This is written by Jonty and Morag Clews, who are frequent visitors to Bute. Normally, they come by boat, but here they describe their visit via Freebird 2 – their motorhome, as part of their year-long trip around the UK.
We arrived at Wemyss Bay aboard our 6m Hymer Camp Motorhome ‘Freebird Too” just in time to
buy a ticket and board the Friday 1445 CalMac ferry to Rothesay, Isle of Bute for a five day break
on the ‘Wee Island with a Big Personality’. After a short passage across the Firth of Clyde we
berthed at Rothesay and headed for beautiful Ettrick Bay on the west coast of the Island. Wild
camping is allowed on Bute so long as you follow the simple rules:
‘Leave nothing but foot prints and take away nothing but memories’
After watching the sun set over Arran we settled down for a very quiet and peaceful night only to
wake up to a glorious day,, blue sky and sunshine; after a walk along the length of the beach with
the sun beating down there was only one thing to do – go for a swim! Refreshing, exhilarating and
not that cold; what a way to start our first full day on Bute.
The Island is motorhome friendly with many locations to park up for coffee, lunch, a walk or to stay
the night, you just have to respect any notices saying no parking or overnight camping, so after
Ettrick Bay we moved to Port Bannatyne Marina which is motorhome friendly. The Marina has no
amenities for motorhomes apart from fresh water but there are excellent showers and ablutions, a
phone call to the Marina in advance to check if there is space is recommended. We stayed for two
nights at the Marina while we met up with friends in Rothesay. We restocked at the main Co-Op in
Rothesay whose car park had ample space to park FreebirdToo without any inconvenience to other
shoppers. A terrific weekend in Rothesay and Port Bannatyne Marina including a gentle sail on the
Sunday to the Kyles of Bute for lunch.
Monday saw us move to Mount Stuart, a most impressive Victorian Gothic Mansion set in
extensive gardens and woodland, built and designed by the Marquis’ of Bute. Mount Stuart is
motorhome friendly with a carpark which allowed you to back in and overhang the grassed area
surrounding the parking area. The grounds are impressive with plenty of woodland walks, but the
house is without doubt the ‘jewel’ that must not be missed when visiting the Isle of Bute, the
experience is breath taking.
After a full day at Mount Stuart we headed for Scalpsie and more wild camping. We chose the
viewing point carpark at Ardscalpsie which is secluded with a magnificent view across Scalpsie
Bay and beyond. We tucked FreebirdToo up in a corner and were the only vehicle there all night,
another silent night with only the dawn chorus to wake you.
On our final full day on the Island we walked the southern part of the West Island Way; a circular
route starting and finishing at St. Blane’s Church which dates back to the 6th century. The circular
walk is about 9km and takes about 3 hours depending on your pace. If you go clockwise the walk
takes you over farmland to Kilchattan Bay passing Suidhe Chatain which is worth walking up to the
Trig Point to get the view across the Firth of Clyde to Great and Little Cumbrae Islands. The West
Island Way then follows the coast around the southern part of the Island passing the Rubh-an Eun
Lighthouse, the path is rugged so walking boots are advised, it is worth the effort as the views are
spectacular; the path is well marked and takes you back to St Blane’s Church.
Our final night was spent wild camping on the east coast of the Island in a wooded lay-by just off
the main road to the Rhubodach – Colintraive ferry at the north end of the Island before reaching
the Kyles of Bute.
A short trip to the ferry point on Wednesday morning saw us park up at the Rhubodach and get a
an hours walk along the shoreline to Bainakailly Bay with views across to the Kyles of Bute. We
departed the Isle of Bute aboard the ferry after five glorious days; Bute has a lot to offer and seeing
the Island by motorhome was perfect; there is plenty of suitable parking, spectacular views,
culture, great walking and great company. We will be back.