When writer Jo Addison was searching for great places to visit with a toddler, Bute was a perfect choice.
She visited three islands and this is the section of her article (reproduced with her generous permission) about Bute. I’ll be honest, and confess that I didn’t know much about the Isle of Bute before we went. However, being another really accessible island from North Ayrshire meant it was just a 35 minute ferry crossing from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay on Bute so it is perfect for a day trip. The island is only 15 miles long by 4 miles wide, but has its fair share of beaches, seals and famous gardens, including one of the main attractions – the unmissable Mount Stuart.
Ferries arrive into the main village of Rothesay on Bute. From here, you can head to the Visit Scotland Discovery Centre next to the ferry terminal to find out what activities and events are taking place on their island during your visit. There is also a long promenade to walk along, and the Winter Gardens which have far reaching views over the bay towards the mainland. Again, we drove around the island of Bute stopping off along the way when we wanted.
Things To See And Do On The Isle of Bute With Toddlers
If I had to describe Bute in one word, I would say ‘peaceful’. The silence at some of the deserted bays and beaches is deafening, and often the only thing you can hear is the gentle lapping of the waves against the rocks by your feet, and the distant calls of some of the seabirds which call Bute their home.
A short drive up the coast road from Rothesay takes you past Port Bannatyne, which its pretty marina. If you keep going along the coastal road, you will soon get to Rhubodach where the road ends, and you can see a Calmac ferry doing a short hop of just 350m from Rhubodach to Colltraive on the mainland. This journey takes 5 minutes, and the ferry which does this crossing is surprisingly big considering the short length of the crossing. If your toddler likes boats and ferries, they will like seeing this! Keep your eyes peeled across the water as you may also see a Navy warship nestling into one of the bays at the other side of the water. We saw quite a few Navy vessels around Bute when we were there.
If the weather is nice, you will want to hit the beach. One of the best beaches on the island is at Ettrick Bay on the west side of the island. This beach is a mixture of sand and pebbles and is about a mile long with views over neighbouring Arran. The water is crystal clear so it is a good spot for paddling, although I’d make sure you bring flip flops / crocs for your little one to wear as it is a bit pebbly.
There is a car park at the beach, as well as the Ettrick Bay Tea Room which serves light meals, snacks and cakes – all with a Canadian twist!
The next bay to check out on your tour of Bute should be St Ninian’s Bay. There aren’t any facilities at St Ninian’s Bay, but when the tide is in, this is a really shallow and sheltered bay which is good for paddling. The water is crystal clear so it is also a good place for rock pooling or seeing what you catch in your fishing net. The beach is really quiet so you are likely to have it to yourself too!
Scalpsie Bay on the west coast is a secluded bay which you can walk to from the road. But one of the best things about Scalpsie Bay is the opportunity to spot the seals which like to hang out around this Bay. There are 2 good viewpoints where you can see the seals; one is high up above the road and gives you panoramic views of the Bay, seals sunbathing on the rocks and over to Arran, and the other is a dedicated Seal View viewpoint where you can see the seals close up on their rocks.
Mount Stuart, on the east side of Bute, is one of the most impressive stately homes in Scotland. We didn’t go in the house as we were short on time, but the gardens were equally striking. There are over 300 acres of gardens to explore including woodland walks, and Mount Stuart even has its very own beach. There is even a basket of bucket and spades, footballs, beach toys and fishing nets in the tea room for families to borrow when they go to the beach. The Bute Kitchen is the name of the café at Mount Stuart which sells a range of locally sourced food and ice creams. It is definitely worth a visit.
Top Tip – It is a long walk from the car park to the car, so consider bringing your buggy if you think your little one’s legs will get tired!
If you would like to read Jo’s full article (which features Arran and Cumbrae along with Bute), please click here.