Guest Post: Text and photos courtesy of Roger Connard:
As the springtime slowly starts its advance, it’s a good time to think about the wonderful array of wild flowers to be found on Bute. The island is home to over 800 species of vascular plants, not bad for an island that is only about 13 miles long and up to 5 miles wide. Part of the reason for this floral diversity is the range of habitats that the island affords: from sandy dunes to shingle beaches and saltmarshes, from deciduous woodland to open moorland, from acidic bogs to freer-draining soils, from stony cliff faces to arable fields, from the more exposed west coast to the more sheltered east.
After the snowdrops and daffodils, primroses and bluebells give splashes of colour to the landscape, contrasting well with the purple Dog-violet and the white Greater Stitchwort and Wild Garlick. A very good place to enjoy these is the road northwards from Ettrick Bay towards Kilmichael, as also is the woodland walk up to the Cairnbaan chambered cairn (signposted from the road a short distance beyond Glecknabae).
As spring turns into summer, the diversity of flowers on the raised beach south of Kilchattan Bay is particularly stunning (this walk forms the first section of the West Island Way). The short sward is host to orchids in profusion, as well as Eyebrights, Heath Bedstraw, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Tormentil, Cat’s-ear and Thrift, to name only a few. Be sure not to overlook the rock outcrops which are also home to a colourful variety of flowers and lichens.
Kilchattan Bay Buck’s-hornThese are just a couple of the many walks on the island where you can enjoy an array of wild flowers. For further suggestions see https://sites.google.com/site/butewildflowerwalks/home. A useful series of walks booklets can be bought from Bute Museum in Stuart Street (behind Rothesay castle), also a Checklist of the Flowers and Ferns of Bute. A popular feature of the Museum during the summer months is the display of wild flowers currently in bloom.