Back to the Past Onboard the Waverley

The moment you step onboard you can sense you will experience a memorable day out. The distinctive red funnels tower above you, timber decks welcome your feet as gleaming brass and varnish create a whiff of nostalgia from the past. This graceful paddle steamer gives pleasure to thousands as she resumes her traditional “Doon the Watter” sailings on the Clyde.

From June 26 – August 31, Oct 16-19 residents and visitors to the West Coast of Scotland will have the rare opportunity to sample a piece of maritime heritage with a trip on this historic ship, with sailings from Glasgow, Helensburgh, Largs, and Ayr amongst others. Once onboard the Waverley you can enjoy the scenery along the majestic Clyde coastline with its breathtaking mountain panoramas, and dramatic lochs which glisten picture perfectly against the water on clear day. Or take a break in the self-service restaurant, ‘Caledonia’ tearoom or the two fully licensed bars. But don’t miss a visit to the engine room where you can gaze in wonder at the huge piston rods driving the cranks on the shaft that turn those famous paddles that glide the ship along at a steady 14 knots.

Waverley Excursions have planned a series of enchanting cruises that visit historic and scenic locations along the Clyde. As the giant paddles churn the newly built Glasgow Harbour waterfront you can sense the tradition dating back to the numerous ships; QE2, Queen Mary included, that were launched from the Clyde to ply their trades. As you sit back, relax and listen to the onboard commentary of the heritage of the Clyde you can really start to imagine how full of life these waters were.

Soon you pass under Erskine Bridge as the famous river starts to open out, a quick stop to pick up passengers at Greenock, well known for its Free French Memorial towering way up high on Lyle Hill, dedicated to the memory of the sailors of the Free French naval forces who sailed from Greenock during 1940-45 and gave their lives in the battle of the Atlantic.

The next port of call is the Victorian seaside resort of Rothesay with its climate so mild, palm trees line the bay. Largs Pier is the next destination, shadowed by the Isles of Little and Big Cumbrae, a buzzing town centre crammed with attractions like Nardini`s – Scotland`s most famous art deco café and ice cream parlour! Stay on board to cruise the Kyles of Bute – probably the best scenic sail in Scotland – and onwards to Tighnabruiach and the village of Tarbert. This trip is known as the “Royal Route to the Isles” and follows the route of Queen Victoria who made the trip famous on her first visit to Scotland in 1847.

Other trips planned throughout the months are: cruise Arrochar and Carrick Castle, frequent sailings from Ayr to Brodick, Lochranza and cruise to Skipness Castle on the north-east corner of the Kintyre Peninsula. The grand finale is on Oct 17 with Waverley escorting the QM2, the grandest, most magnificent ocean liner ever built. Each cruise is a fascinating and memorable experience, as the steady rhythm of the mighty steam engine propels the giant paddles with awesome force as they plunge into the water below. The Waverley is the last operational seagoing paddle steamer in the world, with a history that is just as fascinating as the vessel which dates back to the Victorian era.

The original Waverley was built in 1899, taking her name from Sir Walter Scott’s first novel which was influenced by his visit to Waverley Abbey in Surrey. During World War II the vessel played the role of a minesweeper but was sunk in 1940 while assisting with the evacuation of troops from the beaches at Dunkirk. Six years later the present 693 tonne Waverley was launched by the builders A & J Inglis on the Clyde as a coastal excursion paddle steamer. The diagonal triple expansion steam engine was built by Rankin & Blackmore of Greenock, and propelled the ship during her speed trials at a recorded 18.50 knots as the powerful steam engine turned at fifty-six revs per minute. She entered service on the Firth of Clyde in June 1947.

During the 60’s people changed their holiday habits resulting to a decline in passenger numbers on the coastal cruises and the closure of many of the smaller piers. Eventually Waverley was withdrawn from service after the 1973 season as being too costly to operate and in urgent need of significant maintenance. It was a dismal period for this majestic queen of the coastal routes, but at this time the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had been set up as a registered UK charity and bought the Waverley for the token sum of one pound.

Between 2000 and 2003 the ship underwent a substantial rebuild at the shipyard of George Prior in Great Yarmouth, which returned the ship to her original 1947 condition. This major exercise, which took place in two stages, was funded principally by Heritage Lottery funding. In 2009 an ‘Appeal’ was launched to overhaul Waverley`s boilers, which were installed 10 years ago, following an essential midlife survey. Waverley Excursions wish to thank all those who contributed and for their outstanding level of support to generate funds to enable Waverley to continue to serve the local community and beyond.