Recently Mamacormier (http://mamacormier.wordpress.com) responded to a comment I had written about the ferry she takes to her holiday cabin and the problems of backing onto it. I said we had ferries similar, but larger, on a service across the Clyde estuary. Unlike her ferry, those on the Clyde are ro-ro ferries – ro-ro being the abbreviation for roll-on roll-off. In other words they have a ramp at both bow and stern that attaches to a linkspan, so you drive on at one end and off the other without any need for backing.
This is a larger ferry than the one Mamacormier uses, but in the early years of the service the boats were much smaller, and have grown as traffic has increased.
We used this ferry service regularly when we stayed, for a number of years, on the Cowal Peninsula on Scotland’s west coast. This was an area developed by Victorian merchants, made wealthy by coal and iron, shipbuilding and locomotive building, trade and manufacturing. In search of fresh air, away from the noxious smoke and grime of the rapidly developing city, and to indulge their passion for sailing, the merchants sought areas outwith the city yet within easy travelling distance.
Cowal was one of the areas around the Clyde where they alighted to transform small Highland villages into smart Victorian seaside towns. New railways and steam ships made travel easy and fast, and for the summer months whole households, including servants and coachmen, decamped to the seaside. Many of the Victorian houses have coach houses with accommodation above for the coachman. Horses may well have been transported by the steamships, many modern vessels to the islands still have facilities for transporting livestock, but the coaches are said to have been floated across estuary and loch on flat barges. That must have been quite a sight.
Husbands would come and go as work dictated leaving wives and families to enjoy the beach, paddle, play games such as croquet on the lawn, visit other families, draw or paint and become involved with organisations that did good deeds. The men rode, sailed, played golf and, come the invention of the motor car, took their families for drives by sea and lochs, through glens and mountain passes.
With changes in methods of transportation, and routes rationalised, most of the once numerous piers fell into disuse and decayed. For a short time I was involved with the restoration of one of these piers, opened in 1855 and in regular use until 1973, it is now fully restored and is one of the piers called at by PS Waverley, the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world.