of the Balmoral
Balmoral was built as a replacement for the famous paddle steamer
of that name dating from 1900. She was designed with a dual use as both a ferry
from Southampton to Cowes and as an excursion ship. To do this, she was designed
with a modest car deck towards her stern that could be converted to a fine suntrap
with deckchairs when cruising. The order for Balmoral was placed in October
1947 and she was launched from Thornycrofts yard at Southampton in June 1949.
Balmoral finally entered service in December 1949. Her appearance was said
to be more along the lines of a private yacht than a ferry.
Balmoral quickly became established on the
Cowes ferry service and by 1950, was carrying out excursion work after the Solent
Queen had broken down. From 1952 onwards, Balmoral was used primarily
for ferry work during the winter and on peak summer days. Balmoral became
particularly well-known for the cruise around the Isle of Wight but in addition,
undertook a number of other interesting cruises in those early days including
cruises to and from Bournemouth and Swanage. Balmoral also attended special
events such as the 1953 Coronation Fleet Review at Spithead as well as enjoying
royal patronage when HRH the Duke of Edinburgh used her to open a new lock at
Shoreham in 1958.
New Life on Bristol Channel
By the 1960s, it was clear that car
traffic to the Isle of Wight was increasing at a significant rate and as a result,
Balmoral with her small car deck was totally inadequate for use as a car
ferry on a regular basis. So, in 1968, Balmoral was withdrawn from service
by Red Funnel just nineteen years after she had first entered service to the Isle
Balmoral was then chartered from Red Funnel by P &
A Campbell for further service on the Bristol Channel. She immediately joined
her former fleetmate Westward Ho on a busy and varied programme of excursions
that worked around the wide tidal range of the Bristol Channel. These included
sailings to Lundy along with days on the Cardiff to Weston ferry service. Balmoral
soon became a great success and a ten year charter was arranged by Campbells who
painted the steamer in their famous livery ready for the 1970 season. By 1971,
Balmoral became the sole survivor on the Bristol Channel after her fleetmate
Westward Ho was withdrawn. By this time she was based at Swansea undertaking
regular sailings to Ilfracombe and Lundy.
By the 1973 season, Balmoral
was seen more and more at Weston, Penarth and Bristol and a programme of cruises
developed that made good use of the steamers qualities and economic running costs.
Balmoral also undertook a series of cruises elsewhere to such places as
the Scilly Isles, the North Wales coast, Isle of Man and Fleetwood. In addition,
Balmoral also returned to her home area on the Solent to undertake charters
and took part in the Silver Jubilee Naval Review at Spithead in 1977.
By the late 1970s, the end was in sight for Balmoral
as profits were becoming slim and refurbishment needs built up. When added to
rising fuel and wage costs, it was only a matter of time before in 1979, Balmoral's
owners announced her withdrawal from service. But, she had one last chance as
she was transferred to a new company 'White Funnel Steamers' who with the Landmark
Trust soldiered on for a season before the Trust withdrew support. Balmoral's
last sailing in October 1982 was thought to be the end of an era.
then languished at Bristol and Avonmouth before being sold to Craig Inns Ltd of
Dundee in 1982 to become a floating disco and restaurant. This venture failed
miserably and in 1984, Balmoral was put on the market for sale. But by
the 1980s, Waverley was in need of a consort after the sad episode of the
Prince Ivanhoe, there was a need for replacement vessel - Balmoral
was the ideal candidate!
An offer was made for Balmoral and was accepted
and in May 1985, the ship sailed to Glasgow for her refit. An appeal was made
to raise £300,000 to refurbish the vessel to modern standards as well as
to create new areas such as building a Dining Saloon where the open car deck once
By Easter 1986, Balmoral was ready for sevice and after undertaking
trials, moved to the Bristol Channel for her inaugural cruise under the command
of Captain Steve Michel. Soon the ship settled into a regular routine. Since that
time, Balmoral has become the UK's widest travelled excursion ship. Balmoral
has sailed to and from just about every port in the UK and has indeed travelled
as far afield as France and the Netherlands. In addition, she has attended the
1995 Spithead Fleet Review, numerous tall ships races as well as acting as Royal
yacht for HRH the Princess Royal.