THE charity which owns the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer on Loch Lomond has announced that the ship will not reopen to visitors until 2022.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company says it’s decided to spend the rest of 2021 concentrating on making sure the historic ship is able to stay afloat for another 60 years or more – and on working towards their long-term goal of getting the vessel sailing on Loch Lomond once again.

The charity recently announced that work was nearly complete on a new ‘carriage’ on the slipway next to the Maid’s berth at Balloch Pier, thanks to a grant of £94,000 from Historic Environment Scotland.

That, it’s hoped, will prevent any repeat of the unfortunate and high-profile setback suffered in January 2019 when, with the public and the media watching on, the carriage on which the ship sat as she was being winched out of the loch for refurbishment failed, sending the Maid sliding back into the water.

READ MORE: Maid of the Loch slipping halted after ship slides back into Loch Lomond

In a statement published on the Maid’s website, a charity spokesperson said: “We’re taking the Maid on to the slip as soon as the new carriage is completed.

“This will allow a complete survey and repair, as required, to the ship’s hull.

“We will also do other necessary work while she is on the slipway.

“The Covid uncertainty to reopening has now been turned to advantage to make 2021 the year when we ensure the ship’s hull will be good for another 60-plus years.

“[We are] a wee bit sad too because this also means we will not be able to welcome you to the ship at the pier during this season.

“We do aim to keep everyone updated on progress and the winch house and the slipway will be open at weekends once the slipway carriage is complete, so you can visit us there.

“We also hope to have some events on the pier. Season ticket and Friends benefits will be carried forward and be valid until the end of the 2022 season.

“More information will become available over the coming weeks, so sorry if this is a bit of a disappointment but in the long run it means we get closer to getting the Maid sailing again on Loch Lomond.”

This August will mark the 40th anniversary of the last time the Maid set sail before she was decommissioned due to dwindling passenger numbers.

She entered service in 1953 and operated for 28 years.