SS Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine
This classic steamship which sails Loch Katrine in the heart of Scotland, is named after the eminent author Sir Walter Scott who highlighted the Trossachs area in his poem of 1810, 'The Lady of the Lake'. The cruises by SS Sir Walter Scott provide the perfect opportunity for visitors from all over the world to explore this tranquil wooded loch mirroring Ben Venue, the dominant mountain at its easterly end.
Not so much a landmark as a watermark, the SS Sir Walter Scott has been cruising the placid waters of Loch Katrine, from the Trossachs Pier to Stronachlachar, for more than a century.
Once part of a great fleet of pleasure craft that plied the waters of Scotland’s lochs, she is now the last surviving steam screw steamer in regular service in Scotland. Her engines — still the originals from 1900 — are powered by steam, which are generated by burning bio fuel, making her a remarkably ‘green’ vessel. Given Loch Katrine’s status as the principal source of water for Glasgow, few other sources of power would be acceptable.
Built by William Denny & Bros Ltd, Dumbarton in 1900 the vessel was taken in knocked-down form by barge up Loch Lomond, then overland by horse-drawn carts from Inversnaid to Loch Katrine for re-assembly and launching.
She measures 33.8 x 5.8 metres (110 x 19 feet), and weighs 110 tons. When she entered service, the Sir Walter Scott was only one of several such inland-loch steamers offering pleasure sailings. On the right picture you can see what the ship looks like today having had a new front covered viewing lounge added recently.
She is unique as the only surviving screw-propelled steamer in regular passenger service in Scotland, her sleek hull still powered by the original triple-expansion steam engine. However, due to the rising cost of coal, the boilers were upgraded recently and the engine now runs on bio fuel.
To sail on board the SS Sir Walter Scott with the dramatic visual backdrop slowly unfolding, coupled with the gentle rhythms of the almost-silent steam engine and soft lapping water, makes for an enchanting experience few ever forget.
The Sir Walter Scott was not the first pleasure craft on the loch. That distinction belongs to a galley named the Water Witch, which was manned — and powered! — by eight locals in full Highland costume to delight the tourists.
The Water Witch had the loch to herself until 1843, when the first steamer, The Gypsy, arrived. There was intense competition between the two vessels and, despite being powered by old-fashioned elbow grease rather than new-fangled steam, the Water Witch was actually the faster of the two!
The Gypsy disappeared in mysterious circumstances one night soon after her arrival, and later turned up at the bottom of the loch. The crew of the Water Witch were prime suspects in the case of her scuttling, but there were no witnesses and no evidence against them and they were released after a hearing at Dunblane Sheriff’s Court.
The Gypsy was replaced by a new, faster steamer, the Rob Roy. It in turn was succeeded by another vessel of the same name, on which Queen Victoria sailed in 1859 when she opened the Glasgow Waterworks, and again in 1869.
The SS Sir Walter Scott sails most days from April to October, with three sailings a day from May till September. The afternoon cruises do not stop at Stronachlachar.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can hire bikes at Trossachs Pier, catch the morning sail to Stronachlachar and cycle back on the car-free lochside road, a distance of about 13 miles.
Another smaller boat was added some years ago called "The Lady Of The Lake" after the poem written by Sir Walter Scott inspired by his visits to Loch Katrine.
For more information on both boats and to confirm sailing times visit the Loch Katrine page here where you will be able to book tickets online for sailings and enjoy a discount on the tickets prices!
If you like to read more about Sir Walter Scott, his books and poems of Loch Katrine and Rob Roy then visit the Sir Walter Scott page here for more information.
Loch Katrine undoubtably is one of Scotland's bonniest lochs and a trip to The Trossachs would not be complete without seeing it and taking a sail on the loch. In the Summer months its possible to book for one of the Jazz Cruises which are part of the annual Callander Jazz Festival.
Check out the Whats On pages to get more details of events taking place throughout the year in The Trossachs.