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PS Waverley    (launched 1946) 

Operating Area : Firth of Clyde (high summer) and  UK coast (late summer/autumn)
All you need to know about Waverley : her specifications, her remarkable history and how to get the best out of sailing on her, with the only independent and fully detailed on the internet guide to what to expect when looking to take a trip.

Above : Waverley at Ilfracombe on 7/6/09 by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte

Waverley is owned on behalf of a small heritage preservation and educational charity which aims to own or otherwise help preserve the few remaining British examples of a type of ship which was once commonplace and continue to provide excursions of the kind traditionally offered. 

An arm's-length operating company, Waverley Excursions, provides a full-time and (almost) daily service in the sailing season, for which bridge, deck and catering crew are employed.  A small full-time office staff is contracted throughout the year for essential management, administration and marketing. Sailing revenue normally covers operating costs, but only a portion of maintenance costs and the ship's survival depends on donations and volunteer work from its supporters.

Please remember that Waverley is very expensive to operate and maintain and therefore needs a lot of revenue to survive from year to year, now over 40 years since she was withdrawn from service as "uneconomic". She is run on a shoestring budget (but of course complies completely with all safety requirements) and is not backed up by an extensive central administration or personnel at the piers she calls at. Whilst sheltered conditions on the Clyde mean that there are few if any disruptions to her service there, her visits to the Bristol Channel, South Coast, Thames and Irish Sea can be beset with problems if conditions are unfavourable. Nevertheless, the charitable objects of her owners include making traditional paddle steamer trips available to as many people as possible around the country, despite the issues encountered in areas where navigation can be problematic

Where is Waverley just now ?  

Waverley completed  her annual mini-season in southern Britain on 9th October 2016 and the following afternoon left the Thames to return north for a final weekend of Clyde sailings before retiring until next year.
On the afternoon of 13th October she arrived back in Glasgow.

Click here to track with

Waverley is based in Glasgow and in high summer offers a range of cruises on the Firth of Clyde into areas of magnificent natural beauty and calling at resorts such as Dunoon, Rothesay, Largs and Brodick (click here to see photos of this attractive area). She also spends parts of the year sailing in areas which, many years ago, lost their own paddle steamers, such as the Bristol Channel, the south coast of the UK and the Thames estuary, which are currently served after the main summer season. There is usually a short programme of cruises in the Western Isles prior to the summer season. 

Since 1974 she has been owned by a (now) charity (Waverley Steam Navigation Company, "WSN") on behalf of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (itself a charity, click here for more details) and operated by Waverley Excursions Ltd, a subsidiary of WSN. Home base and winter lay-up location is Pacific Quay, Glasgow, adjacent to the Science Centre and BBC Scotland offices - with an administrative office on the opposite north bank of the Clyde at Lancefield Quay.

She is marketed as the "World's Last Sea-Going Paddle Steamer" to the extent that some of her cruises now see her venture out of protected estuarine waters and visits to other sailing areas often involve journeys across open seas. Other surviving paddle steamers in the world operate on lakes, rivers and estuaries. However, she was not originally intended to be "sea-going" and it was not until 1977 that she first left the relatively calm waters of her native Firth of Clyde in search of out-of-season business. 

She takes her name from the series of novels written by Sir Walter Scott, names from which were widely used by one of the companies operating on the Clyde. There were a number of other paddle steamers named Waverley operating in the UK, although none during the lifetime of this version of Waverley. See the section near the foot of this page for more details. 


Dimensions : 239 ft 11 in (73.13 m)  long - 57 ft 3 in (17.45 m) maximum breadth - currently around 6 ft 3 in draught (1.91 m)

Engines :  Three crank triple expansion : 24, 39 and 62 inches x 66 inches - by Rankin & Blackmore, Greenock

Fuel : Originally coal-burning, she was converted in 1957 to consume fuel oil.
Boilers : 1947 - Double-ended Scotch type
(now preserved at the Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine). 1981 - Babcock Steambloc. 2000 - 2x Cochran Thermax
Speed : On trial she managed 18.37 knots but is limited to 16 by her certification. Normal service speeds generally do not exceed 14 knots

Fuel consumption is around 0.7 tonnes (755 litres) per hour of medium fuel oil at an average 14 knots

693 Gross Registered Tonnes

Passenger capacity (2014) : maximum 860 (Class V), 800 (Class IV) or 740 (Class III) - i.e. depending on which category of waters she is sailing in
Note : In 1947 her passenger certificate allowed 1350 passengers and until 2013 was 925 in her most protected sailing areas
In 1973 her allowable maximums were 1350 (Class V), 967 (Class IV summer), 888 (Class IV winter), 571 (Class III - later improved due to extra inflatables etc added)
Her Class III certificate allows her to sail with passengers up to 18 miles from the coast and 70 miles from her point of departure (between April 1st and October 31st only). She also makes other voyages to position herself around the UK coast, albeit now without passengers for these movements

Crewing  (2014) : MCA certification requires a minimum of 19 crew (or 15 if sailing with restricted passenger numbers in Class IV/V waters)

Port of Registry : Glasgow.  IMO Number : 5386954.   Official number : 169494

1946 : Launched 2/10/1946 at builders A&J Inglis, Pointhouse, Glasgow, UK (now the site of the Glasgow Riverside Museum of Transport)
1947 : Entered service primarily on the
London & North Eastern Railway's Craigendoran (railhead) service to Arrochar at the head of Loch Long
1948 : After railway nationalisation transferred to British Transport Commission ownership
1951 : Transferred to the
Caledonian Steam Packet Co, former pre-nationalisation rivals of the LNER and the name adopted for the consolidated fleet.
1957 : Reboilered in time for the 1957 season with oil replacing coal as fuel.
1960 : Radar fitted 
1973 : Withdrawn after the 1973 season by
Caledonian-MacBrayne who had, from late 1969, taken over the business of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company
1974  Sold to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) forefronted by Douglas McGowan and Terry Sylvester for a token 1 fee
1975 : Re-entered service, owned by Waverley Steam Navigation Co on behalf of PSPS
1977 : On 28/4/77, left the Clyde for the first time to cruise from Liverpool and Llandudno as it was believed that she needed to sail beyond the Clyde to survive
1977 : Faced an uncertain future after running aground on the Gantocks rocks off Dunoon on 15/7/77 and losing six weeks worth of vital revenue
1978 : Sailings extended to the south of the UK, setting the pattern for future operation
1980 : Cruised to Cap Griz Nez off the French coast on 12/5/80 for 40th anniversary of Dunkirk evacuation - where the LNER lost PS Waverley (of 1899) 
1981 : A new boiler improved operational and economic performance
1981 : The cruise programme involved circumnavigating Great Britain for the first time
1990 : Sailed to Dunkirk for the 50th anniversary remembrance
1998 : Awarded Heritage Lottery Fund partnership funding for a comprehensive rebuilding which involved much new materials and new (twin) boilers
1999 : Changes to safety legislation delayed the rebuild and Waverley sailed as normal 
2000 : Rebuild contract awarded to George Prior Engineering of Great Yarmouth. Work commenced in earnest in January.

- Cost escalation meant that the whole ship could not be attended to at this stage.
- Waverley reappeared for the late summer season in 2000 greatly improved but restored wherever possible to 1947 appearance as required by the funding agency.
- Work included much new hull plating (included riveted plates above the waterline for historical accuracy) and some renewal of frame elements, plus new sponsons.
- Wood-grain effect as per her LNER colours replaced the white paint on the deckhouses
and new funnels fitted (correcting the unequal rake present since the 1960s).

2002 : Returned to George Prior Engineering in the winter of 2002-03 for the completion of the rebuilding programme (mainly the forward part of the ship).
2011 : Expensive repairs and lost sailing time led to a national appeal to "Save the Waverley" and a rescuing donation from Euromillions lottery winners, the Weirs
2015 : Appeared without the scumbling (woodgrain effect) on her deck saloons - due to the prohibitive cost and feasibility of renewing the traditional effect.

A couple of common historical mis-perceptions:

Dunkirk :
This Waverley was built shortly after the end of the Second World War and was therefore not at the Dunkirk evacuations. Two paddle steamers named Waverley (one renamed Snaefell for wartime purposes) were at Dunkirk. Waverley was lost during the operation whilst "Snaefell" survived, only to be sunk later in the war. Strictly speaking, this Waverley did not replace the Waverley sunk at Dunkirk, although she was built for the same owners, as the company had already decommissioned the old Waverley without replacement prior to the outbreak of war. The new ship was needed, however, as another member of the fleet, Marmion, was sunk later in the war. Waverley has visited the French coastline off Dunkirk, however, having sailed to take part in commemorative events in 1980 and 1990.

Waverley around Britain : This Waverley remained on the Clyde and never visited other parts of the UK coastline until 1977. Since then she has made short visits to other areas (particularly those where there were once local paddle steamers) outside of her main Firth of Clyde summer season.
Many people remember paddle steamers on the Bristol Channel. The era ended in 1967 when Campbell's two remaining paddlers, Bristol Queen and Cardiff Queen were withdrawn. Both, but Cardiff Queen in particular, bore a reasonable resemblance to the Clyde's Waverley, being contemporaries and the latter built at the nearby Glasgow shipyard, Fairfield's. Waverley first visited the Bristol Channel in 1979

For more about Waverley's history in its Clyde context, see below


Step aboard Waverley.JPG

To step aboard Waverley and go into the deck saloons and below deck, where you can see the restaurant, the bar, the souvenir kiosk and the steam engines..... Click here

What's it like to be on a Waverley cruise ?  
Join three cruises from the 2013 season

Clevedon and Penarth to Minehead on June 5th

Helensburgh to Tighnabruaich on July 20th

Largs to Campbeltown on July 21st 

The Webmaster's view about what sets Waverley apart from most other excursion ships :

- a traditional ship with lots of character and of course the magnificent engines to go and have a look at
- a large ship with plenty of places for passengers to go and explore rather than remain rooted on one seat
- a fast ship which allows cruises which give views of much more scenery than smaller trip boats
- a quiet ship lacking the constant whine and vibration of a motor ship : ideal to make a pleasure cruise pleasureable

Apart from a much smaller set installed in PS Kingswear Castle, there is nowhere else in the UK where one can see a working set of diagonal reciprocating engines in a ship. This is the only triple-expansion set with its three pistons connected to the crankshaft driven by steam at different pressures in each of the three cylinders. 


Please note that this information is unofficial and based on the webmaster's long experience of following Waverley and sailing on her and you are requested to visit the operator's official site for official information regarding the ship, her programme and the terms and conditions for sailing on her

Above : Waverley at her home base outside the Science Centre on the south bank of the Clyde in Glasgow (Feb 2016). Picture by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte.
She sails from here on Fridays, weekends and Monday mornings in the high summer season, with very limited sailings in May and October. Midweek in the high summer she starts her cruises at either Largs, Ayr or Greenock.

If you are not familiar with taking a trip on Waverley, please look at the information below. It is important to understand what you are likely to get - and why.

The webmaster's top tips ? :
- Try and sail midweek if at all possible because there is likely to be much more space aboard

- Join Waverley at Largs, Greenock or Helensburgh when she calls there so as to see the best of the Firth of Clyde but make it not too long a day

Go to  for the Waverley Excursions Ltd website for official information, timetables and on-line booking.
There is also an official Facebook page and Twitter feed - follow the link from the website

Whilst the website has a "FAQ" page and a "Useful Tips" page with important information which you are recommended to read prior to purchasing tickets, the following independent hints might be useful for intending travellers based on the webmaster's knowledge and experience of Waverley. 

Timetable : Basic Timetables and the more comprehensive "Sailing Brochures" for all regional sailings can be downloaded from the Waverley Excursions website once available and are also sent to PSPS members and people on the operator's mailing list. You can register for news and timetables on the Waverley Excursions website. Brochures are distributed to local tourist offices in sailing areas as far as is practicable within the organisation's resources and the work of volunteers. 

Cruise Length :  Waverley offers full-day cruises, but there are normally intermediate calling points where you can start and end your cruise to make for a shorter day. You can stay aboard for the day or get off at a calling point en-route and catch the ship home on her return

Although Waverley is based at Glasgow, she normally only sails from there on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the main summer season.  On Sundays a range of cruises are offered to further-flung parts of the Firth making this a very long day. Most cruises can be joined at mainland piers closer to the Firth (Greenock, Helensburgh and Largs depending on the route for the day concerned), and in midweek, cruises commence at Ayr, Largs and Greenock, making for a shorter day.
Largs pier, Greenock Custom House Quay and Helensburgh pier are only a short walk from Scotrail stations. Ayr harbour is a slightly longer walk from Ayr station.

When Waverley is away from the Clyde a variety of "one-off" cruises are offered in the short time she has in each area in an attempt to offer as much variety as possible from the available piers. Again these tend to be long days, but shorter if boarding at intermediate piers.

Buying Tickets : You can normally buy tickets on board once you have set sail. You can also book in advance on-line on the website or by phone and this is advisable to avoid disappointment especially on weekends when good weather is expected and on special cruises. Waverley's short season on the South Coast and Thames make her very popular on the days she is in the area. There may be occasions when those not pre-booked have to be turned away as capacity is limited by the terms of her operating certificate.

The ship's financial control systems require hard-copy tickets. These are mailed from Glasgow HQ to pre-booked customers (if there is time ..... see WEL website for details) or made available for collection at the purser's office on board otherwise.

Checking and collection of tickets : Tickets are collected on disembarkation as under the present financial control system it is essential to do it this way. It is not possible to check tickets on boarding the ship only because in most instances intending passengers are free to board without tickets and obtain them once aboard. Unfortunately this means that tickets cannot be retained as souvenirs of the trip

Prices : Prices are shown in the Sailing brochures and on the on-line booking system. Public prices are not normally discounted although the operators have, on very rare occasions, used "groupon" type schemes to sell a limited number of tickets valid for use normally outside the peak Saturdays to encourage potential new customers. 

Vouchers for cruises are available for purchase in advance of the season (typically by March 31st) by members of the Friends of Waverley scheme and give potentially significant discounts, but are not refundable and expire at the end of the sailing season concerned.

Season Tickets : Regional season tickets are available for purchase by customers who are or become members of the Friends of Waverley scheme. See the Waverley website for details

Sea conditions and service cancellations / itinerary changes : Sailings are subject to suitable wind and sea conditions and suitable forecasts for the period of the cruise. The ship's operators have strict guidelines regarding sailing in certain conditions which could lead to cancellation, curtailment or alteration of advertised cruises. These relate to safety and comfort aboard and on docking/passenger transfer as well as the potential safety of the ship itself. "Bad weather" in itself is not normally a reason for cruises to be cancelled.  

The Firth of Clyde is a well protected area and the occurence of enforced cancellations is normally very low, but other more exposed areas (such as North Wales and the Bristol Channel) can pose greater problems, especially as they are visited outside the main summer season. Away from the Clyde, piers are more tidal and many can only be visited within certain time windows, so any delay in the cruise could in extreme cases lead to the ship not reaching the next pier in suitable tidal conditions. Some piers have specific issues such as the silting up of the pier area at Bournemouth which is leading to unplanned cancellations when there is a significant swell.

Phone and on line booking secures your ticket and lets the operators know your contact details so they can send you alerts if there is any problem with the sailing, such as impossible weather conditions or mechanical breakdown. However, the decision to call off a cruise or a pier call can be made at extremely short notice and in such cases it is impossible for the small office staff to contact everybody in this way. Sailing status updates are normally posted on the rolling newsbar on the Waverley Excursions website homepage, but recent experience has shown that this is not done on their Facebook or Twitter pages. The company tries to offer an alternative cruise in more protected waters if at all possible in cases where the planned itinerary cannot be followed.

If Waverley is unable to call at any pier at short notice for any reason, they do try to arrange coaches to allow waiting passengers to board at another pier, but this is not always possible. Waverley has no "shore" operation at the piers she visits, so the passing-on of information about programme disruptions can sometimes be an issue, away from the Clyde in particular. 

Refunds : If you contact the Waverley HQ in advance of a booked cruise you cannot go on, they will transfer the tickets to another cruise for you or issue credit against a future cruise, but not issue a refund - see the FAQ page on the website for instructions.

If a cruise does go ahead and you are offered a coach connection, you will not get a refund or credit, whether you take up the offer or not.  

Refunds (or use of tickets on another cruise) are offered if a cruise is cancelled outright. In the case of refunds, unused tickets for the cancelled cruise must be returned to the Glasgow office for cancellation (please see the WEL website for exact details of the cancellation/refund policy). It is the only way to ensure tickets are cancelled whilst the current manual ticketing system is in force because of the policy that tickets can be transferred to later sailings. Whilst this can be a hassle, it does give the flexibility of transfer or refund - unlike for example, theatre bookings which are usually not refunded for any reason. 

Passenger Capacity Limitation & Safety :  Safety is of paramount importance.   The ship's safety management system is audited regularly and compliance with national guidelines is a condition  for the issuing of a sailing certificate by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), the competent statutory authority in this field.

Although Waverley may appear crowded at times, passenger numbers never exceed her stated capacity as described on her official passenger certificate (displayed on the main deck). Passsenger and crew numbers are established with regard to safe evacuation procedures. The purser has, at all times, full information on the number of passengers aboard and embarking, including those without tickets and intending to pay aboard as numbers are recorded at the gangway by click-counter. If the capacity has been met, unfortunately passengers without a booking cannot be allowed aboard. 

Life-saving equipment is available for all, including numerous inflatable rafts which have replaced the traditional lifeboats. Two such boats do remain aboard - on the bridge deck, retaining historical authenticity, but not in a place where they block passengers' views as those originally on the observation deck aft certainly did.

Covered Accommodation & seating : Licenced to carry up to 860 people in the most protected of waters and 740 in outer estuarine areas, there is seating for all. However, Waverley only has around 300 indoor seats spread around the bar, the lower bar and the fore and aft deckhouses. There are around 100 more in the restaurant which should not normally be used unless eating from the servery. It can become pretty crowded when the rain falls outside and can become standing room only. Conversely it can become standing room only on the decks when the sun shines. On the majority of her cruises, Waverley has more than enough  accommodation, but on weekends especially much of her capacity, indoor and out, is filled and Waverley can become uncomfortably full. It must be remembered that without a fair number of "full" days, Waverley would not be able to survive financially. Outdoor seating is on varnished wooden-slatted bench seating, many of which also act as buoyancy rafts if required.

Saturday Sailings : It should be pointed out that the Glasgow to Rothesay run on summer Saturdays often attracts a number of patrons determined to have a "good day out" on board the ship and at the Bute resort - remnants of a local tradition dating back almost to the beginning of the steamboat era when a trip on a steamer meant that the then highly restrictive licensing laws could be evaded. Such cruises can be very crowded and very noisy in the bar area in particular and have sometimes been dubbed a "booze cruise" by critics. On occasion, police have been called to deal with and eject unruly intoxicated passengers. There is often a live band playing in the bar for part of the day. There have been reports of "noisy" crowds at times on Saturdays elsewhere around the UK 

Those wishing for a quieter experience should choose a midweek sailing or Sunday sailing if at all possible. On midweeks the ship is likely to be much less full. However, when she comes to areas like the Thames she has been busy in midweeks due to her only offering a short programme in the area.  

Internal Styling and comfort : The design and decor of  internal lounges might seem out of touch with modern styles, but it was a condition of the Heritage Lottery Fund grant, which allowed her last (and essential) major strip-down and refitting to proceed, that she be restored to a close approximation of her 1947 appearance. Normally sailing on a much shorter route than nowadays, she was never intended as a luxury vessel (although the limited number of booked diners did receive a good quality silver-service lunch and tea), but comfortable enough for the standards and passenger expectations of the day, when post-war austerity prevailed.
Most of the Clyde trips Waverley now replicates were the preserve of the larger turbine steamers of the fleet where capacity and comfort was somewhat greater.
Click here to have a look around Waverley

Food & Drink : There is a restaurant aboard serving hot breakfasts, lunches and teas at the appropriate time of day. It is simple, hearty fare from the ship's galley - canteen style, with a limited choice of dishes, prepared and served by crew members as is the practice in the merchant navy. Please remember that a Waverley cruise is not a "dining cruise" as such and facilities aboard ship for meal preparation are limited in comparison with a specialist restaurant. Menus are available to download from the Waverley Excursions website. The restaurant can only accommodate 100 guests - at a squeeze, so those using the facilities should not linger. A place reservation system has been inaugurated which guarantees a place during busy cruises and can be booked (and paid for, with a 1 booking fee in 2015) in advance or earlier during the cruise. Prices are not cheap (catering staff over and above those needed to meet the ship's safety manning requirement need to be paid full time - not just at mealtimes - and also accommodated on board for the duration of the season),  but are  benchmarked against many "tourist attractions" and in comparison are competitive. Catering is also one way that the ship can generate some much-needed additional funds to survive.

The bar is also quite expensive, at least compared with standard public houses, but generally in line with many "attractions". Tea, coffee, soft drinks and snacks such as crisps, soup and sandwiches are also available (including from the tearoom in the after deckhouse on the promenade deck, behind the funnels). A range of confectionery is available at the Souvenir Shop.
Passengers can take packed lunches and soft drinks (but no alcohol) aboard, but these are not permitted to be consumed within the restaurant. Smoking is allowed outside on deck but smokers are asked to stand "downwind" of the main passenger areas for the comfort of other passengers.

On-board payments : You can pay for your tickets on board using cards, but the restaurant, bar and shop only accept cash. I am not sure why this is but assume it is to limit the costs to the charity as bank charges can quickly eat into revenues. There are also occasions, particularly in Scotland, when Waverley is out of communication range for payment terminals to obtain authorisation for card payments. 

Engines : The massive steam engines are open to public view from the main deck gallery and are certain to impress anyone whether technically-minded or not.

Accessibility : The crew will be happy to assist disabled people to get aboard. A disabled toilet is available on the promenade deck. The main, lower and observation decks are only accessible by steep steps. For more details see the Waverley Excursions website FAQ Page.

Dogs : Dogs are not allowed on Waverley cruises (with the exception of Guide Dogs)

Customer Service : Whilst the overall responsibility of the ship's captain, the Purser is charged with all matters of customer service. Please note that whilst the officers are British the deck and catering crew are not and for them English is not their usual language. In recent years, crew have originated from Poland and Latvia and whilst providing an excellent maritime service, their role in answering customer questions is necessarily limited.

Commentaries : There are often highly informative commentaries on Waverley cruises with interesting and often little-known facts regarding the surrounding scenery and its history. Due to the varying itineraries, these are not pre-recorded, but rely on the availability of a local expert, usually a volunteer from the local branch of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society. Not all cruises benefit from such availability  

What is it like to be on Waverley ? : To step aboard Waverley and go into the deck saloons and below deck, where you can see the restaurant, the bar, the souvenir kiosk and the steam engines..... Click here

The Ship Managers' View : Waverley Excursions' Chief Executive Kathleen O'Neill was interviewed during the 2014 season for the website of the Clyde River Steamer Club, a "Clyde Steamer" enthusiasts' group and it gives a fascinating insight into the issues involved in managing Waverley. 
Click here :

More detailed information about Waverley's operations : Detailed reports by Waverley management (including financial information) are published in Paddle Wheels, the quarterly journal of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (the ship's beneficial owners), which is sent free to members. The magazine includes information about paddle steamers worldwide but also has detailed reports of Waverley's day-to-day cruises provided by a PSPS officer. Members of the Friends of Waverley Scheme receive a periodical e-mail magazine The Funnel, published by the ship's management.

Origins : She was built in 1946/7 for the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and primarily intended for the route from their railhead at Craigendoran to Arrochar at the head of Loch Long, to replace the vessel Marmion which had been sunk on war duty. Historically the route had provided a lifeline for what was once an isolated community, but with roads now having been built, it was more important as one leg of the highly-popular "Three Lochs Tour" which involved a return cruise on Loch Lomond, with associated bus and rail connections. Water levels at Craigendoran made using a paddle steamer the only practicable option and well-tried technology was the quick, cheap and easy solution for a company whose experience with their diesel-electric paddle ship Talisman (of 1935) had been disastrous. Waverley, therefore, appeared as a paddle steamer - the last and only paddler built for the Clyde post-war.

A state-subsidised service :  In the post war era, Waverley's state-owned operators (the British Transport Commission and then the Caledonian Steam Packet Company) who assumed control of the ships after railway nationalisation in 1948, continued to provide an extensive network of services on the Clyde. Waverley, as part of a now-consolidated fleet, took on a wide range of services as required. Most services were not profitable, but the shipping fleets had always been cross-subsidised by their railway company parents, for whom their services were an essential extension, and now they continued with the help of government subsidy. It should be remembered that the Clyde paddle steamers were ferries first and foremost, with day excursions a popular add-on for ships outside the main morning and evening peak. There remained a degree of commuting from the Clyde resorts during the summer months and much business comprised families going to and coming from the resorts in connection with their summer vacation.  Older ships were withdrawn as newer and smaller motor vessels came in to try and limit spiralling costs, but fleet numbers fell as the years progressed with the Clyde coast gradually losing its allure as the summer vacation destination of choice. By the early 1970s, with the the conversion of most Clyde services to car-ferry operation and with the role of a passenger-only ship in sharp decline, the last operational paddle steamer on the Clyde also seemed destined for the ship-breakers. 

Above : Even in the late 1960s there were plenty of vessels at Craigendoran as well as the main base at Gourock. Waverley is at the inner face of the western pier arm as another vessel (probably paddle steamer Caledonia) pulls in to the former LNER railhead. On the right is one of the four "Maids" dating from 1953 : motor vessels and much smaller than the paddlers, but an early indication that the days of the large old steamers were numbered.....However, even the passenger-only Maids had little time left by this time. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte 

Below : Waverley in her final year with Queen Mary II behind too many large passenger-only ships, and it was Waverley which had to go. 
Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte

Cheating the breakers' yard : The paddler Caledonia (withdrawn in 1969) was rescued from the breakers and found a new life as a restaurant ship in London, but the turbine steamer Duchess of Hamilton (disposed of in 1971) had been scrapped as a Glasgow restaurant plan fell through. There seemed little chance for Waverley - but as the last paddler of the line, few wanted to see her lost entirely. Only at the end of the 1973 season was it announced that she had been withdrawn. No fanfare and no chance for those concerned to protest. Fait accompli, it seemed. Remarkably, in 1974, she was taken over by an enthusiasts' group in a deal which was sealed by the purchase of the ship for a 1 note donated by her owners, by that time known as Caledonian-MacBrayne, for the purpose. "Cal-Mac" for their part had avoided the likely public relations backlash from scrapping the last of the long line of the Clyde's much-loved paddlers. Enthusiasts were handed a job which seemed herculean. A return to service appeared unrealistic, but just in case, the sales covenant restricted Waverley's routes to avoid competition with Cal-Mac's surviving excursion steamer Queen Mary. The unexpected was attempted and whilst Queen Mary struggled on only until 1977, Waverley sailed on.

Above: A new lease of life
: Waverley's decks are packed on her first day "in preservation" in 1975, but there were still issues ahead. She had become increasingly unreliable in her final years with Caledonian-MacBrayne and handling the big crowds in 1974 saw her lying very low in the water - and making a lot of smoke alongside  steam. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte. 

Below : Expanding horizons : Waverley off Girvan with Ailsa Craig in the background : much further downstream of her Craigendoran base than she would normally be found in her days with the Caledonian. Re-boilerings, considerable weight reduction and continuous close maintenance has led to the ship becoming more economical than before - and gaining an exemplary reputation for reliability. Photo courtesy of Kenny Whyte

Enthusiast-owned and supported and now a charity in the heritage sector : One of the charitable objects of the PSPS is to bring the opportunity to sail on a paddle steamer to as many people as possible and it also makes financial sense for the ship to visit different regional markets where good business might be expected. The excellent passenger numbers achieved outside the Clyde from 1977 onwards were definitely the difference between success and financial failure. Waverley had to stand or fall on her own account alone.

Operating a large historical steamship such as Waverley is an extremely expensive undertaking. Fares, whilst expensive especially for short journeys, are not out of line with most other equivalent attractions in the heritage sector. The ship's crew (who live aboard the vessel throughout the sailing season) and staff at the operating company, Waverley Excursions, are paid employees but much other work (such as winter maintenance) is done by volunteers. 

The owners have set an exemplary standard in maintaining the elderly vessel. When she was taken over in 1974 she was in a poor state with poor reliability and severe boiler problems. Nowadays what became a  rather down at heel vessel now presents herself in an exemplary way and over the years many changes have been made to her configuration to improve her performance and her passenger and crew spaces.

Whilst the company tries to cover as much of its enormous cost base as possible through fares, without dedicated volunteers and donations from her many supporters the ship would not survive. On a number of occasions, major appeals for funds have had to be made, the latest being in 2011/12 following a run of poor weather and particularly expensive repair bills. A major donation by Euromillions winners Chris and Colin Weir of Largs can be said to have saved Waverley.  The costs and problems involved in running a ship such as Waverley, especially with the modern regulatory environment mean that the ship will not escape a hand-to-mouth existence. Although Waverley's original client base, those who remembered paddle steamers in their heyday, is now dwindling rapidly in numbers, interest in "heritage" matters is greater than ever and the demand for "boat trips" for their own sake is probably just as high now as it ever was. Waverley provides a popular sailing opportunity different to any other in the UK and has developed her own fan base all around the country.

Waverley Tower Bridge 1988.jpg

Above : An unexpected visitor : Waverley passes through Tower Bridge during a cruise from London in 1988. Even if some optimists had hoped that Waverley would sail on after 1973, nobody could surely have imagined that a visit to London for a short end-of-season cruise programme would become a regular annual occurence.  Waverley continues to visit London as well as the south coast of England and the Bristol Channel to this day.


You can give Waverley additional financial support by becoming a member of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, the ship's beneficial owners, or as a "Friend of Waverley" (see the Waverley Excursions website for details). Donations (which qualify for UK Gift Aid if applicable) can be made securely through the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society website whether you are a Society member or not :

Volunteers are able to work aboard the ship over the winter whilst she is moored at Glasgow. As well as established trades such as electrical, joinery and engineering, other unskilled help is welcomed for cleaning, painting etc.  See the Waverley Excursions website for details



Waverley 1947 Alan Brown and GF.jpg

Waverley's first season - 1947 and also her last under LNER ownership.  Waverley now sails in almost exactly the same livery with these colours chosen by Waverley Steam Navigation Company to reflect her history and continue memories of a much-loved fleet.
Photo by Alan Brown, shown by kind courtesy of Gillon Ferguson.


Waverley heads down Firth from Gourock in April 1969, This was the last season when the Clyde had more than one paddle steamer. Caledonia was paid off as the decade drew to a close.   

Click here for more of Waverley in her CSP days


Following the merging of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company and David MacBrayne, Waverley sailed for one season (1973) in new colours. It was a problematic season and the costly and unreliable paddler was paid off by the state-controlled company after only one summer. The company retained two older passenger turbine steamers - Queen Mary for work on the Clyde and King George V for excursions out of Oban - for the time being. Photo by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte.  

Click here for more of Waverley apparently ending her career in Cal-Mac colours


Although most people thought her life owned by preservationists acting in the interests of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society would be short, that was far from the truth and she embarked on the most remarkable stage of her career, surpassing everything she had done before.

Waverley Rothesay 1975 KW,jpg.jpg

An unexpected survivor : Waverley leaving Rothesay in the wake of Queen Mary II in 1975, her first season back after leaving the Cal-Mac fleet. Photo by Kenny Whyte
Waverley's worst times ..... In 1977 Waverley ran aground on the Gantocks rocks off Dunoon and was out of service laid up at the "coal pier" at Dunoon pending repair. TS Queen Mary heads back up the Firth past the stranded paddler in a photo by Kenny Whyte

Page down for more photos of her under the ownership of Waverley Steam Navigation Company (1975-date)

Gordon Stewart has photographed Waverley on a number of occasions over the years for the photo archive :

1975 : At Glasgow
1987 : At Newport

1988 : At Penarth, Bristol and Portishead
1988 : At London
1989 : At Largs, Brodick and Dunoon
1992 : At Penarth, Lynmouth (for ferry to the shore) and Ilfracombe
1993 : At Helensburgh, Dunoon, Rothesay, Millport and Tighnabruaich
1994 : At Penarth and Ilfracombe
1996 : At Minehead and Penarth
1997 : At Newport and Ilfracombe
1998 : At Minehead
1998 : At Helensburgh, Largs and Tighnabruaich
1999 : At Newport and Ilfracombe
2000 : At Greenock
2001 : At Penarth and Clevedon and cruising Steep & Flat Holm, plus extensive on-board photography
2002 : At Newport and Ilfracombe
2003 : At Lochranza
2004 : At Penarth and Ilfracombe
2004 : At Tarbert and Largs
2005 : At Ayr and Blairmore
2009 : At Penarth and aboard for a cruise around the Holm Islands

Photos and series below are by Gordon Stewart unless otherwise acknowledged

WAVERLEY IN THE 1990s by Phil Barnes, featuring in particular the south of England

As well as the Firth of Clyde, Waverley affords the opportunity to see various parts of the UK coastline which were once familiar to paddle steamer customers. Here Waverley approaches Swanage pier with the limestone cliffs of this part of the south coast providing a magnificent backdrop. This photo dates from 1996 and was taken by Phil Barnes. 

Click here for more of Waverley at Swanage

South Coast : 1990 to 1993 by Phil Barnes

Weymouth : 4th September 1994 by Phil Barnes

London : 6th October 1994 by Phil Barnes

Ayr : 11th August 1999 by Phil Barnes


Waverley Portsmouth 2011 KW.jpg

Above : Waverley enters Portmouth harbour in 2011 in a photo kindly supplied by Kenny Whyte
Waverley's financial problems have left many wondering whether, if the paddler survives, she will still visit places such as the south coast of the UK. It is, however, a lucrative market and there is a view that she would be best served spending more time here. Click here for more from 2011 

Cruise from Penarth to Minehead, photos at Minehead and Penarth 13 06 11
Cruise from Largs to Rothesay and Greenock on 11 07 11


Above : Waverley leaves Tarbert for a short cruise towards Skipness.
Click here for more of Waverley at Tarbert 

A range of 2012 photos kindly supplied by Kenny Whyte :

Waverley's pre-season preparations at Greenock

Highlights of the early part of her 2012 Scottish season including the Western Isles

PSPS/CRSC charter of Waverley and The Second Snark to Ormidale on July 8th 2012

Waverley meeting Cunard's Queen Elizabeth at Greenock on August 2nd 2012

Waverley passing MV Isle of Arran at Ardrossan and calling at Girvan

Above : The classic view of any Clyde steamer ..... Tied up at Tighnabruaich on the Kyles of Bute at "half-time" on the popular Saturday run from Glasgow

Photo report of the opening Bristol Channel cruise from Clevedon and Penarth to Minehead on June 5th

Photo report of her sailing from Helensburgh to Tighnabruaich on July 20th

Photo report of her sailing from Largs to Campbeltown on July 21st 

A selection of photos from her Clyde summer season by kind courtesy of Kenny Whyte


See why Waverley began making calls again at this long-abandoned Clyde pier (above, in a photo by Kenny Whyte) and see how she sailed to Liverpool - but was unable to tie up at Llandudno despite a close approach ............ and more. Click here

Waverley's May 2016 drydocking at Dales Marine's Garvel Drydock, Greenock, courtesy of Kenny Whyte


Please note that these were published in advance of the said sailing season and actual cruises undertaken might have been different due to a range of circumstances 

Firth of Clyde - 2013

South Coast and Thames Estuary - 2013

Bristol Channel - 2013

Firth of Clyde and Western Isles - 2014 (issue dated 9th April 2014)

Liverpool and area - 2014 

Bristol Channel - 2014   

South Coast and Thames Estuary - 2014

Scotland 2015          

Liverpool & N Wales 2015    

Bristol Channel 2015    

South Coast 2015      

Thames 2015

Scotland 2016

Liverpool & N Wales 2016    

Bristol Channel 2016    

South Coast 2016      

Thames 2016

 WAVERLEY : WHAT'S IN A NAME ....... and not to be confused with other paddle steamers of the same name

See also the following British excursion paddle steamers named Waverley :

Waverley (1885-1921)
Waverley (1889-1940)
Waverley (1907-1941 ex - Barry)

Waverley derives her name from the novel written by Sir Walter Scott and published in 1814. A number of subsequent novels, originally written anonymously, became known as the Waverley novels as they were originally accredited to the writer of "Waverley". Book titles and characters from these books were adopted as names for ships built for the North British Railway Company's Clyde services (operated by the North British Steam Packet Company), beginning in 1866 with "Meg Merrilies" and "Dandie Dinmont", both characters in the second Waverley novel, Guy Mannering (which also became a ship's name in the NB fleet). 

Waverley itself is an English name and is now an administrative division of the county of Surrey and an ancient parish in which a monastery was founded in 1128, the ruins of which remain. Stone from the dissolved abbey was used in the construction of Waverley House, a stately home close to the ruins, which was visited on several occasions by Sir Walter Scott. The hero of Scott's novel, from the south of England, was called Waverley, perhaps inspired by the Surrey house although there appears to be no link between the fictional Waverley and the family of Scott's hosts. The novel is, however, widely regarded as the first of the historical novel genre, basing its fictional romantic story amongst the tumultuous events of the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

It was not until 1899 that Waverley was used by the North British, by which time the name had already been used for another Clyde steamer. This was in 1885 and for Captain Bob Campbell's Kilmun ferry trade. Found too large for the run she was chartered to a Bristol-based consortium in 1887 and credited with showing that a steamboat service could be operated successfully in that area. When the Campbell business (now run by the retired Bob's two sons) was moved to Bristol in 1889, Waverley became the first ship in what was to become the famous P&A Campbell "White Funnel" fleet. The name was to be given to a later Campbell ship, the former PS Barry, taken over from the Barry Railway Company in 1922. The original Waverley had survived World War I but found to be in no state to be re-commissioned and had been scrapped in 1921. Neither of the two Waverleys survived World War II. The Scottish ship was lost at the beaches of Dunkirk and Campbell's ship was bombed and sunk off Sunderland a little over one year later.  

The current Waverley took the name of the Dunkirk victim although strictly speaking, she was a relacement for "Marmion" which was also lost during the war (the Waverley of 1899 having already been withdrawn from the fleet, with no plans in place for her to be replaced). The name disappeared from the Bristol Channel and South Coast ................ until it was seen once again in what have now become regular visits by the Clyde's Waverley.

Waverley Gantocks 280611 KW.jpg

A remarkable survivor : Waverley passes the Gantocks rocks off Dunoon on 28th June 2011 in a photo kindly supplied by Kenny Whyte. Almost 34 years earlier Waverley grounded on these rocks in an incident which brought an end to her third season in "preservation" and almost brought an end to the whole project. Even though she returned the following season despite the scepticism of many, very few would have been confident that she would still be passing by regularly in 2011 - as she still does to this day.

External Internet Links

Waverley Excursions - Official Website - includes timetables and fares, on-line booking, departure point notes and the official presentation of the vessel

Waverley Calendars :
High quality calendars featuring P.S. Waverley produced by Nick Wober

Chatting about Waverley

You can join the Paddle Steamer Waverley Support Group on Facebook :
This is an informal group not related to the ship, its owners or the PSPS where you can post topical pictures and chat about Waverley

You can join the National Steamships Preservation internet forum for more detailed discussion and analysis at
This again is totally independent

You can join the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society for regular monthly meetings and the quarterly journal Paddle Wheels :
PSPS (Paddle Steamer Preservation Society)

You will be able to engage with this webmaster in all three - as well as by direct e-mail (see below)

Return to other areas of the database relating to Waverley
PSPS (Paddle Steamer Preservation Society) : owners of Waverley
Operational Paddle Steamer List
: European paddlers still in service and notes on other paddlers worldwide

British Paddle Steamer Index : British paddle steamers of the past and present : Main Menu

Owners of Waverley over the years : their histories and vessels

LNER (London and North Eastern Railway)
BTC (British Transport Commission)
Caledonian Steam Packet Co
PSPS (Paddle Steamer Preservation Society)

Operating Areas in the UK - history of operations, operators and vessels in the areas Waverley now serves

Firth of Clyde : Waverley's home base
River Thames
Bristol Channel

Waverley is not the only surviving paddler which sailed for the Caledonian Steam Packet Company

Maid of the Loch at Luss 800 K Whyte.jpg

PS Maid of the Loch (1953-1981) sailed for the company on Loch Lomond, abautiful and famous lake close to the Firth of Clyde and drained into the Clyde estuary at Dumbarton by the River Leven

The ship is owned by a charitable trust, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company who maintain her at Balloch pier and whose volunteers have for many years been restoring her. The aim is to return her to operational service and a financial appeal is in place to try and raise the necessary funds

In September 2015 it was announced that the project had been awarded a first round pass by the National Lottery Heritage Fund allowing final design work to proceed for a return to service. The prospect, should a final approval be given, is that the HLF will provide 3.8 million towards the 5.5 million capital project. 

Waverley is not the only surviving Clyde Steamer

Queen mary Tighnabruaich menu.jpg

TS Queen Mary, until January 2009 a floating restaurant in London, was the flagship of the Caledonian Steam Packet Company until her withdrawal in 1977. In September 2015 she was obtained by a Scottish charity whose objects are to preserve this vessel, now unique in the world and with a fascinating back-story, in her original home port of Glasgow. The charity now needs as much support as possible to ensure she is preserved and cared for - for the benefit of the nation and the Clyde's maritime heritage, but have achieved their first goal. The Queen was towed back from Tilbury in Essex to Greenock, arriving on May 15th 2016.

Please click  here for more details

Bibliography  :  There are many books about Waverley - here is a range of the most important

Waverley Steam Navigation Company
Compilers - Alistair Deayton and Iain Quinn
Published 2014 by Amberley Publishing
ISBN - 978-14456-4155-3
The definitive detailed history of Waverley Steam Navigation Company from 1974 until 2000 with sections written by many of the main players involved in the ship's remarkable survival

Waverley - the Golden Jubilee
Various Contributors
Published 1997 by Waverley Excursions Ltd and Alan T Condie Publications
ISBN 1-85638-025-4 (Hardback) or 1-85638-026-2 (Softback)
The definitive up-to-date and copiously illustrated history, by those involved in her operation and preservation

Waverley - the Golden Jubilee (see above) builds on the long-running Waverley-The Story of the World's Last Sea-Going Paddler, complied by Fraser McHaffie, later assisted by Joe McKendrick and Leslie Brown, first issued in 1976 and reissued with updated text and new photographs up to and including a 7th edition in June 1994 (IBSN 0-9505177-7-1).
P.S. Waverley - Last in the World
Richard H. Coton
Published in 1973 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society
Issued by the PSPS shortly before the announcement of Waverley's "official" withdrawal from service

Birth of a Legend
Compiled by Eric Armstrong, Leslie Brown, Joe McKendrick and Clem Robb
Published in 1987 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (Scottish Branch)
ISBN 0-9505177-4-7
Extensive photo coverage of the construction, launch , fitting out and first season of Waverley

Waverley - A Legend Reborn
Compiled by Stuart cameron and Joe McKendrick
Published in 2000 by Waverley Excursions Ltd
ISBN  0 9505177 8 X
Full colour photographs with extensive captions charting the first phase of the "Heritage Rebuild"

Acknowledgements : All text by Gordon Stewart. All photos by Gordon Stewart unless otherwise achnowledged. Please do not use photos without permission

Contact :
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Above : A sight that most people thought would never happen. Paddle steamer Waverley opens her short pre-summer season on May 27th, 2016 and steams close by James Watt Dock before calling at Custom House Quay, Greenock. Kenny Whyte was able to capture the two last Clyde steamers almost reunited once again following the recent return under tow of TS Queen Mary to the Clyde. Waverley's former fleet-mate, withdrawn in 1977 and laid-up in Greenock until 1981, will be used as a static attraction in Glasgow after being refurbished.