The Maid of the Loch was built in the Coronation year, 1953, the last of a long line of paddle steamers to sail on Loch Lomond. Sadly, she was withdrawn from service in 1981 and left to decay at Balloch Pier. In 1993 a restoration project was launched and in 1995 she passed into the ownership of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, a charity whose main aim is to return her to steam operation on the Loch.
With the determination of volunteers and financial assistance from Scottish Enterprise Dunbartonshire and the European Regional Development Fund, Maid of the Loch was reopened as a static business venture in the autumn of 2000.
She currently serves as a restaurant, bar and function suite for static use at Balloch Pier until the funding needed to restore her to sailing condition can be raised.
Her story began in 1950 when the newly formed British Transport Commission decided to build a new paddle steamer for Loch Lomond. The Maid of the Loch replaced the elderly Princess May and Prince Edward and remains the largest vessel to have sailed inland waterways in Britain.
She was built by the Glasgow shipyard of A & J Inglis, then dismantled and taken by rail to Balloch where she was reassembled. She was finally lowered into the water on Thursday 5th March 1953, and entered service later that year.
The Maid of the Loch saw two Royal visits, in 1965 and again in 1971, though during both the 1960s and 1970s her future was constantly under threat as trading losses accumulated.
On what subsequently turned out to have been her last day of service, Sunday 31st August 1981, Maid of the Loch carried a capacity crowd. On 2nd December 1981 it was announced that she would not sail the following year, and seven weeks later she was advertised for sale.
After several changes of ownership, Maid of the Loch was finally acquired by Dumbarton District Council on 4th December 1992, and on 22nd May 1993 her 40th Anniversary was marked by a special celebration on board.
Between 1993 and 1997 the old deck was lifted and a new steel deck laid to replace it. The mahogany deck of the cafeteria was saved, though sadly the original wood panelling has been lost. The cafeteria now serves as a function suite with seating for 100 diners.
The Dining Saloon has been fitted out with carpeting and new furniture, and equipped as a bar for the function suite, with accommodation for 60. In 2000, the Observation Saloon was refurbished prior to fitting out as a Café/bar and interpretive centre. The deck shelter window frames were restored by students from Anniesland College, as were the elegant bar tables.
Restoration of the ship for static operation, including her new colour scheme, rebuilding of the pier and provision of car parking was completed in autumn 2000. Since 2002 visitors have been able to combine a visit to the Maid of the Loch the nearby Loch Lomond Shores development. More recently the nearby Balloch Steam Slipway has also opened to visitors, while the adjacent Duncan Mills Memorial Slipway is operated by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
The Maid of the Loch is available for weekend lunch and dinner parties; and is licensed for civil weddings and has banqueting facilities for up to 100 guests. Enquiries are welcome: check their website for contact information.