Our Largs News 'Access All Areas' columnist Zoe Maclean heads on the ocean wave, and experiences a grand day out on everyone's favourite paddlesteamer ...

For many years it has been a Scottish tradition to spend the summer months going “doon the water’ on the paddle steamer Waverley with family and friends. This was a trip we as a family decided to make recently. I am pleased to say that the trip was more accessible than I first thought it would be.

The Paddle Steamer Waverley was named after Sir Walter Scott’s first novel and was built on the River Clyde. Waverley’s Keel was first laid December 27th 1945. Due to a shortage of materials after the Second World War the ship was not ready for launch until October 2nd 1946. The following year on the 20th of January 1947 the ship was towed to Greenock for the installation of her boiler and steam engines. Waverley made her maiden voyage on 16th of June 1947.

Waverley is the world’s last sea going Paddle Steamer and as such attracts numerous tourists each year. The ship was initially intended to sail between Craigendoran and Arrochar on the west coast of Scotland but now sails around the coast of Britain visiting many places including regular trips on the Clyde, the Thames, South Coast of England and the Bristol Channel with calls at Liverpool and Llandudno.

We planned our trip on the Clyde and telephoned in advance to inform staff that there would be a wheelchair user travelling in our party. Due to their size and weight Waverley is unable to cater for electric wheelchairs however the staff and crew are more than happy to assist anyone using a manual wheelchair in any way possible. There is also an accessible toilet on board which can be accessed using a Radar Key. The engine room itself is not accessible to wheelchair users, however the workings of the engines can be viewed through various port holes around the ship’s deck which is fully accessible. There is also a short film on the Waverley website of the magnificent stem engine which can be seen via the following link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SBvPDGAE-2I

Staff will circulate the ship with souvenirs from the ships gift shop for passengers to purchase if they wish. One particularly popular souvenir is the Waverley Times a newspaper which gives a summary of the ship’s history. There is also an accessible dining area for families wishing to have lunch on board

At the end of her working life in 1975 Waverley was famously bought over for £1 by the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society, Waverley Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, a charity registered in Scotland. This began the second phase of the ship’s career as one of the country’s best loved tourist attractions. Since she has been working in operational preservation Waverley has been awarded 4 stars by Visit Scotland, been awarded an engineering heritage award, and has carried over 5 million passengers from over 60 ports around the UK.

In 2003 a major restoration project took place which restored Waverley to the the traditional 1940s style in which she was built. This was made possible thanks to funding grants from various organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, Glasgow City Council and Scottish Enterprise.

I would thoroughly recommend a trip on the Waverley to anyone and 2016 is a special year as it marks 70 years since the launch of the paddle steamer Waverley. Its still not to late for a trip “doon the water” with trips running until late August. To find out more and book your trip visit www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk/