The first weekend in May is always a bank holiday weekend in the UK and…
Recently we make a trip to the Isle of Bute. We were taking a short break at Parkdean, Wemyss Bay. This is a caravan park situated on the west coast of Scotland overlooking the Firth of Clyde. The caravan park is set on a hill in a quiet wooded area with stunning views across the bay. We really enjoyed our stay and were happy that Parkdean Wemyss Bay allowed us to have a dog friendly holiday. It meant we could take our dog, Eddie with us and he also came when we went exploring the local area. I have always wanted to explore the Scottish Islands so we decided to take a trip to the Isle of Bute which is very close to Wemyss Bay.
Where is the Isle of Bute?
Bute is a small island found on the west coast of Southern Scotland in the Firth of Clyde. Wemyss Bay is about an hours drive from Glasgow and during Victorian times was a popular holiday destination. The island is only around 15 miles long and less than 5 miles wide but has plenty of varied scenery. You will find lush rolling hills in the heart of the island, craggy heather covered moor in the north and lovely sandy beaches around the coast. The Gulf Stream passes the Isle of Bute which gives it a mild climate and you will find palm trees growing here. There is one town on the island, Rothesay, which is the capital of Bute.
How to get to the Isle of Bute
The main way to get to the Isle of Bute is to take the CalMac (Caledonian MacBrayne) ferry from Wemyss Bay. The ferry port is right next to the Wemyss Bay station which can be reached by taking a train from Glasgow. The ferry station is at the bottom of the hill from the caravan park and really easy to find. We drove into the ferry station and purchased tickets on site. There is no need to book in advance, the sailings are frequent and you can just go on the next available sailing. The return tickets cost £21.90 for the car, £6.10 for an adult and £3.10 for a child aged between 5 and fifteen. Children under five and dogs travel free. While we waited to get on the ferry we watched the ferries sailing across the Firth. We also had a look at Wemyss Bay station which is a Victorian station. There are lovely views across the bay and the mountains in distance were still covered with snow.
Soon we were driving onto the ferry and leaving the car on the car deck took our seats on the ferry. Eddie, our dog, was not quite sure what to make of the experience but was soon looking out the window. There were plenty of seats on board. Some had tables and you could buy refreshments from the cafe. There was also a seating area at the front so you could see where you were going. There were plenty of other dogs on board. The trip to the Isle of Bute took around 35 minutes and we were able to walk around the deck and see where we were going. It was a little windy though so we did not stay out too long. Soon we could see Rothesay appearing in front of us.
You can also get to Bute by taking a five minute ferry crossing from Colintraive on the Cowal Peninsula to Rhubodach near the northern tip of Bute, about 8 miles from Rothesay.
What to do on the Isle of Bute
The Victorian seaside town of Rothesay is the first place you see when you disembark from the ferry. It is a bustling seaside town. If you are interested in local history, geology and wildlife you can visit the Bute Museum on Stuart Street. The tourist information centre is found on Victoria Street, it has exhibitions and displays about the island. One of the more unusual attractions in Rothesay are the Victorian toilets on the pier. All the fittings are original dating from 1899. They are gentleman’s toilets but guided tours are given each day. You can also visit Rothesay Castle which is set in a moat atop a mound in Rothesay. The castle contains Scotland’s only circular wall with four round towers that were added after the Vikings invaded. Admission charges apply.
Ardencraig Gardens are found to the east of Rothesay and as well as a wide range of plants have aviaries containing exotic birds and also fish ponds. There is a tea room on the site for refreshments. Admission is free. The gardens are open to the public from May to September.
Ascog Hall Fernery and Gardens
Found on the road south out of Rothesay Ascog Hall Fernery and gardens are a 3 acre site which contain a sunken Victorian fernery which is fed by spring water. It contains many ferns including a 1,000 year old Todea Barbara or King Fern which survives from the original collection. There are also many unusual shrubs and trees found the the gardens. Open from April to October.
Mount Stuart House and Gardens
Having visited Mount Stewart in Northern Ireland I was intrigued that the Isle of Bute also has a Mount Stuart. Located about five miles south of Rothesay it is a Victorian gothic house with beautiful gardens and amazing architecture inside. Set in 300 acres of woodland, guided walks are available for those who wish. The house is open from May to September.
We enjoyed our trip to the Isle of Bute although having visited slightly early in the season some of the places were not open. I would love to go back some day and explore some more. I have put together a list of dog friendly places to visit in and around Wemyss Bay which you may also like to look at. Have you ever visited Bute? What did you enjoy about your trip? Do let me know below.