This interesting and unusually styled piece by Roy Hayler describes the former islander’s return trip to Bute.
The train journey from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay, the dichotomy of the recently captured in film Greenock, is enough of a taster as to what to expect from your time on the Island of Bute, nestled excellently, vastly and majestically between mainland Scotland, the Firth of Clyde and the outreaches of Argyll & Bute.
Whilst you should take time to intake the destructed Clydeside towns of the West coast, the mountains across the River Clyde are enough to remind you that only a short distance away are the Highlands of Scotland. The river Clyde for all its stereotypical city garbage collections can, on the beautifully cold days of winter Scotland, or the red- brown autumn or just the expanse of a still summer, shine golden in the daily suns and transport you off to your ideals of utopia, your ideal getaway from the daily toil of the 21st Century Western Man.
As a classical romantic lover of twilight, I would always suggest you make your way there for sunset; it is normally red purple, yellow smells of sea and permeates deep-sea calm. If you are lucky enough to arrive at this time and there is space before your impending boat journey, the Wemyss Bay chippy is a perfect accompaniment to your wait; my favourite being a King Rib Supper. Wemyss Bay, for all it is simplicity, but classic station design, can hold for most the first steps to the beautiful opening of the Clyde, where sits to the south Arran and the massive “sleeping warrior”, to the West the opening to your adventure on Bute and backwards towards the meeting point for the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland.
There is half an hour for your journey to Bute world. This journey is circular and provides the view of that thing; that thing that people come to Scotland for. There is vastness, desert seas, mountains and sky, wide open starfilled skies around this half hour and then you when you enter the bay, you view your destination, a contradictory, beautiful close-nit narrow vast community. From being an insider, I could only wish that I never had to remember Bute on that journey so as to experience this for the first time, as a someone visiting that bubble; it is majesty, it is utopian, that thing were you could pack up everything and buy a cheap, olden cottage outlooking the sea, or enclosed in the smell, but always there is the permeating and salten fresh sea in the night. The rain smells different on Bute and when the mist calls over the hill whilst your are tucked up into home, there is nothing more that could epitomise a delight in comfort and simplicity.
I would never tell someone to visit Bute for a historical or cultural adventure, as it may disappoint some. Despite its past with Vikings and the excellent Mount Stuart and its adjoining walks, the thing that Bute is, is the beaches, the walks, the closeness and the scenery. To look out from Bute is like looking outward from your home and seeing the rest of the world in all its majesty and grandeur; like being the philosopher at the mouth of their particular cave.
There is nothing like the feeling one gets when someone explains that they know Bute; there is a funny smugness and pleasure that someone else can remember its life and the way it subtly lays stagnant, endlessly trying to sell itself back to the world.
The Island of Bute or main town, Rothesay, was once a hub of holidaying pleasure for the peoples of Glasgow and the queen, but their going “doon the watter” has almost ceased and in its place a trip to Tenerife or Lanzarote. But you can hear the Rothesay song, a peane to going doon that water to Rothesa-o; take some youtube time for the Dubliners to sing this to you.
Bute is a place where you have to allow yourself to search into the land and feel its soul. Perhaps it has been lost to modernity, but there is a fragile soul in Bute, its sensitivity is seen on its inhabitants, the landscape and the infrastructure, in the food and the water. The sun always shines delicate on Bute, it allows for its expression to come out to the fore. On Bute, if you allow yourself, your life can be left on the mainland, on another existence, plain. Enjoy the expanse of Bute, embrace what it is that can express simplicity. Enjoy Bute as someone new to its regime and enjoy the sweet sun jazz of May, the heat and scones and the olden idea of bliss; Bute provides simplicity in an over complicated existence. Walk on Bute, speak on Bute, cycle on Bute. There are even palm trees on Bute.
For whatever “Home” is to the many, Bute is where I grew up and where I found my brothers and family. It may not be where I belong, but it is definitely where I got 12/28ths, or 4 /7ths, of my personality. It is why I get that pain when I am too far away from sea, its smell; it burns up into my hungered nostrils and when there is sea, I search out the smell first. Bute is where I look to when the cityscape strangles me, when there is too much concrete walking me to work or to a shop and away from green, red and purple. There is definitely heaven on Bute, as there always is when you are far away and at sea, in fields beside archaic towers or into that picture postcards of no memory.
And after all that, if you don’t like Bute, then leave via the Colintraive ferry (only if you have a car) which is a short 5 minute ferry crossing on the Kyles of Bute; it’s song and delicate manner expressing the helpless pleasure of ensuring that Bute stays an island. If you are to leave this way, you will be onto the open Scottish road north and onto Argyll and the Highlands.
If you ever travel to Scotland, Bute is somewhere I would recommend, even if it is only a night stop to the rest of the highlands or on your way to somewhere more dramatic and historical, bravehearted and passionate and all those kilts. Stop off and take some time to intake the vast expanse of an island in the middle of madness, it is accessible and easy, you cycle it in a day and you can always write it off as nothing in comparison to a whole host of other things; but you would experience that unique thing, that feeling that you are moving away from life and into an abyss, the ether stretches outward and you would be doing it for the first time and that is greatly unforgettable.