|From:||Gills Bay (Caithness)|
|To:||St Margaret's Hope (Orkney)|
|£43 (Car+driver, 2009)|
|Crossings related to the A836|
|Altnaharra Bridge • Black Bridge (Lairg) • Bonar Bridge • Halladale Bridge • Invernaver Bridge|
This is the most recent of the many car-ferry routes to have connected the Orkney Islands to mainland Scotland. It is also the shortest, and so the best value, especially with the new Catamaran in service. The service started in May 2001, originally operating ex-Calmac ferries, but now using the much faster Pentalina Catamaran.
Whilst the ferry terminal on South Ronaldsay may still be work in progress, a new terminal building at Gills Bay offers as good a service as Calmac do! The crossing can take as little as 45 minutes, although more usually it is around an hour and can be up to an hour and twenty minutes in particularly bad weather. The ferry sails from Gills Bay, just off the A836 between Thurso and John O'Groats, to St Margaret's Hope, just off the B9043 on South Ronaldsay, Orkney. There are normally 3 or 4 sailings each way each day, with a capacity of 32 cars and 9 Artics, or around 56 cars alone. The ferry only has a stern loading ramp, meaning that lorries have to reverse on - for Artics this is normally done by the ferry staff with their own fleet of 4 tugs.
Cars are taken on and off forwards, with their carrying space being under the passenger accommodation on either side of the deck, the central space being open and used by lorries and taller vehicles. This allows cars to turn around by using both sides of the deck, one on and one off. The two car areas are marked out for dual rows of vehicles, although this does prove to be a tight squeeze!
Thanks to the use of a catamaran and a shorter, more sheltered crossing, using the lee of Stroma for much of the route across the Pentland Firth, the Pentland Ferry service is less affected by weather conditions than the rival, and government subsidised, Northlink Service from Scrabster to Stromness. This has allowed it to take a significant volume of the commercial traffic heading to or from the Orkneys.
Gills Bay Side
|John o' Groats, Wick (A99), Inverness (A9)|
St Margaret's Hope