Another lovely day at Appletree Cottage, Luxury self-catering lodge!
Today we decided to nip down the road and explore the Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival
The festival is held annually at Loch Lomond Shores which is a loch-side development next to Balloch on the South bank of the Loch Lomond.
The journey from Appletree Cottage took us about fifteen minutes.
After parking the car, we walked the short distance to the shores of the loch.
Balloch Steam Slipway Engine
Our attention was quickly drawn to the hooting sound of a steam engine's whistle. Following the noise, we discovered that Balloch Steam Slipway steam engine was fired up and in operation. It had opened for the weekend to raise funds for the ongoing restoration of the nearby Maid of the Loch paddle steamer. The enormous pistons were turning the gearing cogs making it easy to understand and visualise how easily a ship could be drawn out of the water by such enormous machinery. There were some great photos on display and a good book stall in the engine shed. We took the opportunity to toot the hooter for a 50p donation towards the restoration of The Maid of the Loch.
All this was very impressive. We decided to move further round the shore to inspect The Maid of the Loch where we could hear a band playing.
The Maid of the Loch
The Maid of the Loch was the last paddle steamer to be built in the UK. Commissioned by the British Transport Commission in 1950 the vessel was built on the Clyde by A&J Inglis of Glasgow. The Maid as she is known is unusual in being a "knock down" boat. That is, having been constructed in the shipyard, she was then taken to pieces again and transported by rail to the loch side at Balloch. There she was reconstructed and eventually launched on Thursday the 5th of March 1953. Operated latterly by Caledonian Macbrayne (now known as Calmac) she operated as a pleasure boat, ferrying passengers up and down the loch calling at the various piers like Ardlui and Inversnaid. One used to be able to take one of the electric trains from the centre of Glasgow to the little station on the pier at Balloch. From the train it was only the shortest of walks across the platform the steamer. The railway line to the pier is long since gone and The Maid of the Loch took her last passengers up the loch on 31 August 1981 Following her withdrawal from service the ship lay in an increasing state of disrepair exacerbated by wonton vandalism until Dumbarton Council came to the rescue in 1992. Three years later In 1995 the council supported a rescue plan by a group of enthusiasts formed as The Loch Lomond Steamship Company and passed the vessel into their care. By 2000 The Maid had been restored enough to become a floating bar and cafe = helping raise further funds. The next key to the paddle steamers salvation was, with the aid of a lottery grant, the restoration of the Steam Slipway. In June 2006 the newly re-opened slipway was used to lift the boat out of the water. This allowed repairs and restoration to begin on the hull. Now back in the water the renovation continues and the aim of the charitable trust is to return the venerable vessel to service in 2018. If you feel the urge to find out more about this great ship or contribute to her restoration more information is available at: www.maidoftheloch.org
on to Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival...
After exploring the paddle-steamer we wandered over to the food and drink festival itself. Very popular with both tourists and locals the festival is one of two food festivals throughout the year, the other one being in the Springiest - usually in early April. Today a long line of stalls selling all types of food and drink filled the promenade and more of the Loch Lomond Shores development. In some years vendors travel from as far away as France to sell their sausages and other delicacies. There are many hot food outlets of all sorts and music is provided by a series of performers set up on a stage with nearby seating. Drinks are available both from stalls near the music area or if you prefer a tipple can be taken on the first-floor balcony of the permanent bar with a terrific view across Loch Lomond. After watching the haggis eating competition (as you do) we noted the large number of Segways for hire and also the popularity of the boat trips on offer. Loch Lomond Shores itself is an interesting place. Opened in 2002 a collection of upmarket retail outlets (House of Fraser, Hawkshead, Thorntons, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Ashtins Aromatics and Loch Lomond Jewellers to name but a few) form one side of an attractive terrace with the waters of the loch lapping at the other. There is also a Sea Life Centre with the unusual attraction of a walk-through tank with sharks swimming in it. It has proved to be popular with children who bring their sleeping bags to camp out for the night in the centre of the tank whilst sharks and other sea creatures swim all round them, staring out through the thick glass. Loch Lomond Shores website can be found at: www.lochlomondshores.com and Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre is at::www.visitsealife.com/loch-lomond Eventually, after another great day and having had our fill of a variety of fast food we made our way back to Appletree Cottage