THE Maid of the Loch paddle steamer has opened again to visitors for the first time in 10 months after the coronavirus lockdown.

The historic shop will be open from Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm, each week until the end of October.

The Loch Lomond Steamship Company, the charity which owns and operates the Maid, had warned the future of the project to restore the ship and return her to service on Loch Lomond for the first time since 1981 was under threat as a result of the pandemic.

All volunteer work on the ship was halted in March, in line with lockdown restrictions, and the charity's employees were placed on furlough.

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But the easing of lockdown restrictions, and the green light for museums and heritage attractions to reopen, meant the charity was able to welcome its first visitors on board on Thursday, August 20.

John Beveridge, chair of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company, said: “It’s great being open and able to say “Welcome Aboard” after all these months.

“We’ve devoted a considerable effort to bring in new measures to keep visitors, volunteers, and our staff safe from the threat of Covid-19.

"We are confident the new two-metre rule, and cleaning routines are working well."

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A new one way system is in operation, with one gangway going on, and another for going off.

A system of markers on the ground from the pay station and around the ship assists social distancing but allows access to most parts of the vessel.

“The Maid has been closed since last October but now we can offer new attractions," John continued.

“We have a new caterer, Wild Highlands, new film shows, and new activities for children.

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"On August 29 and 30 we will have the majestic engines in steam and her paddles turning for the first time in 2020, so there is plenty to excite interest."

The Maid of the Loch is the last paddle steamer built in Britain and has been owed by the charity since 1996.

A £1.2 million refit was completed last year and saw two main rooms on board refurbished in a 1950s style and the ship's engines returned to steam power for the first time since 1981.

The Maid will remain closed on Mondays and Tuesdays this year because of a lack of resources and the increased duties imposed by the government's pandemic rules.

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