Steamer MV Swan on Lake Windermere with superimposed text sating Happy Birthday

Majestic Swan glides towards her 85th birthday

Published: 10th June 2023
Categories: Media Release

One of the Lake District’s most recognisable and majestic passenger vessels is about to celebrate her 85th birthday.

MV Swan was launched on June 10,1938 and still sails daily on Windermere carrying people up and down England’s longest lake on elegant cruises.

MV Swan at Lakeside Pier

When she first took to the waters of Windermere, at Lakeside, Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister. It was also the year gas masks were issued to the civilian population as the Second World War loomed.

Over the past eight decades, MV Swan has carried millions of passengers on Windermere and is one of the best loved original “steamers” in the Windermere Lake Cruises’ fleet.

“It gives me a great sense of pride whenever I enter the wheelhouse and prepare to set sail in her,” says skipper Simon Bond who is one of the lucky few who gets the chance to take the helm of MV Swan when her regular skipper Phil Viney isn’t on duty.

Skipper Simon Bond in the wheelhouse of MV Swan on Windermere

“I just think of all the other skippers who have taken charge of her over the years. It’s a big honour.”

The 251-tonne vessel is part of the National Historic Fleet and was built by Vickers Armstrong of Barrow-in-Furness for the London, Midland and Scottish Railway company to improve its Windermere fleet.

The distinctive Lakeland ‘steamer’ has been modernised many times during her lifetime, with the last major refit taking place five years ago. She is a “twin screw” vessel with two propellers. Bow thrusters were also retrofitted in 2005.

“She was built to last with proper engineering,” says Simon. “Despite her age it is very rare that anything goes wrong with her. That’s partly because we look after her so well but it’s also a testament to her original engineering.”

An old photograph of MV Swan

The pulling power of Swan, as she glides the waters of Windermere, is clear. Many visitors to the Lake District who want to take a cruise ask for her specifically. Skipper Simon moved to Cumbria from the south of England 5 years ago when he decided to take a six-month break from his job in the motor trade.

“My first seasonal job here was as a barman on MV Swan. I loved it so much I decided to stay! It’s hard to believe that I now get to skipper this lovely old vessel on one of the country’s most beautiful lakes.”

Swan carries a crew of six and can reach a speed of 10 knots. She even operated a limited service in the early years of the Second World War. She operated up to the end of the 1941 season when she was laid up for the rest of the conflict. Service resumed on July 16, 1945, and she has been in regular use ever since.

“I’m very aware of all the history behind MV Swan,” says Simon. “She has such a lot of character and always looks so in keeping with the glorious surroundings of the Lake District.

“I’m confident she will continue giving passengers unforgettable cruises on Windermere for the next 85 years too!”

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