Monday, 11 January 2016

'Doon the watter' on the Waverley

Take a trip on the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world!

The paddle steamer Waverley is well-known to most native Scots and many visitors to Scotland as ''that wonderful old paddle steamer which sails up and down the River Clyde'' and if you are on vacation in the Glasgow area a trip aboard her is definitely something which should be on your ''to-do'' list

Head on view of the paddle steamer 'Waverley'
Photo by Manhattan Research/Flickr CC-BY-SA 2.0
Built in 1946 she spent her early years sailing from Glasgow up and down the Firth of Clyde ('firth' is Scots word for a wide river estuary) under various owners until 1973 when, due to the changing holiday habits of the public, she became uneconomical to run and was withdrawn from service by her then owners Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd. In dire need of an extensive refit her future looked bleak (the breaker's yard beckoned!) but CalMac decided instead to sell her to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society for a nominal sum (£1 apparently!) to join another paddle steamer the PSPS already owned and, after a public appeal to raise funding for her refit, her future was secured.

Today, PS Waverley is well-known in many countries due largely to the large numbers of tourists who have had the pleasure of sailing on her and have spread the word - and the photos and videos (her owners claim that she is probably the most-photographed ship in the world) in their home countries.

Side view of the PS Waverley tied up at a pier
Photo by Manhattan Research/Flickr CC-BY-SA 2.0
The PSPS have been very active in promoting and showing off the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. During the summer months she is still based in Glasgow and runs excursions to the Clyde ports of Greenock, Ayr and Largs but for much of the rest of the year she cruises the River Thames, the Solent and the South Coast of England and the Bristol Channel. She has featured in many television documentaries and is even a film star with a part in the 2011 Sherlock Holmes movie A Game of Shadows. The Waverley is also available for private charters.

A view of the Waverly sailing a sea
Photo by David Spender/Flickr CC-BY-SA 2.0

Final note

The destination board at the dockside naming her ports of call
Photo by kanu101/Flickr CC-BY-SA 2.0
My one and only encounter with PS Waverley was as a young child (I think I was 9 at the time) when my parents decided to take me ''Doon the Watter'' to Largs for a day trip on her. I remember the weather wasn't very good (an unfortunate possibility in Scotland in July) and I think I spent most of the time sitting in the lounge staring at the misty landscape in the distance as we sailed down the coast towards our destination.

My family left Glasgow for pastures new when I was 14 and I have never had an opportunity to reprise my voyage on her - an omission I fully intend to rectify this year (minus the rain hopefully!).

Note: The phrase ''Doon the Watter'' (down the water) was a colloquial west coast term for a day sailing trip down the Firth of Clyde (not necessarily on the Waverley) - an expensive treat for a working-class family. I haven't heard it uttered for many years but I will certainly say it loudly when I renew my acquaintance with this grand old lady of the Clyde!



Sources: Wikipedia; personal experience


  1. That is a beautiful boat, I would love to take a ride in it one day.

    1. She is that. You could add it to the itinerary when you visit Scotland!

  2. I have piped in the Waverley many times, and been on it loads too. One of the benefits of living where I did I guess. It is still a very expensive day out mind you, a round of four drinks was around £20 if I remember correctly and that was a good few years ago.

    The local Euromillions winners put a lot of money in to keeping her sailing a few years back too.

    1. Lucky you! It may be an expensive trip but most people are willing to pay for the experience. I understand that the Weirs have been good to their local area.