THE ISLE OF BUTE
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The Isle of Bute first came to our attention in Press articles about the marriage of Stella, the daughter of Sir Paul McCartney of The Beatles fame. I'd never before heard of Bute, although I had heard of Rothesay and thought it was on the mainland. A decent map showed me that Rothesay is a small town on an island out from the mouth of the River Clyde, north of the well-known Isle of Arran, and just south of the fingers of land that jut out into the Atlantic as Argyll. An ideal trip I thought knowing that RyanAir fly cheaply into Glasgow Prestwick Airport, and that there's a rail link between the airport and Wemyss Bay, the ferry port for the island.
On arrival at Prestwick I was pleasantly surprised to find that RyanAir had a deal where our rail tickets were half price if we showed our aircraft boarding cards. Again a fine surprise to find the ferries to Bute were every 40 minutes or so, and were in fact two brand new luxury ships complete with bar, panorama lounges and sun decks. Rothesay itself is really quite small, a huddle of old shops and a supermarket around an ancient castle. This is one of the visitor sights, along with the Victorian toilets on the seafront and the town museum. But the true splendour of Bute is when you leave Rothesay and walk up into the hills or along the coastline...the views are unforgettable..water, mountain, farmland and forest...long empty beaches and wild terrain.
Our first night was in a Rothesay "boutique" hotel.
Mount Stuart House is not so much a Stately Home but a magnificent Victorian folly, Gothic in style, rambling in nature and set in 20 acres of very mature gardens of exotic species from all parts of the Empire. This was where Stella McCaertney was married as they have their very own marble chapel...don't we all? Take a look at their website www.mountstuart.com as my words cannot do it justice. It's situated at the south of the island, about 8 miles from The Russian Tavern, but there was a little bus direct and after our visit it was only a short walk to Kilchattan Bay, a tiny village with a magnificent Victorian guesthouse, faded in that Peter Sellers kind of way (in fact I was expecting to be served by him.
On the west of the island the open-top tour bus dropped us at Scalpsie Bay, a big bite of sandy cove with fantastic views of the mountains on the Isle of Arran, to the south. Over 200 seals lie around one end of the beach; at first we thought they were rocks, they are so well disguised. They didn't mind their photos taken, but slid into the sea as we came too close for their nerves. Inland from the beach the little lanes led us to a long freshwater loch where we could have caught (I'm totally certain,) huge pike, perch and trout.
The next morning we took a little bus to the very north of the island and onto a minor shuttle ferry across the water into the mainland of Argyll. The bus climbed high up with spectacular views across water and highlands, along a single track road, an hour later reaching the little town of Dunoon. Not so dissimilar to Rothesay, Dunoon has felt the economic chill of the closure at the American Submarine Base at Holy Loch. From Dunoon we took a little ferry over to Gouroch, a very pleasant Victorian seaside town not unlike Hastings or Ramsgate in Kent. From there the train took us, at half-price, back to RyanAir at Prestwick Airport and our flight back home. A very enjoyable and original long weekend trip which I've been glad to share with you, just as I have followed some of the tips and trips I read about on TravBuddy.