The Sir Walter Scott
Many of our readers will have made the magical journey along Loch Katrine from the Trossachs Pier to Stronachlachar aboard the SS Sir Walter Scott, but how many know the rich history of this enduring boat that has been sailing these waters for over 100 years?
She is the last surviving screw propelled steamship in service in Scotland and, remarkably, is still powered by her original steam engine!
The tourist potential of sailing amidst the unspoiled scenery of the Trossachs was realised by two hoteliers, Robert Blair, owner of the Trossachs Hotel, and Donald Ferguson of the Stronachlachar Hotel. Their businesses, situated at either end of Loch Katrine would clearly benefit from a steamer service linking the two properties.
In the last year of the 19th century they commissioned the building of the Sir Walter Scott.The contract went to William Denny & Bros Ltd. at an agreed price of £4,269. This figure included a delivery charge of £2,028 indicating that the construction was just part of the challenge. How were they to deliver this 115 ton vessel capable of carrying over 400 passengers from their shipyard in Dumbarton to the land locked waters of Loch Katrine? The solution was ingenious and must have required considerable organisation.
On its completion in 1900 it was disassembled and the sections loaded onto barges and taken along the entire length of the River Leven from its mouth on the Clyde to its source at the southern end of Loch Lomond. They were then towed the 20 miles along the loch to Inversnaid where they were unloaded and dragged by horsedrawn cart up the steep hill at the rear of the Inversnaid Hotel and on to Stronachlachar where the boat was re-assembled and launched.
One would have thought that such an unique event would have been covered by the press, but it was not, probably due to the fact that journalists of the day were pre-occupied by the ill-health of Queen Victoria, two military disasters in the Transvaal and the attempted assassination of the Prince of Wales - hardly a quiet news day!
The Sir Walter Scott ran regularly throughout the entire 20th century, scarcely affected by two world wars and unimagined advances in technology, but finally due to her increasing age and additional standards required to meet Health and Safety regulations she ran into financial problems as the century ended. But the good news is that our new Scottish Executive has come to her aid with financial help that will ensure her continued operation for the foreseeable future.
At Lochs and Glens we will continue to support this grand old lady for as long as she continues to ply her familiar run. In the coming season Loch Katrine cruises will be included in many of the itineraries from the Loch Achray and Inversnaid Hotels.
One of our new destinations in 2007 will be a visit to Scone Palace in Perthshire. It is now home to the Earl of Mansfield, but 1,500 years ago it was the capital of the Pictish kingdom and an important seat of the ancient Celtic Church. In the intervening centuries it has been the home of parliaments and the crowning place of kings. It has housed the Stone of Scone and been immortalised in Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Visits, which will be featured in many of our itineraries at the Loch Tummel Hotel, will include a tour of over half of the palace including all of the formal rooms with their fascinating array of treasures.