Isle of Bute. May 2018.
Helen Rose Outdoors Diary
The Glasgow HF Walking Club runs two low level walking weekends every year at different locations; this year the first one was on the Isle of Bute. The group was based in the famous Glenburn Hotel in Rothesay. Rothesay has many childhood memories for me as a summer holiday resort and was affectionately known by Glaswegians as ‘Goin Doon the Watter’. In other words, sailing down the River Clyde. Bute is 33 miles from Glasgow as the crow flies and is only 15 miles long by 4 miles wide. It is renowned for its glorious gardens and grand architecture including Mount Stuart House, which is a wonder of Victorian engineering and had the world’s first house indoor swimming pool! I have previously visited it to see the celestial ceiling and art works. Stella McCartney got married there so it must be tasteful!
Rothesay is the largest village on Bute. Our walks were planned for the West Island Way, which was Scotland’s first official island long distance footpath and was opened in 2000 to celebrate the turn of the millennium. We walked 12 miles a day and did most of the Way but we were dependent on local buses and had to fit in with timetables. Stephen planned the walks well taking in all the Island’s attractions.
West Island Way North
On the first day we took the bus to Port Bannatyne and walked over to Ettrick Bay passing a derelict church with an interesting three dimensional cross. Ettrick Bay has glorious sands and views over to Arran and its majestic mountains. A great place for a coffee break to soak up the scenery. We continued our walk to Rhubodach with some rough walking due to recent inclement weather. We had a diversion to a lookout shelter from World War Two facing North West with lovely views out to sea. Spring has been late here this year but there were some lovely violets and primroses in full bloom. When we reached Rhubodach, we saw the bus coming across on the ferry from the Dunoon Peninsula which is only a five minute crossing!
West Island Way South
On the second day we caught the bus to Kilchattan Bay in the south of the island and walked over to Stravanan Bay stopping for coffee on the beach after passing the local airfield, basically a field with a large windsock and a picnic table which we joked was the check in desk! We walked on to a little top for lunch with views again over to Arran where there was a bench. We were approached by a man wanting to take a photo of people sitting on the bench as he was responsible for maintaining it from the Dorothy Marshall Trust . He was the local joiner so well placed to provide us with interesting information on building and maintaining teak benches. . The walk continued through avenues of brilliant yellow gorse and we came to a field where some sheep were in a pen watched over by a farmer. Kathleen could not resist asking the farmer about a black lamb in a field of white sheep we had seen earlier. We noticed the two lambs in the pen were big and a strange grey colour. He explain that they were January lambs and it was the first time they has been out due to bad weather. Their coats had become waxy and turned grey as they had been inside so long. So now you know! Many lambs were lost this year due to late winter snow.
Every night we had entertainment in the Glenburn Hotel including an Elton John Tribute Night on Saturday. On Monday, we took the boat back to Wemyss Bay in glorious sunshine. In fact, we were very lucky the whole weekend had been great weather. Bute is even better than I remembered in my childhood.
Thanks to Stephen for planning the weekend and leading the walks.
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