May 2015:
Paddle Steamer Waverley Season 1973

May 2015:
Paddle Steamer Waverley Season 1973

On 1st January 1973 the Caledonian Steam Packet Company, owners of the Waverley, acquired most of the vessels in the fleet of MacBraynes and emerged newly constituted as Caledonian MacBrayne. To mark the change the ships were given a new funnel colour so for the 1973 season alone, which was to be her last before being sold into operational preservation, Waverley sported these newly painted red funnels with black tops adorned with red lions rampant on yellow discs.

Her excursion programme that summer, as set out in the leaflet above, offered the following options:

Mondays 28 May until 27 September:
Afternoon Cruise Round the Island of Bute

Depart Gourock 13.05 -> Dunoon 13.25 -> Largs 14.15 -> Rothesay 14.50 then cruise anti-clockwise round Bute to Millport 17.00 -> Largs 17.30 -> Rothesay 18.05 -> Dunoon 19.00 -> Gourock 19.20.

Collecting passengers at the principal resorts of Gourock, Dunooon, Largs and Rothesay the steamer points her bow northwards past Loch Striven and Colintraive into the famous Kyles of Bute.

After passing Tignabruaich the course is set down the west side of the Isle of Bute towards Inchmarnock Island. Fine views of Arran and the Kintre peninsula are obtained.

On round Garroch Head and between the Islands of Great and Little Cumbrae to Millport and Largs.

Tuesdays 5 June until 25 September:
Round the Lochs and Firth of Clyde

Depart Gourock 09.00 -> Dunoon 9.20 -> Rothesay -> 10.10 ->Largs 10.50 then cruise clockwise round Bute calling again at Rothesay before proceeding into Loch Long and turning at the mouth of Loch Goil before returning to Dunoon 16.15 ->Wemyss Bay 16.40 -> Largs 17.15 -> Millport 17.45.

The steamer sails from Gourock via Dunoon, Rothesay and Largs before pointing her bows out between the islands of Great and little Cumbrae and across the main shipping channel, affording fine views of Arran and Kintyre.

She cruises on through the world famous Kyles of Bute and calls again at Rothesay.

Having left Rothesay and Dunoon astern she steams into deep and dark Loch long.

As Waverley paddles her way up between the steep wooded hillsides and turns at the mouth of Loch Goil, one imagines that one is sailing up a Norwegian Fjord.

Wednesdays 30 May – 26 September:
Round the Lochs and Firth of Clyde

Depart Rothesay 10.00 -> Largs 10.40 -> Dunoon 11.30 –> then cruise into Loch Long and back to Gourock 13.05 -> Dunoon 13.25 -> Largs 14.15 -> Rothesay 14.50 -> then on round Bute anti-clockwise to Millport 17.00 -> Largs -> 17.30 -> Rothesay 18.05 -> Dunoon -> 19.00 -> Gourock 19.20.

Essentially this was the same trip as the “Round the Lochs and Firth of Clyde” on Tuesdays but instead started at Rothesay and ran with the itinerary reversed.

Thursdays 31 May – 27 September

This was a repeat of Monday’s afternoon cruise 13.50 – 19.20.

Fridays 1 June – 14 September:
Tarbert (Loch Fyne) via Kyles of Bute and cruise Loch Fyne

Depart Gourock 08.50 -> Dunoon 09.10 –> Wemyss Bay 09.30 -> Largs 10.10 -> Rothesay 10.50 -> through the Kyles of Bute calling at Tighnabruaich 11.35 -> Tarbert 12.40 then cruise up Loch Fyne turning opposite Ardrishaig and Lochgilphead -> Tarbert 15.00 -> Tighnabruaich 16.10 -> Rothesay 17.00 -> Millport 18.00 -> Largs -> Dunoon 19.20 –> Gourock 19.40.

Leaving the principal resorts of Gourock, Dunoon, Rothesay and Largs astern the steamer passes through the world famous Kyles of Bute calling at the yachting centre of Tighnabruaich en route and rounds Ardlamont Point into the long leg of Loch Fyne.

Tarbert is an attractive town with an almost landlocked harbour and passengers may disembark and explore.

It was across the narrow neck of and between Tarbert and West Loch Tarbert that Viking raiders carried their longships before plundering the Clyde estuary.

Waverley continues her cruise northwards on Loch Fyne turning opposite the twin townships of Ardrishaig and Lochgilphead.

Saturdays 26 May – 8 September (except 9 June):
Afternoon Cruise to Tighnabruaich (Kyles of Bute)

Depart Gourock 14.05 -> Dunoon 14.25 -> Largs 15.15 -> Rothesay 15.50 -> Tighnabruaich 16.35 with an hour ashore depart 17.30 -> Rothesay 18.20 -> Largs 19.00 -> Dunon -> 19.50 -> Gourock 20.10.

Having left Gourock the steamer sails via Dunoon and Largs to Rothesay and then on past Loch Striven, Colintraive and through the world famous Kyles of Bute to Tighnabruaich.

On occasion this cruise may be operated by other vessel.

Note: Vessel calls at Largs outward and return from 23 June.

Sundays 27 May until 27 September

This was a repeat of Monday’s afternoon cruise 13.50 – 19.20.

Distilling this down to basics, the timetable offered an afternoon cruise 13.50 – 19.20 round Bute at the same times from each of the calling points, four days a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursday and Sundays.

Two days a week, this round Bute trip was extended to become a day trip 09.00 – 17.45 or 10.00 – 19.20 by the addition of a cruise into Loch Long with the itinerary offering round Bute first and then up Loch Long on Tuesdays and up Loch Long first and then round Bute on Wednesdays.

On Fridays there was a day trip 08.50 – 19.40 to Tarbert and on Saturdays an afternoon cruise 14.05 – 20.10 to Tighnabruaich.

The 1973 season opened with four fewer Clyde piers operational than the previous year. Craigendoran, (once the main base of the LNER padders), Innellan, Blairmore and Arrochar, (the destination for the main service for which the Waverley was designed and built in 1947) had all now closed.

Waverley was scheduled to start on Good Friday but was not in service until Easter Monday when she filled in on the the Largs to Millport ferry. Throughout the summer she continued to run as required on the ferry services at busy times and was sometimes replaced on her excursion programme by one of the Diesel Maids.

Paddle Wheels reported that she had a number of days off service spread throughout the season with various boiler and paddle wheel problems but that she carried more passengers overall than the turbine steamer Queen Mary II.

Waverley ran the occasional charter including, on 15th September, to the Clyde River Steamer Club when she sailed from Glasgow to Campbeltown and on 29th September to Brodick under charter to David and Charles, the famed transport publishers.

Otherwise her 1973 sailings were pretty much all on categorised waters. Indeed one interesting point to note is that all of her advertised excursion sailings in her 1973 leaflet were on categorised waters with absolutely none of them proceeding to sea beyond the Class IV (then called Partially Smooth Waters) MCA (then the Board of Trade) limits which in the summer include the Clyde right down to the seaward side of Bute and into Loch Long. Nor was she scheduled to run any public sailings to or from Glasgow.

With the weather being kind, Waverley’s excursion programme was extended to 30th September on which date she ran another afternoon trip round Bute. It was her last passenger sailing under the Caledonian MacBrayne flag.

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.

John Megoran

John Megoran