Following a three-year absence due to cracked boilers, Loch Katrine’s historic Steamship Sir Walter Scott, which was built by Denny’s of Dumbarton in 1899, is due to be resume sailing this weekend after the completion of a £750,000 restoration project.
The restoration work on the Steamship involved replacing the two steam boilers and decking as well as other major structural repairs and this would not have been possible without the success of an SOS ‘Save our Steamship’ fundraising public appeal.
The SOS appeal caught the public’s imagination, with donations coming in from throughout the UK and across the world, boosted by grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Stirling Council, Pilgrim Trust, Hugh Fraser Foundation and Gordon Fraser Foundation. The Steamship Trust also covered some of the costs from reserves and a bank loan while suppliers either donated equipment or heavily discounted materials to assist with the restoration works.
The Steamship was painstakingly restored by the Steamship’s own in-house team over an 18-month period with the support of specialist contractors including naval architect Ian Macleod; Byworths of Yorkshire who manufactured and installed the new boilers; Mackays Boatbuilders from Arbroath who replaced decking and undertook hull rebuilding works and Electrotec Marine from Oban who ship electrics. Local contractors John Clark and Hugh Devlin from Callander and Stirling Electrical provided specialist welding, ship painting and electrical services.
Steamship Sir Walter Scott is named after the famous poet, whose 1810 poem ‘The Lady of the Lake’ is responsible for Loch Katrine being credited with being the birthplace of Scottish Tourism. To coincide with the return of the Steamer a new exhibition has been installed on the restored covered pier approach. This multi-media exhibition showcases the rich story of Loch Katrine as a leading tourist destination with a tradition of steamships operating on the loch for almost two centuries.
Gordon Allan, Managing Director of Steamship Sir Walter Scott Ltd, who led the restoration work, said: ‘The return of the steamship to service for the public to once again enjoy sailing on Loch Katrine under the power of steam is a major achievement given the cost and complexity of the repair works as we emerged from the dark days of Covid19 which cast a long shadow over the future of our operations.
We feared Steamship Sir Walter Scott would not sail again and her reintroduction to service this summer has only been possible because of the tremendous support we have received from the public who have demonstrated their affection for the Steamship with generous donations.
We are also grateful to funding bodies for the various grants we have received and our various suppliers and contractors. Importantly, I would like to pay tribute to our own dedicated staff and volunteers who have worked so hard, often in difficult weather conditions, to ensure the restoration works were completed in time for what I hope will be a busy season.’’
James Fraser, CEO and Steamship Trustee, added:
‘‘This national maritime treasure been saved for current and future generations to enjoy the special qualities of Loch Katrine in the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. It will also make a major contribution to supporting active travel, connectivity and climate change actions which are emerging as key priorities in the recently published draft National Park Partnership Plan.
The return of the steamship also coincides with the completion of a major phase of visitor infrastructure improvements at the visitor hubs at either end of the loch with funding support from the VisitScotland Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund. This has included extending car parks, installing electric hook ups for campervans to stay overnight, the provision of facilities for cyclists, improving toilets and enhancing facilities to improve the experience for disabled visitors.
The National Lottery Heritage Fund supported the restoration with a grant of £130,000.
Caroline Clark, Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said: “It’s wonderful to see Steamship Sir Walter Scott back sailing. Thanks to National Lottery players our funding has supported more than just restoration. The project created opportunities for young people locally to learn new skills during the process.
“We also welcome the enhanced facilities to support people with a disability onboard and on land at Loch Katrine. Sailing on this Steamship has been enjoyed since 1900, thanks to this restoration, many more people can also share that experience in the years to come.”
When Steamship Sir Walter Scott first sailed in 1900, she was powered by coal, moving in 2008 to biodiesel, which was a transformational moment. Following this restoration, Steamship Sir Walter Scott’s eco-credentials are even stronger, with the aim of reducing carbon emissions by over 90% thanks to a new revolutionary hydrogen and vegetable oil fuel.
Three classic steamship cruises of 2hour and 1hour durations are available daily with regular shorter 45minute sailings also available on the sister ship, Lady of the Lake. Cruise can be booked online at lochkatrine.com or by telephone: 01877 376315.