On Monday 19th July 1971 Maid of the Loch was scheduled to leave Balloch (10.30am) for Tarbet (11.55am) and Inversnaid (12.10 – 12.20pm) before returning to Tarbet (12.35pm) and Balloch (1.50pm).
She was then due away from Balloch (2.30pm) for Tarbet (3.55pm) and cruise to the Head of the Loch before picking up at Inversnaid (5.15pm) and Tarbet (5.30pm) for Balloch (6.45pm).
On Saturdays and Sundays she also made calls at Rowardennan but by this stage in her career the piers at Luss, Balmaha and Ardlui were all closed and not available to her.
The 8.30am diesel train from Edinburgh connected with the 9.35am electric Blue Train from Glasgow Queen Street which reached Balloch in time for the Maid’s 10.30am departure and there was a similar connection from Edinburgh at 12.30pm and Glasgow at 1.35pm for the afternoon cruise.
The full day trip from Balloch round the loch cost £1.10 (£15.66 today) and the half day ticket was 90p (£13 today).
On Sundays 30th May to 22nd August and on Saturdays 26th June to 21st August there were Evening Cruises from Balloch at 7.30pm back 9.15pm. which cost 70p (today £10) inclusive of the return train fare from Glasgow or 35p (today £5) for the trip on the loch so these were super cheap trips back then targeted at less well off market segments.
Other trip options offered included taking the train from Glasgow (9.35am & 1.35pm) to Balloch (10.22am & 2.22pm) for the Maid of the Loch to Tarbet (11.55am & 3.55pm) and then on the train back to Glasgow (2.20pm & 8.26pm) or vice versa.
And on Tuesdays and Thursdays you could have taken the train from Glasgow (10.35am) to Balloch (11.22am) for Maid of the Loch to Tarbet (12.55pm), then a short walk to Arrochar (for 2pm) to catch Waverley (hopefully) for the run down Loch Long to Gourock (4pm) or Craigendoran (4.25pm) for the onward connections by train to Glasgow (5.07pm or 5.36pm). Or you could have done the trip the other way round out on Waverley to Arrochar and back on Maid of the Loch via Balloch. The round trip fare for this was £2.15 (today £31) including second class on the train.
Tiny Point of Detail: Despite her size Maid of the Loch never had a capstan fitted at the stern and generally didn’t use her windlass in the bow when berthing at piers except at Balloch. The technique was to steam up to the piers and put two ropes ashore, one from the top of the sponson forward of the paddle box and a second which was put ashore from the top of the sponson aft of the paddle box but which led aft.
These two ropes were hauled in by hand and made fast. The captain rang slow astern and the force of this translated through the ropes brought the ship nicely alongside. The engine was kept turning slow astern whilst alongside to hold the ship in place. Then, when it was time to go, the forward rope was let go with the engine still running slow astern to lift the bow off the pier. Then the captain rang full ahead and off she went.
I only sailed on the Maid of the Loch once in 1974 and was hugely impressed with watching this maneuver on and off the piers executed by her expert master Captain Neil Nicolson.
Kingswear Castle returned to service in 2023 after the first part of a major rebuild which is designed to set her up for the next 25 years running on the River Dart. The Paddle Steamer Kingswear Castle Trust is now fund raising for the second phase of the rebuild. You can read more about the rebuilds and how you can help if you can here.
This article was first published on 19th July 2021.