Showing posts from March, 2019

Ettrick Bay

Bute | Port Bannatyne | Beach | ★★★

It's a close-run thing, but Ettrick Bay is probably our favourite beach on Bute. It's also the busiest, but also the biggest at about a mile and a half in length - so there's more than enough sand to share. Ettrick Bay was a popular tourist spot even before widespread car ownership; surprisingly, it even had its own horse-drawn (then later electrified) tramway linking to the rest of the network at Port Bannatyne, with the old station now a useful cafe. The low-lying island of Inchmarnock is ever-present out in the bay, with mighty Arran beyond, while the hilly northern half of Bute makes a splendid backdrop on the landward side.

Location & info

📌 Ettrick Bay ★★★
Off B875 (with cafe) or A844 (no facilities) 2 mi west of Port Bannatyne, Bute. Middle of beach is at G.R.: NS 038661 ///list.hill.flashback

Scalpsie Bay

Bute | Beach | ★★★

Sand, sea and stunning views of Arran are the simple key draws of Scalpsie Bay: a fairly popular beach on Bute's southwestern coastline. On a sunny day at low tide it's hard to beat, with almost a kilometre of beach to explore and the small size of the car park preventing overcrowding. Combine it with a trip up Tarmore Hill, which overlooks the bay on its northwest side.

Location & info

📌 Scalpsie Bay ★★★
Off A844 5 mi south of Rothesay, Bute, G.R.: NS 058583 ///promotion.nature.cautious

Anything else? From the small car park (gets full) at G.R.: NS 060587 ///explains.seashell.gliding it's a 5-min walk to the beach on a level path.

Walk: Teeny Tarmore Hill

Bute | Short walk | ★★★

At under 100 metres in height, Tarmore Hill on Bute is barely worthy of the name, but boasts surprisingly big views for its small stature. Count the islands and peninsulas you can see from the top: Bute, Inchmarnock, Arran, Holy Island, Kintyre, Cowal, and probably a few more besides. Summit and car park are only 500 metres apart and a route between them is marked on some Ordnance Survey maps; in reality, a narrow path leads to a gate and after that you're pretty much on your own except for the odd sheep. After admiring the panorama from the viewpoint indicator, retrace your steps (as detailed here) or you could follow a faint trod further along the broad ridge... but we're not sure where it ends up. Back at the car park, a second path leads to a lower viewpoint from which seals can sometimes be spotted basking on the rocks below.

📌 Walk: Teeny Tarmore Hill ★★★
Start / finish at car park on A844 5 mi southwest of Rothesay, Bute, G.R.: NS 051584 ///resis…

United Church of Bute & St Mary's Chapel

Bute | Rothesay | Church | ★★

Next to the road out of Rothesay to the south is an interesting, late 18th century church with an equally interesting graveyard. The interior of the United Church of Bute contains 8 ornate stained glass windows and a Dutch chandelier from around 1800. Just outside, the newly re-roofed St Mary's Chapel dates from the 14th century and formerly served as the parish church for the northern half of the island (the southern half was covered by St Blane's). What still remains is the former chancel, containing two impressive stone tombs to persons unknown: the carvings are of a knight and a lady. The extensive graveyard surrounding both buildings contains some intricate gravestones detailing many local family names and even a relative of Napoleon. And then there's Bute Mausoleum at the north end, resting place of some of the early Earls of Bute - including a former UK prime minister.

Location & info

📌 United Church of Bute & St Mary's Chap…


Bute | Town | ★★★

Rothesay is the capital of Bute and its main ferry terminal, an attractive place with the hustle and bustle of a thriving seaside resort but the intimacy of an island destination. The council is evidently proud of the sea front, from grand Victorian toilets (which even have their own information leaflet) to perfectly manicured gardens with palm trees and neat flowerbeds. The nearby Ayrshire coastal towns are hidden from view as the bay faces north, and instead all you can see across the water are the graceful, lofty hills of wild Argyll. Moving away from the shore, the main shopping streets are a bit disappointing, but Rothesay Castle steals the show with its impressive gatehouse and moat. Further east, Serpentine Road is worth a look (or careful drive) with over a dozen consecutive hairpin bends: more than Lombard Street in San Francisco. Now onto the important stuff: there are a handful of places to eat. We couldn't get a table at the well-reviewed Harry Haw…

Isle of Bute Discovery Centre

Bute | Rothesay | Museum | ★★

Step off the Rothesay ferry onto the Isle of Bute and the first place any first-time visitor should go is the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre, on the right hand side of the CalMac terminal when looking at the town. The circular building was built in 1924 as a Winter Garden which later closed; faced with demolition, the structure was instead converted into the island's tourist information centre, and still appears to be going strong despite cuts to similar places elsewhere in Scotland. It's much more than a reception desk and leaflets on a rack, with exhibitions giving an interesting introduction to Bute's history, wildlife and tourist attractions. Obviously if you need more advice from staff, you couldn't be in a better place.

Location & info

📌 Isle of Bute Discovery Centre★★
Victoria Street, Rothesay town centre, Bute, G.R.: NS 088648 ///
Open daily | Free

Rothesay Castle

Bute | Rothesay | Castle | ★★★

A real moated fortress with a drawbridge and a catalogue of bloody skirmishes? Yep, Rothesay Castle has it all. Rothesay and the Isle of Bute were for centuries a battleground between Scottish and Viking forces - you can learn more about this at Vikingar! in Largs, on the mainland. King Edgar first gave the island to Norway in 1098 following constant Viking raids, but by the 1200s Bute was back under Scottish ownership and the castle's curtain wall was built during this period. Island and castle changed hands a couple more times before the gatehouse and chapel were added in the late 15th century. Now ruined, there are several interesting features to look out for. The gatehouse has the lion's share, with a large hall and claustrophobic pit prison accessible by vertical ladder. Also look out for the nesting boxes in one of the towers, which was later converted to a doocot.

Location & info

📌 Rothesay Castle★★★
Castlehill Street, Rothesay town cen…