‘Bluebird’ revs up for Loch Fad trials

Loch Fad is the idyllic setting for Bluebird's tests.
Loch Fad is the idyllic setting for Bluebird's tests.

Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7 is about to take to the water again on an island adventure.

The iconic hydroplane will be brought to Bute next month for crew training days.

It’s more than half a century since Campbell became the only person to hold both the world land and water speed records simultaneously, the latter set in his jet-engined craft.

Bluebird crashed tragically on Coniston Water on January 4, 1967, killing one of Britain’s greatest pioneers.

It has taken 17 years and a small army of dedicated volunteers to restore Bluebird to her former glory and, from August 4-16, it will be undertaking crew training at Loch Fad.

Better known for its outstanding trout and pike fishing waters, the loch will see Bluebird’s team work out how best to handle a craft which can reach speeds of up to 276 miles per hour.

Bill Smith, the project leader, has had a love of Bute since his fishing trips here as a teenager, as well as the breathtaking scenery and a laid-back welcoming community.

Bute also has a proud history of engineering design, well-fitting with the Bluebird project: Andrew Baird, the blacksmith who built a plane, undertook Scotland’s first heavier than air flight on the island; Thomas Lipton, freeman of the Burgh of Rothesay, raced regularly raced local waters in his famous Americas Cup Shamrock yachts; and speed was also the key for F1 driver Johnny Bute, who has sponsored fast cars through events like the Mount Stuart Motorsport Classic.

Bill said: “It’s half a century since anyone put her in the water then got her back out again.

“Or put fuel in and started the engine whilst afloat.

“No one knows how she handles or the best way to jump out in a hurry if needs be.

“We need to work all these things out, so the name of the game is crew training. Come and watch us fumble about, drop things in the loch then have to send divers down to get them back. You can enjoy the sight of us stood in a huddle scratching and shaking our heads.

“Come and have a beer with us afterwards and we’ll tell you what went wrong, but, be patient, and you may just see this icon hitch up her skirts and skim the length of Loch Fad in a cloud of noise and spray.”

Rothesay Pipe Band and local children will welcome Bluebird to the island on August 3.

It will also be on display at Bute Highland Games on August 11 and at Mount Stuart House on August 12.