Following much speculation about when, or indeed if, a new ferry service linking Cowal and Inverclyde would commence, Western Ferries started their route between Hunter’s Quay and McInroy’s Point on Sunday 3rd June, 1973.
For the new service, the Company introduced two former Swedish ferries with bow and stern loading, allowing straight through roll-on, roll-off operation.
Following a refit at Greenock the first ferry was renamed Sound of Shuna, and ran at hourly intervals throughout the day, between 0700 and 2200. Sound of Shuna was joined on the crossing in mid-July when the second vessel, renamed Sound of Scarba, entered service.
Soon Western Ferries was making a considerable impact on travel to and from the Cowal peninsula - so much so that additional tonnage was needed before long. This appeared in August 1974, when the former Isle of Wight ferry, Lymington, entered service as Sound of Sanda.
In April 1985 the Company was restructured taking on its present title of Western Ferries (Clyde) Limited. Another ferry was purchased, which joined the fleet in June 1986 as Sound of Seil.
Traffic continued to increase rapidly and in 1988 yet more tonnage was added in the shape of Sound of Sleat, a ferry that had previously been used on a river crossing in Holland.
By now Western Ferries was carrying significant amounts of the traffic between Cowal and Inverclyde. To cater for this two further ferries were purchased from Dutch owners, joining the fleet in 1995 and 1996 respectively, as Sound of Scalpay and the second Sound of Sanda. Both vessels were re-engined and given thorough overhauls at Greenock before entering service. These ferries replaced the older Sound of Seil and Sound of Sanda.
In 2000 the Clyde shipyard, Ferguson Shipbuilders Limited of Port Glasgow, was awarded a contract to design and construct the Company's first new-build vessel. The design brief was for a vessel purpose built for the route based on the many years of operational experience of Western Ferries. This vessel was named Sound of Scarba and was delivered in 2001. Two years later the Company took delivery of a second sister-ship vessel from Fergusons, which was named Sound of Shuna.
The Company ordered a further two new ferries in 2012 from Cammell Laird Shiprepairers & Shipbuilders Limited of Birkenhead, Merseyside. These vessels were named Sound of Seil and Sound of Soay. They were delivered in October 2013 and replaced the Sound of Sanda and Sound of Scalpay, which were sold to new owners. These vessels represent a further evolution of the proven optimised design of the earlier Clyde built vessels.