MV Balmoral: to Ilfracombe and Lundy

Yesterday Jane and I went on a mystery tour on a rather different sort of vessel – the MV Balmoral, a recently restored passenger excursion boat, built in 1949. There is lots of detail about the boat on the White Funnel website, and on the Heritage Steamers website. There is  more detail about the engines below.

I spotted her first when the convoy of narrowboats returned from the Medway in June – here she is near Coldharbour point on the River Thames.DSCF7941

Here (courtesy of is the route we took – Swansea (1000) to Ilfracombe, where most people got off  and a few got on, then to Lundy (arrive 1400), then back from Lundy at 1630, picking up some well oiled passengers at Ilfracombe, leaving 1830 and returning to Swansea at 2045. We left the car in the Park and Ride, and were ferried into Swansea Docks via a rather fine fleet of buses from the Swansea Bus Museum. (we went on the second and third vehicles in that photo). Here – and later – we were shepherded by some very friendly volunteers, who support the operation of the boat, run by a professional (and equally friendly) crew.


Getting ready to cast off  – the now-disused ferry ramp in the background.


Backing away from our berthDSCF8681

Swansea in the backgroundDSCF8683

Mumbles lighthouse, with the RNLI station just to the rightDSCF8684

Approaching Ilfracombe – weather rather overcast and the conditions were such (stiff breeze from the East) that it seemed unlikely we would be able to land at Lundy.DSCF8687

Getting the heaving line readyDSCF8688

Some decent fendering. There were three sections of the pier, at different heights to cope with the very wide tidal range. We arrived at low water, the lower section of the pier was completely submerged when we returned later.DSCF8690


Some of the local trip boats – including a disused lifeboat. I looked for the narrowboat that visited here recently, but could not see it (details here and here)

 DSCF8691 DSCF8692 Capstans and bitts. All the  air vents were helpfully labelled – the one on the right is for the crew shower.


The Ilfracombe Harbour Master came to see us off safely.


At sea – still the Bristol channel I think, the Atlantic is the other side of Lundy.


The red deck above is the roof of the engine room – very warm and cosy on the way back when it got a little chillier. You can see the engines through the portholes – more detail in this video …

Short video of our trip

Chatting to the bridge – later on when most people were inside we were invited in for a quick peek, and to listen to the horror stories about berthing the boat at Sharpness!




Approaching Lundy – run by the Landmark TrustDSCF8706

Docking at the new jetty. The Oldenberg had nabbed their preferred mooringDSCF8710

Balmoral backing away, to anchor for a couple of hours.



New lighthouse. Cornwall in the distance, perhaps


Old lighthouse – not a bad view  from the top though the windows were rather grimy


The church – a full set of bells – another plaque marked the 1905 peal.DSCF8728

The main habitation on Lundy – pub, shop etc. The door at the foot of the church tower had been left unlocked, so we sneaked an unauthorised trip up the tower (only mildly chastised)



Typical cottagesDSCF8735 DSCF8736 DSCF8737

Marisco castle


East side of the island – the west side was even more ruggedDSCF8740

Balmoral did come back to collect us …DSCF8744 DSCF8745

Embarking – dealing with the height differences between the boat and the pier was quite tricky – this was the lowest of the three levels on the boat that could be used.DSCF8749

Sailing back to IlfracombeDSCF8754

And finally one of the many videos from White Funnel themselves


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