One of Scotland’s most famous steamships, the Sir Walter Scott, has been taken out of service after its boilers failed “beyond repair”.

The historic vessel has sailed on Loch Katrine, in the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, for 120 years since it was introduced in 1890 -- a year after successful trials on the Clyde.

Over the past month, as part of a rigorous annual inspection programme, extensive cracks were found in both the steamship’s boilers.

After specialist surveys, trustees responsible for the steamship have concluded that the boilers are beyond repair, and the iconic vessel will not sail this season.

Sir Walter Scott Steamship Ltd manager director Gordon Allan said yesterday: “This is a major setback as we were looking forward to a special anniversary year celebrating 120 years of the steamship sailing.

“This follows on from a downturn in business linked to major landslides on the lochside last August and we were well on the road to recovery with the prospects of a bumper season ahead.

He added: “The immediate priorities now are taking steps to safeguard the 55 direct jobs and many indirect jobs dependent on our Loch Katrine operations, and ensuring we are in a position to honour existing group business contracts as well as independent travel and walk up business this season.

“We are fortunate that we have other boats available so I am confident with the goodwill of the general public and the commitment and enthusiasm of our staff we should be able to continue to trade successfully and offer a high quality visitor experience while we consider ways to bring the Sir Walter Scott Steamship back into service as quickly as possible.”

The SS Sir Walter Scott -- named after the writer -- has carried many thousands of tourists in its lifetime and is the only surviving screw steamer in regular passenger service in Scotland.

James Fraser, CEO and a Trustee of the Steamship Trust, said: “Our trustees are determined to ensure the historic steamship, which is an important and unique Scottish heritage asset, continues to have a future operating on Loch Katrine and immediate steps have been taken to explore costed options to bring the steamship back into service, which are both realistic and sustainable.

“We are anxious to ensure we are not faced with a similar situation again in a few years due to steam boiler unreliability issues which have a striking resemblance to what happened to the PS Waverley boilers last year.

“Once we have more details on future options, the likely costs and our funding strategy, which may well include a public funding appeal, we will issue an update, but in the meantime we would urge members of the public to support our existing operation by visiting Loch Katrine, which continues to be a very special destination in the heart of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.”

Loch Katrine and the Trossachs is known as “the birthplace of Scottish tourism” following the publication of Sir Walter Scott’s blockbuster poem “The Lady of the Lake” in 1810.

Scott’s 1818 novel Rob Roy was also set in the area.

The rapid growth in tourism led to the introduction of passenger ferry boats and a number of passenger steamships in the 1800s.

The Steamship Sir Walter Scott was built by William Denny and Brothers at Denny’s shipyard at Dumbarton on the River Leven. The 115-ton, 110-feet long vessel came into service on Loch Katrine in spring 1900, after trials on the Clyde in 1899.

Ownership of the steamship transferred from Scottish Water to a charitable trust in 2007 and in 2008 the steamship moved from being powered by coal to more environmentally-friendly biodiesel.