ryan, and Stranraer was established as the base.

Nothing changed for nearly 100 years until ASN (Atlantic Steam Navigation) started a route to Larne from Cairnryan in the 1970's , using a harbour originally constructed for war efforts.   Nowadays P&O are the operator and the site has recently been completely redeveloped.   Stena moved their Irish operation from Larne to Belfast in the mid 1990's and now plan to move from Stranraer to Cairnryan.

There are currently five ferries that operate on the routes to Larne and Belfast.   Because they have to navigate their way up and down Loch Ryan, there are ample photographic opportunities, some quite spectacular.   This contrasts with many ports where ferries appear from nowhere and dock almost immediately.  If you want to take a more unusual photo the next time you visit South West Scotland, then read on.





1 2 Sheuchan Street
Directions Follow signs for Kirkcolm from Stranraer
Location Just opposite old people's flats/home.   It's the site of the former creamery (before it was demolished).  Pronounced "shook-an".
Photo Tips Good place to photograph the sponsons on Stena Caledonia
Local Tips None
Time of Day All day
3 West Pier
Directions Beside Agnew Park
Location This is where Seacat used to leave from.   It is possible to walk to end of the pier using a narrow path beside the wire mesh fence.
Photo Tips So close you can almost touch the ferries.
Local Tips Potentially hazardous in a strong gale.  Take another adult with you.
Time of Day All day
4 Harbour Street
Directions On the seafront
Location Beside the weighbridge.   This is the curiously named Breastwork car park.   Seacat had their terminal building here, but now its reverted to a free public car park which is always empty.
Photo Tips Not the most exciting view, but always guaranteed.
Local Tips Low flying seagulls can be a nuisance
Time of Day All day
5 Port Rodie
Directions On the seafront
Location Opposite the back entrance to Tescos
Photo Tips Good view of ferry, not such a clear shot of the HSS.
Local Tips None
Time of Day All day
1 Cairnryan (South)
Directions Follow signs from Stranraer for A77 to Ayr
Location Car park just before the "Cairnryan" village sign on the right side of the road.   Cross the road (carefully) and find the gap in the fence/bushes that allows access to the shore.
Photo Tips Lots of different types of shots are available ranging from wide-angle to telephoto lens.   The shore (rocks in fact) or gorse/heather can be included for effect.
Local Tips Beware of the wash from passing ferries
Time of Day Morning and afternoon.   The sun sweeps round by the early evening.
2 3 Cairnryan (North)
Directions Head through Cairnryan village until you see the lighthouse and the church on the left.
Location Car park beside the church.
Photo Tips Good place to catch fast craft as this is the point where they are allowed to pick up speed.
Local Tips Remember there is a 30mph speed limit through the village
Time of Day Morning if it's sunny.   Looking towards Cairnryan lighthouse (2) will always be against the sun.
4 Finnarts Bay
Directions From Cairnryan continue following road north, crossing the border into Ayrshire.
Location Top of the road leading to fish factory at Finnarts Bay.
Photo Tips Scenic view of ferries rounding Milleur Point.   There is also a car park at Finnarts Bay itself which gives additional photo opportunities.
Local Tips Beware of adders (honest).   There used to be a warning notice.
Time of Day Morning if it's sunny.
1 Stranrarer (North)
Directions Follow signs from Stranraer to Kirkcolm.   The last road on the right is Larg Rd.   Just beyond it on the right is a small parking place.
Location Near chicken huts
Photo Tips Impressive view of ferries entering the loch.   Best with a good quality long lens.   On a clear day, Ailsa Craig can be seen.   The scar is also clearly visible in the foreground.
Local Tips None
Time of Day All day
2 Kirkcolm (South)
Directions Follow signs from Stranraer to Kirkcolm   Just past the boat yard on the right at Wig Bay is an unmarked gravel track.   Follow this to the end, taking care with pot holes and standing water.
Location Stay with the road right to the end.   There is a brick hut and a fine selection of rubbish and seaweed everywhere.
Photo Tips The scar is a peculiar geographical feature - a spit of sand that juts out into Loch Ryan.   For some reason the adjacent land seems as though it is lower than the water level, so it affords some unusual shots.   Ferries can be photographed from the mouth of the Loch all the way down to Cairnryan and vice versa.
Local Tips Give a nod to the man walking his dog.   Like Groundhog Day he's always there, come rain or shine.   It's pronounced "Kir-come" by the way.
Time of Day All day
3 4 5 Corsewall Point
Directions Follow signs from Kirkcolm to Corsewall Lighthouse.   Road becomes single track about two miles from the end.
Location Best spot is at the gate of the Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel.   All three shots (3,4,5) can be taken here.
Photo Tips This location is about 30 minutes from Stranraer by ferry and about 20 minutes from Cairnryan.   Fast craft do it in about 20/15 minutes respectively.   Be there early so as not to miss the action.   Fast craft pass at top speed so can make for impressive photos.
Local Tips This is possibly the windiest location in Scotland so hold on tightly to all loose items or they may end up in County Antrim.   There is almost no mobile phone signal so beware sheep and frisky bulls.
Time of Day Morning is usually the best - sun is in the right position - and there's less chance of ferry delays.
Photo Diversity Top Tips
It can be challenging to take unusual photos but there are several possibilities in the area.   Occasionally in winter, the loch is absorbed in hazy sunshine which provides an atmospheric effect.   Night shots are not so effective, and I don't know anything about early morning shots as I'm always in my bed at the Fernhill Hotel or Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel.   There is an evocative pose at the Princess Victoria memorial in Agnew Park.
Take a tripod
It's windy
Take a hat
It's windy
Be aware of security
Cameras can be seen as a threat
Watch out for electric fences
Designed for cows not humans
Visit Stranraer museum
See the Princess Victoria display
Photo Facts (from top to bottom)
Stena Caledonia at Stranraer in August 2002.
Stena Voyager at Stranraer in December 2002.
Galloway Princess at Stranraer in July 1984.
Stena Galloway at Stranraer in September 1994.
Galloway Princess at Stranraer in July 1983.
European Causeway when new at Cairnryan in August 2000.
Superstar Express at Cairnryan in August 2002.
Pride of Ailsa in Loch Ryan in August 1992.
Holyhead Ferry I (covering for the Ailsa Princess) in Loch Ryan in April 1973
Stena Galloway entering Loch Ryan in December 2001.
Stena Galloway in Loch Ryan in December 1995.
Stena Caledonia passing Milleur Point in December 1995.
Stena Voyager passing Ailsa Craig in December 1996.
European Causeway passing Corsewall Lighthouse in December 2002.
Stena Line
P&O Irish Ferries
Stranraer Museum
Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel
Fernhill Hotel


Links to other Photo Transport articles
Stranraer and Cairnryan ferries - fleet 2003
Galloway Princess - Stena Galloway - Photographic History
European Causeway
Princess Victoria Disaster
Larne Strike 1974 - Ferry Photos at Stranraer



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