Just a short walk along our beach will bring you to The Maid of the Loch, a magnificent example of Clyde-built ship engineering with a stunning art deco-inspired interior.
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 support they hope to safely steer the Maid to a new phase of her life, relaunching her as a fully operational paddle steamer.
The Maid is the very last paddle steamer to be built in Britain, and is the UK’s only remaining example of an ‘Up an Doon’ Vessel – A ship that’s been built twice!
Assembled in the Glasgow shipyard of A&J Inglis, the Paddle Steamer Maid of the Loch was, first of all, bolted together and then taken apart, transported to her new home in Balloch on rail wagons and reassembled on the Balloch Slipway before her launch into the sparkling waters of Loch Lomond on Thursday 5th March 1953.
Licensed to carry 1,000 passengers, she was the largest paddle steamer to sail on Loch Lomond and was host to royal guests and celebrities as well as three million day-trippers during her 28 years on the water. Many of these people have very cherished memories of sailing on the Maid and many more know of the ship by hearing about these memories from older friends and relatives. Dates, engagements, weddings and wakes – the Maid has hosted them all!
The Maid’s popularity as a pleasure steamer was at its height in the 1950s and early 1960s. But as the lure of affordable foreign travel beckoned, so passenger numbers and revenue dwindled. Decommissioned in 1981, the Maid was subjected to a sorry period of neglect, decay and vandalism until her purchase, in 1992, by Dumbarton District Council.
Advertised as having ‘commodious saloons’ and serving ‘lunches and teas of the highest quality at popular prices’ she was the last (and largest) in a long line of paddle steamers to sail on Loch Lomond. For 28 years, she gave great pleasure to millions of visitors who enjoyed sailing on the ship and exploring the villages and climbing the hills around the shores.
It was in 1996 when, on the point of dereliction, she was rescued by the very determined volunteers of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, who continue to take care of her to this day. An ambitious rescue mission, where the aim was always to return the ship to sailing again on the Loch, was launched. Since then our charity, staffed entirely by volunteers, has raised over £2m and invested this in the first stages of the Maid’s conservation.
To find out more about the continued efforts to restore her to her former glory and to plan your visit go to https://www.maidoftheloch.org/