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Gills Harbour Ltd

Photograph of Gills Harbour LtdWhy choose Gills Harbour?

  • Closest mainland port to Pentland tidal stream
  • Conveniently sheltered between two of the Pentland Firths major tide-races
  • Excellent year round access
  • Community owned
  • Safe, natural harbour
  • Pentland Ferries mainland terminal
  • Harbour development land
  • 18 miles from Wick Airport

    About Gills Harbour
    While Scrabster to Stromness is the longest continuously used ferry route to Orkney, started in 1856, historically the Gills Bay area has been the main setting off point from the mainland to the islands of Stroma and Swona and Orkney itself. This route, known as The Short Sea Crossing, is generally considered to be both the quickest and safest across the waters of the Pentland Firth. At present Pentland Ferries operate a year round service on this route to St Margaret's Hope on South Ronaldsay.

    The first pier was constructed in 1905 with the harbour some time later. In the 1980s Orkney Island Council decided to re-introduce the short sea crossing from Gills Bay to Burwick on South Ronaldsay. Tens of millions of pounds were spent on a new ferry and building a terminal and linkspan at Gills Bay together with similar facilities at Burwick. The service started on the 15 August 1989, sailing to Houton near Orphir as dredging still had to be done at Burwick, and ended on the 16 September 1989 when the linkspan at Gills was damaged by heavy weather.

    It was then realised that it would be impossible to run a regular service as planned due to the weather conditions and the operation was closed down, the ferry being laid-up for a while before being utilised by Orkney Ferries for inter-island work. Recently Burwick has been used by the passenger-only ferry which operates from John o' Groats during the summer.

    In the late 1990s Andrew Banks, an Orkney entrepreneur and founder of Pentland Ferries saw the potential of re-introducing the short sea crossing and attempted to get the use of the terminal. It was only after he had threatened to build his own a short distance away that the council relented and he obtained a 99-year lease on the site. With a handful of local workers and some second hand construction machinery he spent two years, living in a caravan on site, making the terminal better able to withstand the swell and weather conditions experienced. This involved the construction of a pier, incorporating the Dolphins (freestanding structures a vessel lies against) constructed by the previous operators, together with some dredging work.

    By the summer of 2001 Pentland Ferries were ready to start regular sailings with their vessel the MV Pentalina-B to St Margaret's Hope. It was soon realised that even with these improvements there would still be problems and that a much longer pier would be needed. Fortunately an old floating dock was available for disposal at Lerwick. This was purchased, towed to St Margaret's Hope, where it was cleaned of all contaminants and then towed to Gills Bay where it was sunk to form a continuation of the pier thus greatly increasing its length. Old oil transfer hoses from the Scapa Flow oil terminal were used as fenders for the ferry while rock armour was dumped on the seaward side for protection against the waves. The tanks have been filled with concrete and the dock itself filled with the spoil from dredging to make more room for the ferry to manoeuvre. By the time all this work is finished the dock will be incorporated into the pier.

    At present it is designated as a wreck and exhibits two green lights at its seaward end, rather than a pier which shows two red lights. As all this work is funded by the ferry company at present (2006), work continues slowly as finances permit. It is planned to continue dredging to make sufficient room for a ferry to turn round if need be and then possibly extend the pier again at an angle at the seaward end to stop the swell which is sometimes too great for work at the linkspan.
    From Wikipedia.

    Postal Address
    Gills Harbour Ltd
    Gills Bay
    KW1 4YB

    News for Gills Harbour Ltd

    Gills Bay Crossing Busiest Sea Route In CaithnessThumbnail for article : Gills Bay Crossing Busiest Sea Route In Caithness
    OFFICIAL FIGURES SHOW MORE PEOPLE AND CARS SAILED ACROSS THE PENTLAND FIRTH FROM CAITHNESS TO ORKNEY IN 2016 FROM GILLS BAY THAN ON ANY OTHER ROUTE.   Official figures recently published by Scottish Government 'spending watchdog' body Audit Scotland show that the so-called 'short sea-route' from Gills Bay to St Margaret's Hope was the busiest seaway to Orkney across the Pentland Firth in 2016.  
    Take-over Of One Inner Sound Meygen Contactor By A Venerable Larger One
    One of the contractors that has been operating in the Inner Sound for Atlantis RL's MeyGen site has been taken over by another, a much-larger one.   See note on Insight Marine Services Ltd of Cornwall.  
    Gills Harbour AGM - Tuesday 21st March 2017Thumbnail for article : Gills Harbour AGM - Tuesday 21st March 2017
    Notice of Annual General Meeting: On Tuesday 21.03.2017 @ 19.30.   Gills Harbour Ltd: A Community- owned trading Company limited by guarantee.  
    Huge Jackup Barge Arrives in Pentland Firth For Turbine Installation WorkThumbnail for article : Huge Jackup Barge Arrives in Pentland Firth For Turbine Installation Work
    Jack-up barge Neptune arrives in the PF's Inner Sound early this afternoon 22.09.16.  German tug Elbe, which will be working closely with the self-propelled JU, is already on site.  
    Installation of underwater turbine and foundation structures at Pentland Firth: Notice to MarinersThumbnail for article : Installation of underwater turbine and foundation structures at Pentland Firth: Notice to Mariners
    Update From Bill Mowatt.   'Notice to mariners': Installation of first tidal-stream turbine in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound at Atlantis RL's MeyGen site c.  
    Gills Harbour Sees More Activity To Progress Energy ProjectsThumbnail for article : Gills Harbour Sees More Activity To Progress Energy Projects
    On Friday 18th September 2015 the 24 metre-long rectangular steel multi-cat C-Chariot built in 2013 was to be seen loading a Data-fish buoy at Gills Harbour, Caithness.   North Sea systems Ltd who own the Datafish describe it on their web site ( as follows - "DataFish is North Sea System's metocean survey buoy for unforgiving marine environments.  
    Seabed cable-laying operations in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound, off CanisbayThumbnail for article : Seabed cable-laying operations in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound, off Canisbay
    Seabed cable-laying operations in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound, off Canisbay, which may occur in the period 10.09.15 to 25.09.15.   The cable ship being used in the Inner Sound is the 121 metre long Siem Daya 1 and she will reel in the four cables at Hartlepool in NE England.  
    Green Isle and Lodesman At Gills HarbourThumbnail for article : Green Isle and Lodesman At Gills Harbour
    We thank John Green for his picture of what £4.5 million of marine renewables vessels + kit looks like when alongside at Gills Harbour..  
    Mini-ship Green Isle Begins Work In Pentland FirthThumbnail for article : Mini-ship Green Isle Begins Work In Pentland Firth
    The most modern vessel in the Far North of Scotland's 'marine renewables' fleet is conducting debut operations in the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound this week.  (commences 24.08.15).  
    David Stewart MSP Visits Gills HarbourThumbnail for article : David Stewart MSP Visits Gills Harbour
    Scotland's Shadow Minister for Transport Mr David Stewart, Labour MSP for the Highlands & Islands constituency, has made a fact-finding visit to community-owned Gills Harbour on the shores of the Pentland Firth's Inner Sound.   There he was shown around by three officers of Gills Harbour Ltd (GHL), the Canisbay company that owns and operates the Scottish Mainland's most Northerly port.  

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