THE plans to get the Maid of the Loch sailing on Loch Lomond once more have received a further boost.

Grants worth £122,000 from the Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER project and Scottish Enterprise will be used to compile expert reports which are needed to take the project to the next stage.

John Beveridge, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, the charity that looks after the Maid, said: “Expertise is required to produce further structural calculations and drawings for the Maid’s refit, obtain the planning requirements for the waiting facilities on Balloch Pier, prepare a procurement strategy, and make a start on drawing up tender documents.

“Both LEADER and Scottish Enterprise have also agreed to fund a post that will develop and expand our social media presence.

“To have two public bodies supporting our project is really good news for us. It shows that our plans are on course and have the backing of recognised authorities.”

Rachel Sedman, development officer for FVL LEADER, said: “A fully restored Maid of the Loch would have a massive impact on the economic development and tourist appeal of the area. We are pleased to be supporting activities that will help LLSC to cross the final hurdles to making this a reality.”

Julian Pace, head of rural at Scottish Enterprise, added: “We are delighted to support, along with LEADER, the development proposals for such an iconic vessel for it is recognised that a fully restored Maid of the Loch would be key tourism asset not just for Loch Lomond but for the rest of rural Scotland for future generations to come.”

So far the project to get the Maid – the last paddle steamer built in Britain – sailing on Loch Lomond for the first time since 1981 has raised £4.5 million, more than 80 per cent of the total funds needed.

Mr Beveridge added: “What a fantastic achievement so far, and our supporters are very excited that we are now so close to getting this beautiful lady sailing again.”

Built at the Glasgow yard of A. & J. Inglis, the Maid was taken apart and transported to Balloch in bits before being reassembled ahead of her launch in 1953.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company’s rescue mission was launched in 1996. The group is now working towards raising the £1m needed to unlock support of £3.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund to return the ship to full operation.