MAID OF THE LOCH, Drumkinnon Bay, Balloch
ACCESS : Easy access on foot, but be aware that you need to go up a gangway. Check opening times. The Maid is currently being restored, but can be visited.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY -
The Maid of the Loch was launched 1953, so this year, 2023 is her 70th birthday.
The Maid of the Loch is located just beyond the slipway and its engine house very near Lomond Shore. These are separate entiities, but can be visited on the same outing.
The Maid is a magnificent example of Clyde-built ship engineering with an art deco inspired interior. Already a much-loved feature on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, she attracts thousands of visitors every year and, over the last 20 years, a loyal band of volunteers has focused every available hour on her conservation. With your support we hope to safely steer the Maid to a new phase of her life, relaunching her as a fully operational paddle steamer.
There is an entrance fee, but it is worth it. Even though she sits against the quayside, she is a very interesting craft. And there is a tea room on board.
This is a passenger ship built to take up to 1000 sightseers up the loch. It was built by A & J Inglis of Pointhouse, Glasgow. It was constructef at their shipyard on the Clyde, then dismantled and transported to Loch Lomond where she was re-assembled on the slipway. On the 5th March 1953 she was launched and entered service on the 25th May 1953.
Length: 191 feet [58.2m] / Breadth: 28.1 feet [8.6m] / Tonnage: 555 gross. Main engine: Steam, compound diagonal. This drives enormous paddles on each side. The engine can be visited. She is very impressive. She can reach (could when launched) a speed of 13.75 knots [25.5 km/h].
Well, this is intended. The ardent team of volunteers have been working for years to return her to operating condition.
By 1981 she was out of service. Then in 1992 she was sold to Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a Charity registered in Scotland. From that time on a dedicated team of enthusiasts have been putting her under progressive restoration. In 1996 she was given a striking new livery of black hull with red boot-topping, white superstructure, and red funnel with black top. During 1996/97, the wooden promenade and upper decks were replaced with steel and aluminium respectively
In 2004 she was officially recognised as an historic ship, being placed on the UK “Designated Vessels List” which recognizes vessels of “substantial heritage merit with regional and local significance” .
The problem with any restoration of historic craft, as with buildings, they are constantly exposed to the elements and deteriorate, so work on them is a race against time, trying to keep ahead. This is certainly the case with the Maid of the Loch. All efforts, although based so heavily on volunteers, is still subject to funding. You can visit her. You can go on board. You can enjoy a cup of tea on her. But you cannot sail on her - yet. But any support at all helps the cause.
While the golden age of steaming on Loch Lomond can never be returned, there is growing interest in sailing on vintage ships. Everyone involved is very optimistic. One day she will sail again.
This paddle steamer is very special in the history of Loch Lomond, the history of local shipping and Scottish social history. It is surprising how we start to lose things of value and react too late.
Another ship on Loch Lomond was the MV Countess Fiona, not a paddle steamer, but a motor vessel. She will be remembered by many. She was scrapped in 1999. The challenges of preserving the Maid of the Loch are well acknowledged and appreciated. Unfortunately the Countess Fiona could not be saved. This link takes you to a feature from The Herald of 1999 that gives both points of view - the intense wish to preserve her and the cold facts of physical obstacles and costs. https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12265157.amazing-fate-of-countess-fiona/
► As you scroll down through these photographs, you will be seeing a craft undergoing dramatic transformation. Keep this in mind as you notice that the crisp black, white and red is removed for intensive maintenance and in preparation for return to its original glory and colours.
The Paddle Steamers Preservation Society website notes : On Monday 4th May 1953 Maid of the Loch ran trials on Loch Lomond under the command of Captain Donald MacDonald. Ordered from the Clyde shipyard of A & J Inglis she was shipped to Balloch in bits by rail and reassembled on the slipw
ay during 1952 and on into the spring of 1953. She was launched on Thursday 5th March with fitting out continuing alongside the Balloch Pier.
THE MAID OF THE LOCH OUT OF THE WATER
68 years later she is back on the slipway. And that is how you can see her at the moment undergoing what seems a very long restoration process.
► Also see the progress photos - May 2023 index.asp?pageid=732265
That restoration process is intensive. While you will have to wait qutie some time to sail on her again, the work being done is absolutely fascinating in itself. It is well worth a visit. Due to the nature of the work, much of it means minimal access by the public - but this is on weekdays. You can visit and take gudied tours of the Maid on weekends. Your support is important.
But even if you arrive while access is limited, the view of the Maid above you on the slipway is imposing. And there is a small museum and a shop at the entrance. Of course the Winch House close by is worth visiting in its own right. See index.asp?pageid=715793
The Maid of the Loch on the slipway in 2022 with the Winch House alongside it.
The great paddles about to get a thorough make-over.
Stripping back of the paddles.
The funnel taken back to bare metal before being restored to its original colours.
These photographs taken of the restoration reflect the extent of the work. But while the work is slow and to some extent frustrating as maintenance has to be done to some aspects already completed or even redone to more thorough and exacting standards, progress is being made. FOR PROGESS PHOTOS SEE THE SUB-TAB : May 2023 - index.asp?pageid=732265
There is a great piece of video footage of the Maid being slipped out of the water, on the 14th July, 2021. For more intensive maintenance here : https://youtu.be/m1fsZEcaU9U Thanks to drone pilot John Rogers and the Dumbarton Cine, Digital and Video Club,
EXHIBITIONS & EVENTS
Besides the small museum within the visitor centre and shop at the entrance to the slipway, exhibitions and other events are sometimes held on board. More can be found on the official website. During 2022 a great exhibition was that of CHARIOTS OF STEAM. This comprised several extraordinary model historic ships ranging from paddle steamers to humble Clyde Puffers all built by LACHIE STEWART. There is another chance to see them as they will be on display in the Denny Tank Museum in Dumbarton during the summer of 2023. index.asp?pageid=716335
SHOP AND MUSEUM
There is a small shop for your must-have momentoes. Your support brings the restoration closer to fruition. And there is a small display within the same space.
To add to your enjoyment of your visit there is the Wild Highlands Coffee House on the quayside where the Maid is usually moored.
MAID OF THE LOCH website : https://www.maidoftheloch.org/
CANMORE website : http://Drumkinnon Bay, Balloch Pier, Slipway And Engine House
GEOGRAPH.ORG website with an excellent summary of steamships on Loch Lomond over the years. http://www.geograph.org.uk/article/Loch-Lomond-Steamers
PADDLE STEAMER PRESERVATION SOCIETY : https://www.paddlesteamers.org/