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PS Waverley  Built : 1946/47.  Substantially rebuilt : 2000/2003.  Operating Area : Firth of Clyde (high summer) and  UK coast (late summer/autumn)
All you need to know about paddle steamer Waverley : its specifications, its remarkable history and independent advice to get the best out of sailing aboard.
Waverley operates as a ship and heritage preservation venture, supported by customer fares, on-board food and souvenir sales and donations from supporters.


The owners are now appealing for urgent cash donations to finance a new boiler installation. Initial estimates suggest that 2.3 million must be raised. If not achieved, the ship will not sail again. See the website :

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

Waverley is owned by the Waverley Steam Navigation Company Ltd (WSN)** on behalf of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS), which aims to preserve the two remaining operational British examples of this type of ship in sailing condition and assist in the preservation of other survivors. The Society has around 2800 members and is a registered charity. It is now over 40 years since Waverley was retired by its state-controlled operators as obsolete and uneconomic at a time when car ferries had taken over much of the steamer fleet's business. The demand for day sails alone appeared to be falling and the assumed only option  was the scrapyard. The ship's owners have managed to defy predictions by maintaining it in service.

Waverley Excursions Ltd (WEL) is the trading subsidiary of WSN and operates a cruise on Waverley most days in the sailing season, for which bridge, deck and catering crew are employed.  A small office staff is contracted throughout the year for essential management, administration and marketing. Whilst Waverley makes a good surplus on its sailing programme, this is generally insufficient to finance the statutory annual dry-docking, maintenance and inspection. Therefore the ship  still requires donations from its many supporters for a proportion of this unavoidable expense as well as for capital programmes and any unforeseen repair bills. However,  financial results in recent years have been extremely encouraging, suggesting that with a modest degree of support (donations and legacies primarily) Waverley is a viable going concern.

Waverley is probably in better condition now than at any time in its history through continuous investment in its fabric, attentive maintenance of its machinery and in meeting ever tighter regulatory controls. In practice, much of the ship's fabric, except for the hull frames and the main engine parts, dates only from 2000 and 2003 when it was substatially rebuilt in two phases. Whilst sheltered conditions on the Clyde mean that there are few if any disruptions to services there,  visits to the Bristol Channel, South Coast, Thames and Irish Sea can be beset with problems if conditions are unfavourable. Nevertheless, a successful programme in these areas provides essential income and it remains an objective of the PSPS to make paddle steamer trips available to as many people as possible around the country.

** Note : All shares are owned under mortgage to the Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in respect of the lottery grant accepted to finance the major reconstruction of the ship between 2000 and 2003

Above : Waverley arrives back at Glasgow from sea trials on May 22nd 2018 - less than three days before the start of the  new season. Photo courtesy of Kenny Whyte


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

Engines :  Triple expansion, three crank  : 24, 39 and 62 inches (cylinders) x 66 inches (stroke) - by Rankin & Blackmore, Greenock  (View here)

Fuel : Originally coal-burning, she was converted in 1957 to consume fuel oil.
Boilers : 1947 - Double-ended Scotch type  
later replaced as follows :  1981 - Babcock Steambloc.    2000 - 2x Cochran Thermax

Note : Her original boiler is now preserved at the Scottish Maritime Museum at Irvine
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 Tons  
ie capacity calculation, not the actual weight of the ship

Passenger capacity (2014) : maximum 860 (Class V), 800 (Class IV) or 740 (Class III) - 
depending on which category of waters she is sailing in

Waverley's Class III certificate allows sailings with passengers up to 18 miles from the coast and 70 miles from its point of departure (between April 1st and October 31st only). The ship also makes other voyages to position herself around the UK coast, but without passengers for these movements. Class IV/V requires it to remain within more restricted waters (ie estuarine, such as the upper reaches of the Firth of Clyde)

Note : In 1947 the passenger certificate allowed 1350 passengers and until 2013 was 925 in the most protected sailing areas
In 1973 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)

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

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

Builders' Yard No : 1330P  
Note -  this is not a sequential number for A&J Inglis' yard. After takeover by the Harland & Wolff company, the yard operated under its original name, but ships adopted a unified H&W yard number, with the "P" denoting the Pointhouse shipyard, Glasgow as the specific yard involved

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 (LNER) Craigendoran (railhead) service to Arrochar at the head of Loch Long
1948 : After railway nationalisation transferred to British Transport Commission ownership and received buff funnels with black tops
1951 : Transferred to the
Caledonian Steam Packet Co, former pre-nationalisation rivals of the LNER and the name adopted for the consolidated fleet.
1951 : Deckhouses were repainted white - but paddleboxes remained, for the time being, black
1957 : Converted in time for the 1957 season to burn oil, replacing coal as fuel.
1959 : Black paddle boxes (LNER/BTC legacy) were painted "Caledonian" white
1960 : Radar fitted
1961 : Welded forward funnel replaced the original stack
1962 : New welded funnel aft fitted - but the rake of each funnel was different, giving an odd appearance from various angles
1965 : Received the "Monastral blue" hull colours of British Rail steamers. The traditional Caledonian funnel colour remained, but with the addition of red lions rampant
1969 : Hull colour reverted to black as the Caledonian Steam Packet Company was taken over by a new state entity, the Scottish Transport |Group
1972 : Black paddle boxes restored. The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society was keen that the ship's status as a paddler was highlighted
1973 : Following the merger of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co into Caledonian-MacBrayne, the funnels were repainted red, with yellow disc and lions retained     
1973 : Withdrawn after the 1973 season

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 in colours approximating those of the LNER (but with white deckhouses)
1975 : Sailed from Anderston Quay, Glasgow, where WSN also established their offices
: On 28/4/77, left the Clyde for the first time to cruise from Liverpool and Llandudno as it was believed that the ship 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 : Sailed from Stobcross Quay (where the ship's offices were also relocated) due to demolition of old offices and warehouses for urban renewal along the Clyde
: 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 : Berth and offices relocated to Lancefield Quay as riverside redevelopment progressed
1981 : The ambitious cruise programme involved circumnavigating Great Britain for the first time
1986 : Waverley's home berth reverted to Anderston Quay but the Waverley Excursions office remained at Lancefield Quay
1990 : Sailed to Dunkirk for the 50th anniversary remembrance
1998 : Awarded Heritage Lottery Fund partnership funding for a comprehensive rebuilding 
1999 : Changes to safety legislation delayed the rebuild and Waverley sailed as normal 
2000 : Rebuild contract commenced in earnest in January at the yard of George Prior Engineering of Great Yarmouth. 

- 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.
- New (twin) boilers
- Some internal arrangements such as companionways and saloons, changed over time, retained their modern arrangements albeit with traditional decoration and styling
- Wood-grain effect as per LNER colours replaced the white paint on the deckhouses. N
ew mock riveted funnels fitted (correcting the unequal rake present since 1962).

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).
2004 : Plans for a new bridge over the Clyde would make Anderston Quay inaccesible, so Waverley moved to the south bank at Plantation Quay (at the Science Centre)
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 its deck saloons - due to the prohibitive cost and feasibility of renewing the traditional effect.

For more about Waverley's history in its Clyde context, see "Waverley's Role as a Clyde Steamer and Beyond" further down this page..


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.
The ship 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 Waverley starts her cruises at either Largs, Ayr or Greenock.

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). It 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 the ship 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). Since 1980, operation has been in the hands of Waverley Excursions Ltd, the trading 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.

Waverley is marketed as the "World's Last Sea-Going Paddle Steamer" to the extent that many cruises now see the ship venture out of protected estuarine waters into what are classed as "sea" by the UK's maritime safety agency and visits to other sailing areas often involve journeys across open seas. It was not until 1977 that Waverley first left the relatively protected waters of her native Firth of Clyde in search of out-of-season business. There are numerous other paddle steamers in the world, but these offer cruises on lakes, rivers and estuaries only although some have on occasion entered coastal waters 

It takes her name from Sir Walter Scott's first novel, the leading character of which was Edward Waverley. Names from Scott's novels were widely used by one of the companies operating on the Clyde for their steamers. 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.

It is newer than you might think : Although celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2017, little apart from most of its framework and much of the engine remains from the Waverley of 1947. The greatest changes took place between 2000 and 2003 with a substantially rebuild, and although ship maintenance requires on-going replacement of parts, there have been other changes which have changed both its external appearance (albeit only slightly) and internal arrangements (much more substantially). Most noticeable was the difference in the rake of the two funnels after replacement in 1961/2 (lasting until 2001), the removal of the aft lifeboats in favour of other evacuation devices - and one change often overlooked : the replacement of the square windows in the sponsons (which were themselves replaced in 2001) by ports, recovered from the withdrawn Clyde buoy tender "Torch" and fitted in 1978 as a condition imposed by the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) for it to undertake visits to the Thames and Solent.

A few common 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.
The current Waverley has visited the French coastline off Dunkirk, however, having sailed to take part in commemorative events in 1980 and 1990.

It replaced the Waverley lost at Dunkirk : Strictly speaking, this Waverley did not replace the Waverley sunk at Dunkirk, although built for the same owners, because the company had already decommissioned the old Waverley without any planned replacement at the end of the 1938 season. They had intended to reduce their fleet size. The new ship was needed, however, as another member of the fleet, Marmion, was sunk later in the war and the ageing Lucy Ashton, which had maintained services on the Clyde during hostilities, urgently needed replacing. 

Waverley around Britain : This Waverley remained on the Clyde and never visited other parts of the UK coastline until 1977. Since then it has made short visits to other areas (particularly those where there were once local paddle steamers) outside of the 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

Where is Waverley just now ?     Click here to track her with


Step aboard Waverley.JPG

Click here  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.


Join three cruises from the 2013 season and see what it is like from a passenger's perspective (Photos and text by webmaster Gordon Stewart) :

Clevedon and Penarth to Minehead on June 5th

Helensburgh to Tighnabruaich on July 20th

Largs to Campbeltown on July 21st

Scroll further down for an independent view on "How to get the best out of sailing on Waverley" (by the webmaster) but intending passengers should ensure thay have read the official information about Waverley from the operator's own materials ......


The operator's official website at - for official information, timetables and on-line booking.
There is also an official Facebook page and Twitter feed - follow the link from the website

Cruises are offered subject to Waverley Excursions' Terms & Conditions

The official website has a "FAQ" page ( and a "Useful Tips" page ( with important information which you are recommended to read prior to purchasing tickets or attending a cruise.

More detailed information about Waverley Steam Navigation Company and its operations : Quarterly reports by Waverley management are published in Paddle Wheels, the journal of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society which is sent free to members. The magazine and includes a review of Waverley's cruising season written from the perspective of a prominent supporter. Members of the Friends of Waverley scheme receive a periodical e-mail magazine The Funnel, published by the ship's management. As a charity, the Annual Report & Accounts of the Waverley Steam Navigation Company are in the public domain and available to download from the Companies House website (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 the resulting article gives a fascinating insight into the issues involved in managing Waverley. 
Click here :


If you are not familiar with taking a trip on Waverley, please look at the information below which is based on the webmaster's knowledge and experience of Waverley. 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
- Avoid sailing on Saturdays to  Rothesay if you wish to avoid a lively bar area, with high spirits possibly spilling over to other areas of the ship
- Join Waverley at Largs or Greenock when she calls there so as to see the best of the Clyde but make it not too long a day

Please read the Waverley Excursions website for more information and make sure to read the FAQs, Useful Tips and Safety Information pages ... and, of course, the Coinditions of Carriage (see the link at the foot of the WEL web page). 

Below are some hints based on problems some customers raise following their trips because they are not always fully aware of  Waverley's circumstances - so please understand why some issues occur

Safety :
Safety is of paramount importance.   The company's safety management system is audited regularly and compliance with national guidelines is a condition for the issuing of a sailing certificate for the ship by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), the competent statutory authority in this field. Safety considerations may lead to some advertised cruises being amended or cancelled outright (see below).
Life-saving equipment is available for all, including numerous inflatable rafts which have replaced the traditional lifeboats. Two boats do remain aboard - on the bridge deck. Some of the passenger on-deck seating acts as buoyant rafts if required.

Passenger Capacity :  Although Waverley may appear crowded at times, passenger numbers never exceed her stated capacity as described on the ship's official passenger certificate (displayed on the main deck - see above under "Specifications" for details) which is issued by the MCA authorities. 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, intending passengers without a booking will not be allowed aboard. 

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 its return

Although Waverley is based at Glasgow, it 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 and/or Largs depending on the route for the day concerned), and in midweek, cruises commence at  Largs and Greenock.
Largs pier and Greenock Custom House Quay are only a short walk from Scotrail stations.  Please note that Waverley will not be calling at Ayr or Helensburgh in 2019. Additional replacement calls have been arranged at Kilcreggan and bus connections are being provided from Helensburgh to the latter (see WEL timetables for details)

When Waverley is away from the Clyde a variety of  cruises are offered in the short time the ship 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 Saturdays when good weather is expected and on special cruises. Waverley's short season on the South Coast and Thames makes the trips very popular when in the area. The short season on the Bristol Channel means that the limited number of cruises are busy, especially at weekends, when they can sell out in advance. There may be occasions when those not pre-booked have to be turned away as capacity is limited by the terms of the ship's operating certificate.

Waverley's financial control systems require hard-copy tickets. For pre-booked customers, these are mailed from the Glasgow office (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 when you leave the steamer because in most instances intending passengers (up to the legal capacity limit) are free to board without tickets and obtain them from the Purser's Office aboard the ship. Tickets cannot be retained by the customer as although  date stamped, there are occasions where unused tickets can be presented for subsequent cruises (see Refunds & Credits, below) and it is impossible to check the dates on tickets at the gangways due to the need to keep passenger flows moving as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this means that tickets cannot be retained as souvenirs of the trip. 

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. Due to the effects of the combination of weather and tides, conditions can change rapidly and the ship's captain may have to make judgements as to whether to cancel, curtail or otherwise alter advertised cruises, often once the cruise has commenced. Certain piers might become inaccessible should conditions conspire to prevent a safe docking. The  guidelines with which the captain must comply relate to safety and comfort aboard and on docking/passenger transfer as well as the potential safety of the ship itself. In cases where the planned itinerary cannot be followed, the captain usually tries to offer an alternative cruise in more protected waters if at all possible . "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 which make calls in certain conditions difficult or even impossible. 

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. 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. They do attempt to contact everyone, preferably by text message if there is a cancellation. This is usual done once the decision to cancel is made ..... usually at around tea-time on the evening before once updated sea-state forecasts have been received.  Sailing status updates are normally posted on the Waverley Excursions website homepage and, from 2019 it is expected to be on their social media pages. 

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 often not possible. Waverley has no official representative at the piers she visits, so the passing-on of information about programme disruptions can sometimes be an issue. Volunteer pier hosts are increasingly available for assistance, but their presence is not guaranteed.

Mechanical Problems : There might be, on occasion, the need to cancel  an advertised cruise due to mechanical issues. Although Waverley has generally been very reliable, in recent years issues have arisen and numerous cruises lost. No substitute vessel is available so you will need to transfer your tickets or obtain a refund (see the company's Terms & Conditions and website FAQ page)

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 Saturdays especially and Thames sailings ,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 throughout the season, Waverley would not be able to survive financially. 

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 the last (and essential) major strip-down and refitting to proceed, that the ship be restored to a close approximation of her 1947 ambience. Normally sailing on a much shorter route than nowadays, Waverley was never intended as a luxury vessel although the limited number of booked diners did receive a good quality silver-service lunch and tea.

Food & Drink : A Waverley cruise is not a dining or hospitality cruise, but a traditional sightseeing trip with food available as a service to excursionists. The restaurant aboard has a capacity of 100 diners (ie a small proportion of the likely number of travellers).  It is simple, hearty fare from the ship's galley with a very limited choice of main dishes, prepared and served by resident crew members as is the practice in the merchant navy. Facilities aboard ship for meal preparation are very limited in comparison with a specialist restaurant and with uncertain dining numbers, waste has to be minimised. Menus are available to download from the Waverley Excursions website. Prices are not cheap, but the company claims to benchmark prices against other leisure attractions (and not the discount pub chains). There is also a deck lounge with a small soft drink and snack servery and two bars, Catering is an important way by which the ship can generate some much-needed funds to help keep her in service.

Passengers may take packed lunches and soft drinks (but no alcohol) aboard, but these are not permitted to be consumed within the restaurant area.

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. Do not be surprised if local police officers are in attendance at Rothesay pier. 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. There are rigorous checks of baggage when customers board on a Saturday to try and prevent customers bringing their own alcohol aboard, which is prohibited. These checks have been increased recently to counter a growing problem.  

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 Waverley has been busy in midweeks due to her only offering a short programme in the area. 

Sailings away from the Clyde :  Waverley only spends a short time sailing in other areas. and cruises in these areas can be particularly busy, especially at weekends. As earlier noted, sailing in more exposed areas than the Clyde can lead to the increased chances of disruption to the planned programme. 

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. Cash can be obtained against a bank card at the purser's office, but only for a fee. There are also occasions, particularly in Scotland, when Waverley is out of communication range for payment terminals to obtain authorisation for card payments. 

Accessibility : The crew will be happy to assist disabled people to get aboard. The narrow gangways can be tricky to negotiate and their steepness varies depending on tide levels. 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.

Customer Service : Whilst the overall responsibility of the ship's captain, the Purser is charged with all matters of customer service during the cruise. 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

Car Parking Discount in Glasgow :  There is a large car park at the Science Centre, very close to where Waverley departs from. People parking there validate their tickets and pay the appropriate fee at machines and the validated ticket raises the exit bar. Waverley is operating a scheme where customers can get a discounted ticket at the purser's office on board the ship, making the price for parking for the long day very reasonable

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

Origins : Waverley 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's final year (or so it seemed) 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 it lost entirely. Only at the end of the 1973 season was withdrawal announced. No fanfare and no chance for those concerned to protest. Fait accompli, it seemed. Remarkably, in 1974, Waverley 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 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 the first public cruise "in preservation" in 1975, but there were still issues ahead. The ship had become increasingly unreliable and handling the big crowds in 1974 saw the ship 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 would have been normal in earlier days. 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 its 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 taken over in 1974 the ship 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 to improve performance and passenger and crew spaces. In 2000 and 2003, Waverley was substantially rebuilt on its original hull frames in a multi-million pound untertaking financed by the Heritage Lottery fund (who have a mortgage over the ship as security). Therefore, much of the ship's fabric can be considered as modern.  

Above : An illustration of the scale of her rebuild : Waverley is stripped to the hull frames. This part of the ship is where the engines and boiler sit.
Photo by kind courtesy of Stuart Cameron

Whilst the company tries to cover as much of its enormous cost base as possible through fares, without dedicated volunteers and donations from 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 a 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.


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 the ship's life owned by preservationists acting in the interests of the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society would be short, that was far from the truth and Waverley embarked on the most remarkable stage of its career, surpassing everything it had done before.

Waverley Rothesay 1975 KW,jpg.jpg

An unexpected survivor : Waverley leaving Rothesay in the wake of Queen Mary II in 1975, its 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. As it turned out, rather than the Waverley project coming to an end as many had imagined, it was Queen Mary which was withdrawn at the end of the season. The demise of the turbine steamer left the market open to the paddler - and whilst continued survival was in no way assured, there was, at least, a chance 

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 thye ship 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 the sailing from Helensburgh to Tighnabruaich on July 20th

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

A selection of photos from the 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 it 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. Certain parts of the programme may have been cancelled due to weather conditions or vessel breakdown

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


Clyde : May 26 - May 29. Transit to Oban May 30
Oban & Area : May 31 - June 5
Clyde : June 16 - Aug 27
Liverpool & Llandudno : Aug 29 - Aug 30  (cancelled due to Waverley undergoing repairs to a damaged bow)
Bristol Channel : Sept 1 - Sept 5  
(cancelled due to Waverley undergoing repairs to a damaged bow)
South Coast : Sept 8 - Sept 21
Thames & South East : Sept 22 - Oct 8
Clyde : Oct 14 - Oct 15 (cancelled as poor sailing conditions meant that Waverley could not return in time to undertake these cruises)

Clyde : May 25 - May 28 with transit to Oban on May 29
Inner Hebrides : May 30 - June 4 with transit back to Clyde on June 5
Clyde : June 22 - Aug 26
Liverpool & Llandudno : August 28 - 29  (First Liverpool call missed due to expected late arrival. Cruise commenced at Llandudno) 
Bristol Channel : August 31 - Sept 5
South Coast : Sept 7 - 20 (mostly cancelled or severely restricted cruises due to weather and sea conditions)
Thames : Sept 21 - Oct 7
Clyde : Oct 13-14

 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. This and a number of subsequent novels, originally published 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 Edward 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 the third season of "preservation" and almost brought an end to the whole project. Even though the ship returned the following season despite the scepticism of many, very few would have been confident that Waverley would still be passing by regularly in 2011 -  ot 2019, with the new season approaching

External Internet Links

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

Supporting Waverley
You can join the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (the ship's beneficial owners) 

or enrol as a Friend of Waverley through the Waverley Excursions website

You can donate financially directly through either organisation and obtain Gift Aid on your donation should you wish (and should your donation qualify)

There are opportunities to offer your services as a volunteer. See the Waverley Excursions website (under Friends of Waverley section) which also has interviews with several current volunteers

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)
The Society also has an official Facebook page and Twitter feed

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

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 Allan 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 the ship's 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 acknowledged. 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 its 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.
Below : One can now even begin to imagine the old days with two Clyde Steamers ready to depart from Glasgow ...... In November 2016, Queen Mary was towed to a new temporary berth at the entrance to the old Princes Dock basin, a stone's throw from Waverley's berth at Plantation Quay. Originally, steamers departed from the Broomielaw, on the north bank at the city centre, but new bridges as seen in the photo below have meant that steamers are now only able to reach areas somewhat remote from the bustling core. In the foreground is one of the three remaining but derelict dry-docks at Govan where vessels once received maintenence and overhaul. The Titan crane on the left is the only remined of the once busy quaysides which were lines with warehouses and cranes and supported by engineering works nearby. Numerous docks have also been filled in for modern redevelopment, including housing, offices, parkland, exhibition and leisure facilities. Photo courtesy of Kenny Whyte.