An award-winning environmentally accredited attraction, Ullswater ‘Steamers’ has been operating cruises on Ullswater, the Lake District, since 1859.  

The original purpose of Ullswater ‘Steamers’, once known as ‘Ullswater Steam Navigation Company’, was not only carrying passengers, but also Royal Mail provisions, slate from nearby mines and lead from the Greenside mine to Glenridding. During WW2, Ullswater ‘Steamers’ even ferried soldiers down to Glenridding for training at Ullswater Hotel, the Lake District.

Today Ullswater ‘Steamers’ operates one of the largest heritage boat fleets in the world!

Our Journey Through Time

1855

Our Inception

‘Ullswater Steam Navigation Company’ was formed

1859

Enterprise Launched

The paddle steamer Enterprise was launched on the 13th of August. She is rumoured to be sunk somewhere in the lake. The main purpose of the 'Steamers' was not only to carry passengers but also Royal Mail, provisions, slate from nearby mines and lead from the Greenside mine above Glenridding. During World War II the 'Steamers' even ferried soldiers down to Glenridding to be trained at the Ullswater Hotel (now the Inn on the Lake)

1876

Steamer Wyvern Sank

The first choice for Ullswater ‘Steamer Wyvern’ sank 24th February

1877

Lady of the Lake Launched

M.Y. Lady of the Lake was launched on the 26th of June; she was designed by Mr Douglas Hebson of Penrith and built in Glasgow. She was then transported in three sections by rail to Penrith then by horse drays to Waterside, near Pooley Bridge, where she was assembled by hand. 

1881

Lady of the Lake Sank

Lady of the Lake sank at her moorings and was re-floated by a team of divers from Liverpool

1889

Raven Launched

M.Y. Raven was launched on the 11th of July. She was built by the same company as M.Y. Lady of the Lake. An extract from the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald on the 18th of July, 1889 reads “It is questionable if there be any boat to beat, or even equal this little craft on any lake in this country”. One of the shareholders Mr Thomas Cook was the reason behind the launch of a second vessel. When M.Y. Lady of the Lake broke down at the height of the season, he complained there was no boat to transport his tourists

1895

Raven Made Royal Yacht

Raven was made a temporary royal yacht, her decks painted yellow to mark the visit of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II to Lowther Castle, home to the "Yellow Earl" – Lord Lonsdale

1900

Company Name Change

The company became ‘Ullswater Navigation and Transit Company’

1934

Raven Converted

Raven was converted from steam and fitted with twin Thornycroft AEC diesel engines, cruising at around 1400 rpm approximately 12mph or 10 knots

1936

Lady of the Lake's Engines Fitted

Lady of the Lake had Kelvin engines fitted, providing 115 bhp

1953

Shares Bought to Ensure Future

Sir Wavell Wakefield discovered the controlling shareholder (Dixon) was going to wind up the company, so he bought up all but three percent of the shares to ensure the future of Ullswater ‘Steamers’

1954

New Chairman

Lord Wakefield of Kendal bought a controlling shareholding to prevent the company from being wound up. He became chairman of the company. A three-times Grand Slam winning England rugby captain, World War 1 pilot and Member of Parliament, his vision for the future of Ullswater ‘Steamers’ is continued by his family to this day on Ullswater

1958

Lady of the Lake Sank Again

M.Y. Lady of the Lake sank again in a severe storm at Pooley Bridge Pier

1961

Ullswater Campaign

The Manchester Corporation Waterworks Department promoted a parliamentary bill to turn Ullswater into a reservoir. 

Lord Birkett known as the "Lakes Great Advocate" started a campaign to save Ullswater from environmental disaster

1962

Bill Defeated

Lord Birkett defeated the parliamentary bill against the Manchester Corporation in the House of Lords. He passed away shortly after.

On the western side of the lake above Glencoyne Head, a nameless fell was re-named in his memory. There is also a memorial plaque on Kailpot Crag visible only from a boat on Ullswater.

The Ullswater Yacht Club hold an annual Birkett Cup Trophy Race on Ullswater in his honour

1965

Lady of the Lake Fire

M.Y. Lady of the Lake was badly damaged by a fire and was out of service for 14 years

1979

Lady of Lake Restored

Lord Wakefield had Lady of the Lake restored and refitted and she was relaunched on the 19th of May by William Whitelaw

2000

Renamed to Ullswater ‘Steamers’​

The business was renamed to Ullswater ‘Steamers’

2001

Lady Dorothy Joins the Fleet

Lady Dorothy, a sea-going boat from Guernsey, joined the Ullswater fleet - enabling winter sailings for the first time

2007

Lady Wakefield Arrives

M.V. Lady Wakefield was renamed in a recommissioning ceremony by HRH Princess Alexandra in April. Built in 1949 in Dartmouth, she had worked on the River Dart and Plymouth Sound before her arrival at Ullswater. 

2008

Western Belle Purchased

Ullswater ‘Steamers’ purchased M.V. Western Belle from Chris Cruises where she had worked providing excursions on the upper River Thames. She was launched in 1935 on the River Tamar then worked on the River Dart before arriving in London in 2000. Throughout the Second World War, she ran enhanced services to Devonport for workers in the Royal Dockyard and carried out vacuation runs during The Blitz

2010

Western Belle Arrives at the Slipway

On Tuesday the 13th of July, Western Belle was lowered into Ullswater at Stybarrow Crag and escorted to the slipway at Waterside by Lady Dorothy

2011

Western Belle Relaunched

After a complete refurbishment, Western Belle (built 1935) was officially launched on Ullswater on the 5th of July 2011 by Jane Hasell-McCosh, owner of the historic Eden home Dalemain.

2015

Aira Force Pier Built

On the 10th of June, the first new jetty for over 50 years was built at Aira Force Green. A joint project with the National Trust. 

Ullswater 'Steamers' were awarded Gold in the Best Sea or River Cruise category at the World Responsible Tourism Awards

2016

Large Visitor Attraction of the Year Award

Ullswater ‘Steamers’ awarded the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year at the Cumbria Tourism Awards and Best River and Inland Cruise Operator at the British Coach Tourism Awards

2017

Lady of the Lake's 140th Birthday​

Ullswater ‘Steamers’ celebrated Lady of the Lake's 140th Birthday

2018

HRH Prince of Wales Visit

HRH Prince of Wales took a cruise on board Lady of the Lake whilst visiting Cumbria to celebrate the Lake District becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site

2019

Glenridding Pier Extended

Glenridding pier was extended. Ullswater ‘Steamers’ was awarded Best River and Inland Cruise Operator at the British Coach Tourism Awards.

We celebrated our 160th anniversary and Raven's 130th birthday in July with a large flotilla event.

2020

Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK and temporarily changed business as we knew it. Ullswater ‘Steamers’ had to close for long periods of time from March to June and November 2020

2021

Lockdown

Another national lockdown was implemented by the Government and Ullswater ‘Steamers’ had to close once again from the start of January to 16th April