The Western Isles missed out on a cruise ships bonanza yesterday – as what should have been a major tourism boost for the Hebrides was blown off course by gales.
The liners Azores and the Sea Explorer had been due to dock in Stornoway carrying hundreds of visitors.
But they were forced to steer clear of Lewis because of the weather.
A fleet of coaches had been laid on to take passengers on sightseeing tours around the island and neighbouring Harris.
But they were all cancelled when the ships’ captains decided the conditions were too bad for them to risk coming inshore.
To make matters worse, a third cruise ship due to arrive at Stornoway today has had to abandon its planned visit.
The MV Hamburg developed technical problems and the 15,000-tonne, 420-passenger vessel was steaming on reduced engine power to Belfast instead.
The 114-passenger Sea Explorer bypassed the islands on the second-last day of a voyage around the Faroes, Shetland and the Hebrides
She was at St Kilda on Saturday, and Canna and Mull yesterday. The ship is now off Oban, where passengers will disembark.
The MV Azores, carrying 512 passengers and 266 crew, sailed north past Lewis, calling at Orkney instead.
A gale affecting the west coast is forecast to ease slightly tomorrow, but strong westerly winds could still disrupt ferry services for the third day in a row.
Waves more than 30ft high were forecast for St Kilda this morning with large swells predicted to affect western coasts on Skye and the Western Isles.
Met Office weather charts showed a band of low pressure moving north-east over the Hebrides today before giving way to an incoming area of high pressure promising sunshine and calmer weather later in the week.
Many west coast ferry sailings were cancelled yesterday because of high winds and rough seas.
The last voyage of the day across the Sound of Harris did not operate while passengers were warned the Barra to Eriskay service could also be disrupted.
The MV Isle of Lewis is stormbound in Stornoway harbour until further notice. Her sailings between Stornoway and Skye were cancelled yesterday but she should return to sea today, weather permitting.
This morning’s freight run by the MV Clipper Ranger between Skye and Lewis was not due to sail because of the weather forecast, meaning island supermarket deliveries being held up for a second day.
Last night’s ferry for Barra was forced to remain in Oban. It means there will be no inward sailing out of Castlebay until Wednesday when the ship sails via South Uist.
Sailings for Colonsay, Armadale and Eigg were also affected, while services for Harris, North Uist, Lismore, Mull, and Iona were all placed on amber alert, meaning cancellation or postponement at short notice.