EIGHT ferry services have had to be suspended while other services were hit by cancellations due to issues with weather and a ferry breakdown.

One service will remain out of action till at least this weekend.

Ferry services on one of Scotland's busiest lifeline ferry routes to and from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis were among those suspended due to "strong winds and sea well" by mid-afternoon on Wednesday.

The vital 10.30pm freight service from from Stornoway was cancelled and the 3am trip the other way on Thursday has been delayed till nooon.

Ferry operator CalMac said: " Cancelling a sailing is a decision we do not take lightly. We know it will inconvenience our customers and the communities we serve.

"However, the safety of our customers and crew must come first. In this instance, the Master of the vessel has judged it is necessary in response to the assessment of adverse weather conditions."

HeraldScotland:

Early 7am and 10.30am sailings to and from Ullapool were already cancelled for Thursday morning.

Problems with the starboard main engine of the 21-year-old MV Hebrides has meant that services to and from Uig on Skye will be cancelled on Thursday and Friday.

Engineers are due to attend on Thursday to try and fix the vessel.

The state-controlled ferry operator said it was investigating possible contingency plans via South Uist.

"We recognise that cancelling a service can be very challenging for our customers and the communities we serve and apologise for the disruption this will cause," said CalMac.

There were cancellations in September when problems with an oil leak on the shaft seals on MV Hebrides, which serves the Uig to Tarbert and Lochmaddy route, were discovered.

HeraldScotland:

Services to and from South Uist which had been suspended for nearly a month since January 3, when an emergency Covid timetable was offline again on Wednesday due to a "combination of vessel deployment, forecast weather and sea swell conditions preventing redeployment"

CalMac has previously said that the Mallaig to Lochboisdale service had remained cancelled due to "vessel availability" being impacted by "emergent steelwork repairs" on the 29-year-old MV Caledonian Isles discovered while it was undergoing an overhaul.

The ferry operator apologised and told users that they were investigating possible contingency plans.

Also hit by service suspensions due to weather were services between Ardmhor on the Isle of Barra and the island of Eriskay and journeys to and from Castlebay on Barra, Uig on Skye.

Also hit by service suspension were the crossings between Uig on Skye and Lochmaddy on North Uist and between Isle of Berneray and Leverburgh on Harris.

There were further service cancellations on another of Scotland's busiest routes to and from Arran, after Covid was detected on board MV Caledonian Isles. MV Hebridean Isles was brought in to support sailings.

But users were warned that all sailings had a heightened possibility of disruption or cancellation at short notice due to adverse weather.

Also hit by cancellations were services to and from Coll and Tiree and the Iona to Mull crossing.

One ferry user who missed an medical appointment on Wednesday morning due to a cancellation said that it was hard for CalMac to cope as they were having to deal with an ageing fleet.

"Someone needs to get a handle on this because it is wrecking the island economy," he said.

HeraldScotland:

While industry experts agree the working life of the ferries is 25 years, nearly half of the 33-strong ferry fleet run is older than that, with eight, including Hebridean Isles, past their 30th birthday.

Ferguson Marine which runs the last remaining shipyard on the lower Clyde was nationalised after it financially collapsed in August 2019, amid soaring costs and delays to the construction of two lifeline island ferries.

The delivery of new island ferries MV Glen Sannox and Hull 802, which were due online in the first half of 2018, was found to be up to five years late, with costs doubling to over £200m.