Although I have visited the Isle of Bute previously, I had not visited much of the west coast of the island. Nor and this may seem hard to believe, had I gotten round to visiting Mount Stuart, the most famous attraction on the island.
So with a guide book in one hand and a map on the other, I set off from the beautiful Ferry and Train terminal at Port Wemyss. Some of the Cal Mac Ferry Terminals, can be quite modern and frankly a bit boring. This one certainly isnt! The Port Wemyss Terminal is a Grade A listed building. It was designed in 1903 and is a prominent wrought iron and timber clad structure with a slate and glass roof. This Edwardian masterpiece was the first of the Clyde railway piers to be built and is now the last one remaining. The building has recently had a £1 million makeover and as a result, the existing timber walkway, ticket office and store facilities have all been refurbished. Without a doubt it is my favourite Ferry Terminal.
I had a good half an hour to wait, so I went to the small Cafe inside the building and slowly sipped a Cappucino. Suitably refreshed, I headed for my car and waited for the Ferry to dock. Once done, I carefully drove down and onto the Ferry. I then went up onto the outside seats to get a good view of the sights around Wemyss Bay. When the weather is fair, I do like to sit outside, rather than in the restaurant or on the comfy seats. It is part of the magic of visiting islands.
Once we arrived at Rothesay, I departed and headed south. My intention was to visit some of the villages and attractions in the south and on the west coast, such as Mount Stuart and Scalpsie Bay. However, first (and the nearest) port of call was Mount Stuart.
Mount Stuart is one of the UK’s most spectaular Victorian Gothic House’s. It was the creation of the 3rd Marquess of Bute and the architect Sir Robert Rowland Anderson. The House sits in 300 acres of landscape and woodlands and was opened to the public in 1995. The house is understandably feted as one of the most spectacular domestic houses available to see in Scotland. I cannot argue with this. From the moment that I set foot in the grand entrance, I was transfixed with the opulance and grandeur of the building. But what really impressed me was the detail within the architecture. Even the ceilings are a work of art. From signs of the zodiac to different constellations, it is difficult to know where to look next. Along with Kinloch Castle, it is the most impressive building that I have seen on the scottish islands.
From Mount Stuart, I made my way south to Kilchattan Bay. I had been here previously, but only to take a few pictures. This time, I spent a good hour investigating some of the trails around and behind the lovely Bay. There is an interesting trail opposite the old pier. Situated between St Blane’s Villa and Kiln Villa, is a trail leading up to an Old Lime Kiln. It is constructed against the cliff and is an impressive building. I had a brief wander to look around the Lime Kiln and then took some panoramic photos of Kilchattan Bay.
From here, I drove down towards the west of the island and the first of the locations I had not previously visited, Scalpsie Bay. I walked down the track between two fields, to get down to the beach. Scalpsie Bay is famous for the seals that lie upon the rocks, so I was disappointed not to see any of them. I spent a quiet 15 minutes on the beach and then headed back to the car and onto Ettrick Bay, which is towards the north west of Bute. There is a tiny car park at Ettrick Bay, so I parked up and had another stroll on one of Bute’s lovely beaches. The west coast is definitely quiter than the more tourist-friendly east coast, but it is worth taking the time to explore.
I then made my way back to Rothesay via a short detour to St Colmac’s Church. This ruined 19th century church is an imposing building and dominates the skyline from the bottom of the road. It was built for the 2nd Marquess of Bute in 1836 to act as a Gaelic church for the north of Bute. The Church closed in 1980 and now stands roofless and open to the elements.
I slowly made my way back into Rothesay and awaited the Ferry. Bute is one of the most accessible of the west coast Inner Hebrides and is only around a 30 minute car journey from Glasgow. There is much to see on this beautiful island and a day does not do it justice. Another reason to visit again in the future …