Kintyre ferry launches after pilot run
A seasonal ferry service linking North Ayrshire and Kintyre is due to resume after a Scottish government decision to make it permanent.
A pilot service between Ardrossan and Campbeltown has operated for the past three years.
It was the first new Calmac route for 20 years, and was used by about 30,000 passengers during the pilot.
The sailings provide an alternative to the three to four-hour drive between Campbeltown and Glasgow.
Tourism businesses in Kintyre said the new service had made a difference to the area's economy and helped reduce its isolation.
The service provides three sailings a week in each direction during the summer season.
Until the 1930s, sea travel was the main way of reaching Kintyre from the central belt.
The decision to make the route permanent was taken after Transport Scotland hired consultants to carry out a full evaluation.
The research suggested that more than half of the passengers were visitors who spent £1.2m in Kintyre between them. Four out of 10 of them would not have made the trip without the ferry.
But they also believe there is still some way to go before the service fully realises its potential. Some businesses say many visitors who might have preferred the ferry did not realise it was an option.
Calmac and Serco are shortlisted for the next contract to run Hebridean and Clyde ferry services. A decision on who should get the contract is due this summer.
'Years of decline'
In the short-term, significant changes to the service are thought to be unlikely. The vessel used also runs additional sailings between Ardrossan and Brodick on Arran.
In the longer-term, some campaigners hope to see an enhanced timetable.
The resumption of the ferry coincides with the re-opening of Campbeltown's historic town hall which has been completely refurbished. The two join several other examples of regeneration in the area, which suffered years of decline.
Work is also under way on a major project to revamp the town's cinema which opened in 1913.
The Picture House, which is one of the oldest purpose-built cinemas in Europe, is due to re-open next year.