Thursday, March 11, 2010

Loch Etive

A nice postcard posted in June 1958 from Ledaig - better known as Benderloch nowadays - just north of Oban in Argyll.

The view is of Achnacloich Pier on the south shore of Loch Etive about 3 miles east of Connel and about 8 miles from Oban. There used to be a halt here on the railway to Oban (between Taynuilt and Connel) but it was closed in the 1960s.

The boat at the pier is the Darthula II. She was built by Dickies' of Tarbert (Loch Fyne) in 1939 and sailed from Achnacloich to the head of Loch Etive as part of a circular tour returning by motor coach via Glen Etive and Glen Coe and then the train from Ballachulish to Connel and Oban. The tour was advertised in Brtish Railways' 1957 "Circular Tours in Scotland" brochure with the Darthula II being described as a yacht and she certainly looks it in this closer up picture:-

Picture credit Simplon Postcards

In 1957, the round trip from Oban was every day (except Sunday, of course) from June to September and cost 19 shillings and threepence (96p) 1st Class or 16 shillings (80p) 2nd Class. You could go either way round but the "anti-clockwise" route involved boarding the train at Oban at 9.18am and alighting at Achnacloich at 9.44am. The Darthula II sailed at 10.15 and, via a call at Taynuilt, took two and a quarter hours to get to the head of Loch Etive arriving there at 12.30pm. 50 minutes later (what did you do at Lochetivehead for 50 minutes if it was pouring?), the coach left for a 2 hour 10 minute drive up Glen Etive and down Glen Coe to Ballachulish. Arriving there at 3.30, it was only 20 minutes till departure of the train back to Oban where it arrived at 5.35pm.


The Darthula II continued on Loch Etive until 1963 after which she gave cruises on the Thames for a number of years. I was quite surprised to discover that she was still sailing in Portsmouth Harbour until the last few years, a little bit altered (and slightly less "yacht-like"), although I can't find her present status - if anyone knows, do leave a comment.

Picture credit Simplon Postcards

Meanwhile, back on Loch Etive, Achnacloich Station has closed as already mentioned and I don't think the pier there exists anymore either. The railway between Connel and Ballachulish also closed in 1966 and the pier at the head of Loch Etive is rotting away from disuse.

Copyright Nigel Brown and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

So there's no longer a circular tour but it is still possible go on a non-landing cruise up Loch Etive from Taynuilt in summer. Until recently, this was on a vessel called Anne of Etive which looked remarkably similar to the Darthula II in her latter incarnation:-

Picture credit Airds Cottage

But more recently, I gather the cruises on Loch Etive have been on a boat called Mara. It even sails on a Sunday. More information here.


  1. I seen a picture of this vessel on Flickr in a delapitaded state but still afloat on Loch Etive but why would she have made her way back to the loch after her south coast career? , if it's the same vessel of course. Did she ever have a twin sister?

  2. The neglected boat now on Loch Etive near the mouth of the Nant is Anne of Etive. In the 1950s, you could pass the time at the head of the loch by walking to some sort of cafe - although I can't tell you what it looked like, because we always stayed to play on the shore. I think during the 1960s the pier became too delapidated to use. I can remember the sadness locally in the late 1950s/early 60s when the young first officer of Darthula was drowned in a boating accident.

  3. The pier at the head of the Loch is now rebuilt to take the timber from the hillsides.
    The Kennedys have retired but there are various boats available to visit the wonderful sights & wildlife of the loch.
    Does anyone have any information about the first Darthula?
    Darthula is named for Deirdre, of local and irish legend