Issue 14, Spring 2001
Once the vessel was safely tied up at the hotel pier, several hundred passengers would disembark and make their way to the hotel for refreshment before continuing their journey. Some would be rejoining the boat, but many would be boarding horse drawn carriages for a ride to stronachlachar at the head of Loch Katrine where they would be connecting with another steamer.
Navigation on Loch Lomond first began in 1817 when the P.S. Marion was launched at Balloch at the southern end of Loch Lomond. She was 60ft long, made of wood and it was just five years after Henry Bell's Comet brought steam navigation to Scotland.
Suddenly, it became possible to see places that had only been visited by a very few intrepid travellers being rowed around the loch in stages, stopping overnight at various settlements.
In 1838 the first iron paddle steamer arrived and it soon proved to be indispensable to the lochside inhabitants bringing them mail and essential commodities and returning with sheep and wool for the markets.
In 1850 the railway line from Glasgow to the southern end of the loch was completed and the age of tourism began. It eventually became so popular that at one time before WW2 there were five steamers plying the loch, each rushing from pier to pier to collect passengers before a competitor got there!
Many of the steamers ended their days before being scrapped at Balloch, but one, the Prince George was withdrawn in 1939 and was used in 1942 to give shelter to 400 people after the Clydebank blitz.
In 1953, the Maid of the Loch, the last paddle steamer to be built in Britain, was launched. It sailed for 28 years before finally being tied up at her berth in Balloch where she still lies rotting.
There have been several attempts at financing a restoration project, but sadly it now seems unlikely that we will ever see one of these remarkable vessels gracing the most beautiful of our Scottish lochs.
The Phoenix Suite
November 5th at the lnversnaid Hotel was certainly one bonfire night to remember. At around 3am a fault in a heater started a fire in the foyer that quickly activated the fire alarms. Immediately, a well rehearsed evacuation of the building took place, guests assembled in the car park and all bedrooms were quickly checked.
The hotel staff firefighters went into immediate action with a fire hose and, to their great credit, the blaze was extinguished by the time the local fire brigade arrived.
Although this was the first time in 20 years that an outbreak of fire has occurred in a Lochs & Glens hotel, it is the one incident that we are most concerned about, and fire precautions, fire drills and equipment checks have always been rigorously and regularly carried out by our managements.
Whilst it was worrying at the time, this particular cloud did have a silver lining. For some time we have wanted to refurbish the foyer, but felt reluctant to replace the original Victorian panelling despite the fact that it did have a rather gloomy appearance. But this was the excuse we needed and, with Liz Nicols's expert choice of furnishings and fittings we now have a superb new foyer that befits this uniquely situated hotel.