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FIRTH OF CLYDE, UK  
Follow PS Waverley down the Clyde from central Glasgow into the glorious Firth of Clyde where the estuary turns into a beautiful patchwork of blue seas and green hills, dotted with islands


Above : Waverley at her home base Pacific Quay, outside the Science Centre on the south bank of the Clyde just downstream of Glasgow city centre, in February 2016. Courtesy of Kenny Whyte

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The demise of shipbuilding on the Clyde can be illustrated by this view from the Govan side of the river over to Pointhouse, where the river Kelvin flows into the Clyde at the extreme left of the picture. The unusual modern building is the new Riverside Museum, built on the site of A&J Inglis and Co, who were the builders of Waverley herself. The paddler fitted out at the mouth of the Kelvin. The tall ship Glenlee, owned by a heritage trust, is now moored outside the museum. The former Govan ferry has recently been reinstated as the museum, itself a big tourist draw, has brought new life to a once-derelict area. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte (2011). The the right, Yorkhill Quay betrays little evidence that it was once a bustling cargo berth and the Yorkhill basin has now been filled in to provide car parking space for the new museum. The "de-industrialisation" of this part of the Clyde has been astonishing
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The River Clyde was once a fascinating river, lined with shipyards and associated industries. Nowdays there is little in the way of industry. Even the small ferry at Erskine has gone - a result of the construction of the Erskine Bridge, which dominates its surroundings. It great height is required to let shipping pass under - but what was once a busy commercial river sees little traffic nowadays. Waverley has just passed under the bridge returning to Glasgow. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte

View back towards Glasgow from Erskine with two of the surviving Titan cranes in view - at Clydebank and the Finnieston crane in central Glasgow. Photo by Kenny Whyte


Above : Waverley passes Dumbarton Rock and Dumbarton Castle heading towards the Firth on the opening day of her short pre-summer season on May 27th 2016. Photo by Kenny Whyte. By this point, the Clyde is estuarine in character and the tidal mudflats are plain to see. There is only a narrow navigable channel which requires periodic dredging to allow ships the size of Waverley and larger to get to Glasgow
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Above : It is almost a two hour sail from central Glasgow to Greenock (above) where the Clyde really widens out and the Firth begins. Greenock, a major port town in its heyday, was chosen as the railhead for the Glasgow & South Western Railway for its services to Dunoon and Prince's Pier became a major steamer departure point. When the Caledonian Railway extended its own line from Greeock to Gourock, a couple of miles further downstream, Prince's pier lost much of its importance, though continued to operate for many years. Once Clyde Steamer services disappeared entirely from Greenock a modern container port was developed and there is now a cruise ship terminal. Since going into active preservation, Waverley has been a regular caller at Greenock's Custom House Quay and is seen being nudged round by tug "Biter" at the quay in 2011. Beyond the warehouses of the modern terminal, the hills of Cowal and Argyll can be seen. The industry all but disappears and one enters a different world ....... the UK's  Highlands & Islands
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Above : Greenock Panorama - April 17th 2012 : Waverley has just arrived at Greenock and can be seen at Custom House Quay awaiting dry-docking. In James Watt Dock, MV Balmoral lies ahead of Cal-Mac's ferry MV Finlaggan as she also prepares to move round to the Garvel dry dock adjacent to where she is tied up. In the background at the cruise terminal is Princess Cruises' MV Grand Princess (109,000 GRT and 290 metres long). The titan crane at the dock is a solitary reminder of what was once there - a forest of cranes - not only for cargo handling but ship building and ship repair which lined the sea-front at Greenock until the 1980s. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte


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Above : Beyond Greenock and the nearby traditional steamer terminal of Gourock, the widening estuary turns south at Cloch point, marked by a lighthouse. In the above photo, Waverley is returning upstream from a day's sail, with the small passenger vessel Ali Cat providing the last vestiges of a passenger service on the Clyde between Gourock and Dunoon. In the background, the mountainous Isle of Arran veers up behind the flatter isle of Bute. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte.
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Above : Blairmore pier, at the entrance to Loch Long, is only a short hop from Dunoon, but couldalmost be in a different world. A number of mansions line the loch side and in the late 18th century many would have been owned by businessmen from Glasgow for use as summer homes. In those days, Clyde steamer services, at least in the summer months were such that with steamer and connecting train it was perfectly deasinle to commute daily to work in the city. Throughout the 20th century the raison d'etre for piers such as Blairmore disappeared and one-by-one they closed. Blairmore was amongst those, but remained in decent condition and was restored in order that Waverley could call, under the ownership of a preservation trust.
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Above : When built in 1947 and for most of her commercial working life, Waverley sailed from Craigendoran, near the mouth of the Clyde at Helensburgh to serve the tiny hamlet of Arrochar at the head of Loch Long. Waverley still offers a weekly cruise into Loch Long, but does not venture as far as Arrochar where the steamer pier is now derelict. Instead she diverts into Loch Goil for a short cruise, turning at a wide point in the loch at Carrick Castle. In this view taken in 2012, the fjord-like nature of the area is unmistakeable and in murky and wet weather, the scene can be rather haunting. The still water of Loch Long penetrates deep into UK Highland scenery, evoking images far removed from industrial Glasgow.

Above : The Firth of Clyde effectively marks the boundary between the  "Highlands" and the "Lowlands" in the western side of the northern part of the UK. The Clyde Estuary, which once took large cargo vessels to the once mighty port of Glasgow and was the gateway to the world for the countless ships built on the river's shores in the city, opens out into the broader Firth and the first main resort is Dunoon. Although Dunoon is actually on the mainland, the short sea crossing takes you to the gateway to the highlands and western isles, but the trip by road is a very long one to the Cowal peninsula on which Dunoon is situated. Dunoon has been a popular resort since the mid 19th century and is still one of the busiest ports of call for Waverley. The Clock lighthouse can be seen clearly across the Firth from Dunoon.
Waverley calls at the new "breakwater" built just to the south of the old steamer pier. With the loss of the car ferry link to Gourock in the same summer, even the new linkspan appears redundant as the only ferries now calling are one of two small motor vessels (including MV Ali Cat) on a hastily arranged passenger-only replacement service. Had the loss of the car ferry been known a few years earlier (it was completed in 2005 but not used) it is quite possible that the new landing stage would not have been built, the steamer pier left to decay and Dunoon left without a service. With car passengers able to go via the nearby Western Ferries' service at Hunter's Quay, foot passengers would have a problem getting to and from the resort - and Waverley would have lost one of her most important ports of call. As it is, a decision has been made to refurbish the old pier, but it is unclear whether Waverley will call their once again. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte

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Above : Rothesay is probably the main resort on the Firth. The capital of the Isle of Bute has a castle which is one remnant of a long history which tells of the area's original uneasy relationship with the powers which resided on the mainland. The gaelic-speaking western areas retained a spiritual independence for much of their history, although Rothesay no longer represents anything but the favoured destination for day-trippers from Glasgow. The town is situated in a bay which was once busy with steamer traffic and the pier commensurately large. Since the wirthdrawal of cruises by Cal-Mac, it has onlt been served by Waverley in the high summer and year-round by the car ferry shuttle to Wemyss Bay, leaving plenty of space for yachts and small craft although the local fishing fleet has, like the pleasure steamers, been decimated. The infrastructure has been further "improved" in recent years - a link-span for end-loading on the new ferries Argyle and Bute and an obtrusive variable-height passenger gantry.
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Above : The Kyles of Bute - pretty lonely and desolate yet only four hours sailing time from the international metropolis of Glasgow. Waverley still sails through these "Narrows" en route to Tighnabruaich and Tarbert, where the haunting images of the Highlands provide for a magical day out
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Above : The Isle of Bute nestles closely alongside the Argyll shoreline and at its north, the narrows it forms are known as the Kyles of Bute. In this photo, Waverley approaches the Argyll settlement of Tighnabruaich, with the narrowest point of the Kyles not far ahead. Only a collection of houses in a remote landscape, Tighnabruaich's name reminds one that thus really is old gaelic country even though it is makes a comfortable sail for the excusionist from Glasgow or the mainland coast.
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Above : On leaving the Kyles, the Firth opens out and there are significant expanses of water between the islands. Ahead is Arran and to the right is Skipness Point on Kintyre which is actually the mainland although to the west of Arran. Loch Fyne lies to the right and the Firth's largest sea loch stretches back deep into highland territory.

Above : Tarbert pier has been threatened with closure on numerous occasions, but the village at the entrance to Loch Fyne remains a regular calling point for Waverley. There is also a summer-only car ferry service across the Loch, the other side of which in this 2004 view is obscured by mist. Unfortunately it is a reasonably walk from the pier to the village which is situated in a beautiful natural harbour and Waverley cruises allow little time for exploration. The steamer pier was relocated here once ships became too large to access the harbour, which remains open to a fleet of small fishing boats. Waverley genrally offers a short cruise in Loch Fyne whilst she is here - but no longer gets to the head of the loch and the attractive town of Inveraray - once a favourite destination for patrons of Clyde cruises.

Above : Now a regular Sunday destination, the small village of Lochranza lies on the north-western shore of the Isle of Arran. The steamer pier fell into disrepair after services ended around 40 years ago, but in the early 1990s, a new jetty was built to accommodate Waverley. For such a small place, traffic can be busy when Waverley calls and meets up with the local car ferry which, in summer months, shuttles cars and passengers over to the Kintyre peninsula, which shelters the maze of waterways making up the Firth of Clyde from the Atlantic ocean beyond.
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Above : The main steamer port on Arran is Brodick.  Since the inauguration of the car ferry Glen Sannox in 1957, the island has been served by a lifeline verhicle ferry service to Ardrossan, but remained a popular destination for excursion steamers. The village nestles in a protected bay. On the north side is Brodick Castle and the Goatfell mountain towers over the surroundings. Waverley is seen above in 1989 having swept round the bay to approach the steamer pier from the west. The facilities for the car ferries have been continually improved in order to handle larger ships and heavier traffic. The latest work meant that Brodick was unavailable for calls by Waverley in 2016 and it was unclear as to whether Waverley would, in fact, be able to use the facilities in future

Above : Largs is the main resort on the mainland side of the upper Firth and an important stopping point for Waverley, as she always was for Clyde steamers. The slip inside the pier is used for the regular car ferry to The Isle of Cumbrae. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte

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Above : Millport, on the small island of Great Cumbrae (named because it is larger than it's nearby sister, the Little Cumbrae) is no more than a village but it boasts a cathedral church (far right in the photo above). The threat of pier closure has been headed off and Waverley is still able to call, whilst the island is served by car ferry from Largs via a slip at its north-eastern end. Numerous rocky outcrops make the approach to Millport tricky. Behind the island across the main channel of the Clyde is the island of Bute and behind that, the Cowal peninsula, part of the mainland.  Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte
Millport pier became unavailble for use in 2015 with Waverley having to use the Marine Research Station's nearby Keppel pier. It remains unclear whether Waverley will be able to use Millport again as money to renew the pier is not currently available and there is the risk of the old structure being demolished. 


Above : Ayr was once a major holiday resort on the Clyde coast and whilst it has lost much of its trade, it still sees a fair number of visitors. Traditionally a major excursion steamer was stationed at Ayr, where the river Ayr enters the Firth of Clyde and berthed at the quayside inside the breakwater and in what was then a busy port for small cargoes and fish. In preservation Waverley revived Ayr as a call, basing herself there for two days a week in a normal summer. Whilst there is still activity at the port (some of which has led to Waverley having to delay or even abandon calls in recent years), much of the quayside is being redeveloped, including for flats as seen above. From Ayr harbour there is a direct view across to the isle of Arran. Waverley is seen leaving Ayr on 15th August 2011. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte
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Above : About the furthest from the Upper Firth that Waverley normally goes ..... a cruise around the remarkable granite outcrop of Ailsa Craig.   Ailsa Craig is famous for being the source of most of the granite used in curling stones and also has the nickname "Paddy's Milestone" as it marks half way on the se route from Glasgow to Northern Ireland. Photo by Kenny Whyte
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Above : Modern car ferries now shuttle between the the main ferrying points, not deviating from their routes and not offering the possibility of tours of the Firth. The paddle steamer Waverley which operates a varied excursion programme in the summer months maintains the tradition under ownership of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. Whilst its programme remains fairly fixed with a weekly cycle of popular cruises, there is more flexibility on a Sunday to explore the outer reaches of the Firth, and occasional calls are scheduled at far flung ports such as Girvan (above) which would otherwise not see a passenger ferry. Such unusual trips are generally well patronised as seen in this photo taken in 2011 kindly given for use by Kenny Whyte.
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Above : One of the furthest-flung outposts which Waverley visits is Campbeltown, near the southern end of the Kintyre peninsula. The port was a regular calling point for Clyde steamers and the fast turbine steamers were associated with this run, right up to an beyond the demise of TS Duchess of Hamilton in 1971. Calling in on her way to and back from  her early season programme in the western Isles, calls are normally supplemented by one of Waverley's "Sunday Specials" cruises. In 2013, the call was made on Sunday 21st July. The port lies in the protected bay of Campbeltown Loch. On the left of this photo is Davaar Island which is connected to the mainland on the right at most times of the tide by a shingle bar. The open route to the sea at Kilbrannan Sound is to the left of the island. Kilbrannan sound runs between Kintyre and Arran and the cruise allows passengers views of Kintyre and the western side of Arran, with a short extension beyond Campbeltown to Sanda island and the Mull of Kintyre.


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