After fears for its future, the MV Balmoral is returning to Ilfracombe and North Devon for the May spring bank holiday and summer season

Thanks to a fund raising appeal the pleasure steamer MV Balmoral will be back in North Devon waters this May spring bank holiday.

In November there were fears the historic 1949 ship would never sail again after a poor weather-hit summer season left a huge gap in its finances.

The charity that owns her, the MV Balmoral Fund Ltd, launched an appeal and thanks to the support from the public and supporters, she is back on the waves this season.

The Balmoral will make its first appearance in Ilfracombe during the spring bank holiday weekend, sailing from the town on Saturday, May 27, with a cruise past Lee Bay, Bull Point and Morte Point, before continuing to Bideford Bay to view Clovelly and Hartland Point and lighthouse.

On the Sunday there is a voyage from Ilfracombe to Lundy Island, with time on the island.

There are also Lundy cruises on May 30-31 and a Baggy Point cruise on June 1. The ship then returns to North Devon waters again at the end of July.

Operator White Funnel Limited is hoping for a better year than 2016, which was beset by early technical difficulties as well as several sailing days cancelled due to bad weather.

But on Sunday the last flagship of the famous P&A Campbell White Funnel Fleet came back from dry dock in Sharpness on Sunday after a refit which should leave her technical problems behind her. She now looks fully resplendent with a complete new paint job.

Her full crew will soon be joining, many from last season, under the leadership of last year’s Captain David Howie. He will work the crew up in all safety drills and operations before the ships stores are loaded, food, beer, wine, tea and coffee and souvenirs are all brought onboard - then Balmoral will be ready.

This summer, Balmoral will visit Ilfracombe 28 times and sail to Lundy on 11 trips.

On Thursday, August 3 she will be bringing hundreds of visitors across from South Wales and North Devon people will have the opportunity to make the return cruise to Porthcawl with a few hours ashore and then a voyage back.

Two special Bideford trips are also planned.

For details of sailings and to book tickets go to the White Funnel website at www.whitefunnel.co.uk or call 0117 325 6200.