Maid of the Loch opens today to visitors for Easter and summer season
The Maid of the Loch at its berth in Balloch. Picture by Bill Heaney
By Democrat reporter
The Maid of the Loch, he last paddle steamer built in Britain is opening up to visitors this Easter Weekend for the summer season.
The iconic vessel is currently undergoing major restoration work at its berth at Balloch on Loch Lomond.
From today, Friday, the public can enjoy the newly-refurbished tea room and go on tours of the boat and nearby slipway.
In January, the project suffered a setback when the boat slipped back as it was being winched out of the water for an inspection.
The Scottish government has given the restoration project £950,000 and a further £50,000 has come from the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society.
The restoration is a £5.5m project. Once £1.7m is raised, the Heritage Lottery Fund will release £3.8m of further funding.
Visitors will be able to hear first-hand how the historic vessel is being renovated to restore it close to the original 1950s style.
A refurbished promenade aft deck saloon is set for completion at the end of June for use as an education facility and function suite.
A larger function lounge is also being upgraded, and work is progressing to get the steamer’s engines turning again in the summer.
John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, said: “It really has been all hands on deck in recent months thanks to the funding we received earlier this year, and our naval architects and contractors have worked wonders so far.
“Work is very much still ongoing and will be until June/July time, however there are areas that can be enjoyed by visitors and we are thrilled to be able to open in time for Easter and host our traditional egg hunt.
“We can’t wait to welcome children, families and enthusiasts back on board this year and for them to get a glimpse of the Maid’s former glory.”
At the start of the year, workers had to flee to safety after the steamer broke freeas it was being winched out of the loch.
The 65-year-old ship was being taken from the water ahead of restoration work when it slipped its ties.
Members of the restoration team were forced to run from the side of the vessel as it slid back into the water.