It is one of Scotland's most famous steamships named after the novelist Sir Walter Scott that has provided pleasure cruises and a ferry services on Loch Katrine for more than a century - before it was taken out of service over a year ago.

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.

But it was taken out of service in the summer of 2020 after a rigorous annual inspection programme found extensive cracks in both the steamship’s boilers.

Now SS Sir Walter Scott is at the centre of a restoration project as part of a £1.1m plan for a Covid-19 tourism recovery plan for the one of Scotland's most popular visitor destinations, the Trossachs.

A Save Our Steamship appeal is about half way to the £500,000 which it is hoped will allow for restoration works to be completed in time to resume operations this summer.

It comes as over £1 million is being invested in visitor infrastructure improvements at Loch Katrine and in the wider Trossachs area, known as “the birthplace of Scottish tourism” this year.

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The Steamship Trust is coordinating the delivery of a £650,000 Trossachs visitor management project after getting a £375,000 Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund grant from VisitScotland.

Most of the investment will take place in improving visitor hubs at Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar Pier at either end of Loch Katrine.

Work is already underway at Stronachlachar with the creation of a new woodland car park and the installation of improved facilities for campervanners, walkers and cyclists.

Tenders will be invited shortly for car park, toilet and path improvement works and a new mobility hub at Trossachs Pier.

Expressions of interest are now being sought for the operation of the Pier Café and picnic area at the lochside ion Stronachlachar where a £100,000 package of improvements is at an advanced stage.

As part of the visitor management project Forestry & Land Scotland has recently completed work doubling the size of Ben A’an car park.

James Fraser, chief executive and lead trustee of the Sir Walter Scott Steamship Trust said: “2022 is a critically important year for the future of tourism here at Loch Katrine and in the wider Trossachs area as we fight for survival along with many other businesses hard hit by the impact of Covid 19.

"We earnestly hope by leading such an ambitious tourism infrastructure investment programme, which includes getting the historic steamship back sailing, we can play an important part in the Trossachs tourism recovery effort with spin off benefits for many local businesses and communities."

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“We have received tremendous public support for the steamship restoration funding appeal as well as strong interest from potential grant funders. We are now much more confident about reaching our ambitious aim to restore the steamship in time for the busy summer season but we will need one final push on the fundraising front.

"It is important to ensure that the the steamship doesn’t deteriorate further and is back sailing as soon as possible to help manage the huge demand from visitors including coach groups, walkers and cyclists more effectively."

Loch Katrine and the Trossachs beamce 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 SS Sir Walter Scott has carried many thousands of tourists in its lifetime and was, until it stopped operating, the only surviving screw steamer in regular passenger service in Scotland.

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It 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.

Neil Christison, VisitScotland regional director, said: “We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and improvement works like these are crucial to ensuring our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.

“Tourism is a force for good and if managed responsibly, sustains communities in every corner of Scotland, creates jobs, tackles depopulation and improves the wellbeing of everyone who experiences it."