The island of Bute, which is reachable by ferry on a short crossing from the mainland at Colintraive or a longer one from Wemyss Bay, covers just 47 square miles but manages to pack in something for everyone. Garden lovers are well catered for, with three fascinating sites to choose from. Ardencraig Gardens is credited with having the best display of summer bedding anywhere in Scotland. Ascog Hall Fernery and Garden has as its star attraction a rare sunken Victorian fernery. The Gothic Revival mansion Mount Stuart has 300 acres of gardens, including a walk taking in pools and cascades which replicates the Via Dolorosa, while the garden known as the Wee Garden proves to be something of a misnomer, since it amounts to five acres of plants, with the emphasis on the Southern Hemisphere.
History buffs will find plenty of interest on the island. RothesayCastle, in the island's main town of Rothesay, dates back to the 13th century, having been built to defend the area from the Norse hordes. It is a remarkably well preserved, moated castle. St Blane's Church, two miles south of Kingarth, is a ruined monastery with views over the Sound of Bute towards Arran. The island also has a number of standing stones, the most easily accessible of which are to be found in Kingarth on the way to St Blane's Church. A more recent and unusual historic sight is the Victorian loos near Rothesay pier. They are still functioning as a public lavatory, and users can luxuriate among ornate ceramic and marble decor. Rothesay is very proud of its Victorian heritage, and recently held a Victorian Day with a range of events and people dressed up in Victorian clothing.
There is plenty of scope for enjoying the great outdoors on the island. Wildlife enthusiasts have a range of species to look out for. Sea creatures include porpoise, dolphins and grey seals; bird watchers can expect to see birds of prey including Ospreys and Golden Eagles. Other outdoor pursuits include walking, sailing, sea kayaking and golf.
Map of the area.
Rothesay Pier © 2005 William Craig, via Wikimedia Commons