Experience the breathtaking beauty of Scotland from the middle of one of the country’s most iconic and beloved lochs. And the best part? It’s wheelchair accessible!
I recently had the pleasure of a Loch Katrine cruise on the Steamship Sir Walter Scott, and it was an amazing experience. The steamship is a beautiful historic vessel, and it was fascinating to learn about its history and see it in action on the loch.
AD – we received press tickets in exchange for this honest review
History of Loch Katrine and the Steamship Sir Walter Scott
Loch Katrine is a picturesque freshwater loch located in the heart of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. It is a popular tourist destination known for its scenic beauty and is a source of drinking water for the city of Glasgow.
The steamship was built in 1899 and is named after the renowned Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, who was inspired by the beauty of Loch Katrine and featured it in his poem “The Lady of the Lake.”
Loch Cruises on the Sir Walter Scott Steamship
The Steamship Sir Walter Scott provides visitors with a unique opportunity to step back in time, explore the stunning landscapes, and enjoy a leisurely cruise on the tranquil waters of Loch Katrine, surrounded by mountains and forests.
Sadly, it was out of service for three years due to cracked boilers and other essential repairs. But after undergoing a £750,000 restoration project thanks to the S.O.S. Save Our Steamship appeal, the historic steamship Sir Walter Scott, returned to sailing in June 2023.
With a further £750,000 invested in site infrastructure to improve the visitor experience and enhance the provision for disabled visitors with the doubling of disabled parking spaces, removing speed bumps, and replacing timbers on the pier. Additional improvements are also planned to further enhance the accessibility of the site.
How to Book a Loch Katrine Cruise
The Sir Walter Scott sailings take place at 10:30am, 1pm, and 2:30pm every day. You can book a Loch Katrine cruise online or by calling the booking office directly. If you feel they will need assistance, or have any questions, it’s advisable to contact them before your visit. www.lochkatrine.com/cruises/book-a-cruise/
How to get to Steamship Sir Walter Scott on Loch Katrine
Loch Katrine cruises on the Steamship Sir Walter Scott depart from Trossachs Pier, which is a ten-mile drive from Callander or seven miles from Aberfoyle.
We travelled from Callander through Kilmahog and Brig o’ Turk, which provided beautiful scenery all the way.
Address: Trossachs Pier, Loch Katrine, by Callander, Stirling, FK17 8HZ, Scotland
Blue badge parking bays are available at Trossachs Pier, making it easy to park close to the toilets, ticket office, gift shop, and pier to board the steamship.
There is a ramp on the right-hand side that leads up to the ticket office. It was a little tight to manoeuvre in my wheelchair due to the positioning of the wooden posts, but I did fit through and managed to carefully turn my wheelchair to speak to the member of staff.
The friendly staff sat at a desk with a large open window hatch, through which I was able to easily speak to them. Even though I can’t lift my arms up, I thought the desk was a good height for wheelchair users to reach across or lean on when purchasing cruise tickets.
Wheelchair access on Loch Katrine’s Steamship Sir Walter Scott
The Steamship has 2 hour cruises to Stronachlachar and back at 10.30am and 2.30pm and a one-hour cruise at 1pm that goes halfway up the loch and then returns to Trossachs Pier. The cruises depart from Pier 1, which is wheelchair accessible via a level-access, sheltered walkway.
Inside the walkway is a new exhibition about the history of Steamships on Loch Katrine, which includes audio stories, a video with no sound, and a tactile model of the Steamship close to the end of the pier with braille identifications of its main features.
We waited a few minutes in the queue until it was time to board. A steamship crew member advised me to board before the rest of the passengers, which was very helpful.
We made our way across a flat wooden bridge connecting the pier to the entrance of the steamship, where we were greeted by the helpful crew members. One was on the land side, and two were on the steamship ready to help and guide me on.
A metal gangway provided access to the Steamship Sir Walter Scott for all passengers, including wheelchair users. The gangway measures 820mm by 840mm, which was wide enough to fit my powerchair.
There was a slightly raised threshold getting onto the gangway, so I needed assistance to get started, but as I was driving off the gangway onto the steamship, my wheelchair’s anti-tipping stabilisers got stuck, and I needed another push to get unstuck.
I must note that the threshold is very small, and many wheelchairs may not have an issue, but it’s worth keeping in mind. The crew was on hand to assist.
Once all four wheels were onboard, the friendly crew members advised that I turn left into the cabin. There is a small step into the cabin measuring a few inches in height, which my wheelchair managed to climb up, but it did get stuck when exiting the cabin.
After my visit, I spoke to the CEO and gave my honest feedback about the accessibility, including the difficulty on the gangway and the step in/out of the cabin.
I suggested having a temporary portable wheelchair ramp onboard to make accessing the cabin easier. And I’m thrilled to hear that they now have a portable ramp onboard suitable for use to enter or exit the cabin, and the ship crew has been instructed to put this down when wheelchair users are on board.
The team is also reviewing the ramp arrangement for use from ship to shore to try and avoid wheelchairs getting stuck and requiring assistance. This may involve a customised unit being prefabricated, and this is currently being planned.
The Sir Walter Scott Steamship offers a variety of seating options, from the open-air deck to the cosy indoor cabin, ensuring there is a spot for every preference and weather condition.
The cabin is decorated with purple velvet seats and green and blue tartan carpets, giving it a distinctly Scottish feel.
As the ship sets sail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of iconic Trossachs landmarks such as Ben A’an, Ben Venue, and Brenachoile. The water reflects the surrounding mountains, creating a picturesque scene that seems straight out of a postcard.
The onboard commentary offers fascinating insights into the area’s history and geography.
We sat at the front of the cabin so that we could enjoy good forward and side-facing views. The weather was dry and sunny, so we really got to enjoy the views.
A bar selling hot and cold drinks, as well as alcoholic drinks and snacks, is available in the cabin.
For the second half of the one hour cruise, we ventured out to the open-air deck, which was lovely. There were rows of bench seating, and I was able to position myself at the end of the row. It was amazing to sit outside and take in the stunning views all around us.
I was worried about the steamship rocking due to my lack of upper body and core strength, but the sailing was actually very smooth and I had no issues driving my wheelchair or maintaining my balance.
If I remember correctly, we accessed the accessible toilet at Trossachs Pier (shore based toilet) by using our Radar key. However, I believe the website mentions a key code that is available from the gift shop, ticket office, or any staff member.
The first thing I noticed when I entered was the shower, which had two steps into it. The steps were also positioned quite close to the toilet, which could make wheelchair transfers difficult or unsafe.
The sink had a pedestal, which made it difficult to get close enough to wash hands. There was a vertical fixed grab bar at the entrance to the shower, but none at the side of the toilet.
However, I did mention the accessibility issues with the set-up of this toilet when I gave feedback to the team, and I’m pleased to share with you all that they have immediately taken my comments on board and have installed a support rail. There are also further works planned to improve accessibility, including, hopefully, the installation of a Changing Places toilet.
There is an accessible toilet onboard the steamship. I didn’t get a chance to see this toilet during our visit, but the team very kindly snapped the below photo for me to share with you.
The Steamship Cafe
We planned to visit The Steamship Cafe after our cruise, but we were informed at the time of booking that the lift to the cafe was currently out of action. Unfortunately, the lift needs to be completely replaced, which comes at a significant cost, and vital funding is required in order to pay for it.
The food options looked great as well. They even have vegan pizza. I hope they are able to raise some funds for the repairs soon, and I look forward to visiting.
In the interim, tables in the ground-level gift shop are available to enable visitors with mobility issues to order items from the same menu that is available in the cafe, and staff provide table service in the gift shop.
Wheelchair Accessible Picnic Tables
There are picnic tables outside below the cafe and the fountain, but sadly, we couldn’t sit at them because they weren’t accessible.
I fed back to the team that it would be nice if the picnic tables were wheelchair accessible so disabled visitors could enjoy sitting outside for something to eat or drink.
So it was amazing to hear back from the team that the tables have now been converted into wheelchair accessible tables by their joiner. I’m absolutely delighted.
Watch me on the Steamship Sir Walter Scott
Activities and attractions near Loch Katrine
While sailing Loch Katrine on the Sir Walter Scott is undoubtedly the highlight of the visit, there are plenty of other activities and attractions to explore in The Trossachs National Park during a day out at Loch Katrine.
Nearby landmarks such as Doune Castle provide a glimpse into Scotland’s rich past. The charming towns of Callander and Aberfoyle are also worth a visit, offering quaint shops, cafes, and great scenery.
On our way home from Loch Katrine, we made a stop at Doune Castle. We arrived just before it was time to close, so we decided against going inside and instead took a stroll around the castle grounds. It was bumpy and rough terrain in several areas with large tree roots and sloped gravel paths, so I think manual wheelchairs without power assistance may have trouble getting around. We enjoyed our time exploring the grounds, which led us along trails through the woods and to a beautiful spot next to the River Teith.
My favourite wheelchair accessible walk close to the castle is Doune Ponds. I highly recommend you visit if you are in the area or are looking for a new walk.
If you are interested in exploring more of the Trossachs, check out my wheelchair accessible tips and travel guide to visiting Loch Lomond, The Trossachs National Park and Stirling.
Final Thoughts: Why sailing Loch Katrine on the Sir Walter Scott is a must-do experience
I had a great day trip with my partner and friend to Loch Katrine on the Steamship Sir Walter Scott. Although there are some areas for improvement in terms of accessibility, the team was very responsive to my feedback after my first visit.
They promptly installed a support rail in the accessible toilet, made the picnic tables wheelchair accessible, and provided a portable ramp for the steamship. They also have plans to customise a ramp for the gangway and improve the accessible toilet (possible installation of a Changing Places toilet). The Steamship’s charitable trust would welcome any possible donations to help fund repairs and improvements.
Overall, I highly recommend the Steamship Sir Walter Scott for anyone looking for a fun day trip and accessible things to do in the Trossachs. I’m already looking forward to visiting again.