Bute’s heritage is unsurpassed. Thousands of years of history await your arrival on Bute where people have lived for over 8,000 years. Standing stones, cists, Iron Age forts, grand mansions, a 13th century castle and memorabilia from Bute’s importance as a submarine base during WWII are all here to be discovered. Below is a list of some of the best places to go if exploring Bute’s history although, there are many others!
The museum is an independently run museum where visitors can explore the natural and historical heritage of the Isle of Bute. The History & Archaeology Gallery has displays covering aspects of Bute’s history from Mesolithic and Neolithic times through to the closing years of the 20th century. The Natural History Gallery allows visitors to explore the geology, plants, animals and birds of the island. The Museum offers a chance to glimpse many of the treasures excavated from archaeological sites on Bute over the decades, and is a great source for leaflets and guides to the island.This wealth of sites is reflected in the Bute Museum collection, which is one of the finest in the country for a museum of its size. Visitors are welcome all year round and can find out more at butemuseum.org.uk. Pop in here first to find out the best places to visit on the island in-line with your natural history and archaeological interests.
Rothesay Castle is the closest piece of Bute’s heritage to the start of your journey. Just a short walk off the ferry and the unusual circular castle with links to Robert the Bruce will come in to view. Rothesay Castle is remarkably well preserved. It dates back to the early 13th century where it was built as a fortification against the Norwegians. It went on to become a royal residence before falling into disrepair in the 17th century. Following on from the 2nd Marquess, the 3rd Marquess of Bute continued a series of restorations with his long-time architect, William Burges. The castle now stands proud in the centre of town and is open for visits all year round in the care of Historic Scotland. Highlights include the great hall and the moat where you can admire the outer stone curtain wall. CLICK HERE for the official Rothesay Castle web page
St Blane’s Chapel
The monastery lies about 2 miles from modern Kingarth in a beautifully peaceful rocky hollow with views out over the Sound of Bute towards Arran. A trip to the south end leads to the remains of the monastery of St Blane. The monastery was originally founded in the 6th century and was possibly the forerunner to the better known monastery of St Columba on Iona. An enclosure wall surrounds the monastic site of St Blane’s, inside of which stands a 12th century chapel with a romanesque chancel arch. St Blane’s was the parish church of Kingarth for many centuries. Historic Scotland has some further information HERE
This is one of the most important late prehistoric and early historic sites in Scotland and lies on the coastline just west of St Blane’s. The impressive fortress of Dunagoil can be easily visited on the same journey and pays back the intrepid explorer handsomely with dizzying views from the top. Dunagoil has been occupied from Neolithic time onwards and was probably a central fortress in the southern Dalriadic kingdom at roughly the same time St Blanes was founded. Many Iron Age artifacts from Dunagoil can be viewed at the Bute Museum. A short walk away, slightly to the northeast, is Little Dunagoil where a smaller fort can be found. There’s some very detailed information about the Fort HERE
So, from the tombs of the earliest farmers, to the fortresses of Dalriadic kings, to a castle linked to Robert the Bruce the remains of centuries lie waiting to be discovered – whether you are looking for a gentle stroll or a more challenging countryside walk.