MAID of the LOCH

Boats and cruising firms are making the tourism headlines in Balloch

The Maid of the Loch – thrown a new lifeline. Pictures by Brian Averell and Bill Heaney.

A plan to restore a 65-year-old paddle steamer which once transported tourists across Loch Lomond has received nearly £1m from the Scottish government, BBC Scotland is reporting.

Owners of the Maid of the Loch had feared for its future after a £3.7m lottery funding bid failed earlier this year.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC) said the new cash would be used to repair the ship’s hull and engines.  The steamer has been moored at Balloch Pier since 1996.

LLSC chairman John Beveridge said there was now “real hope” around the project.

Dwindling passenger numbers saw the steamer mothballed.

He added: “Our next step will see the ship brought out of the water in January on to the Balloch Steam Slipway to allow us to carry out an essential ultrasound test of the entire hull to check its condition. Any repairs will then be carried out.”

skylark 3

The sunken Skylark at Balloch.

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society has also confirmed a grant of £50,000 towards restoring the ship.

Meanwhile, John Sweeney, of Sweeney Cruises at Balloch, says he is “absolutely delighted” to have won West of Scotland ‘Best Outdoor/ Adventure Experience’ at this years Scottish Thistle Awards.  This caps off a really great year for the Sweeney’s Cruise Company.

One of the longest running family businesses in Scotland, Sweeney’s Cruise Company has operated boats on Loch Lomond since the 1880s, and in that time has come to know every inch of the Loch’s 23 miles, its varied wildlife, wealth of history, legend and folklore.

In the early days, the company ran on steam launches and rowing boats. Today it’s a different story. Managed by John Sweeney, the fourth generation of the family to work on Loch Lomond, with the help of his wife Catherine and three sons, Sweeney’s Cruises now operate the most luxurious fleet of passenger boats in Scotland.

John said: “Special thanks to all our amazing staff for their hard work.”

And another Balloch boat, once owned and operated by the Sweeneys on Loch Lomond, has received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for it to be restored and refurbished.

See report and pictures earlier in The Democrat.

John and Catherine Sweeney receive their award at the Scottish Thistle night.

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