Bute is the island for beautiful walks
We have a local walking group, why not join in or hire a guide for your party and of course we have lots of walks around Bute
Bute Community Forest – Walks
The forest is on the north end of Bute, near to the Colintraive-Rhubodach ferry terminal.
The forest was acquired by the community has some lovely easy walks.
If nature is your thing, then you can see a whole variety of plants, animals, insects, fungi and protected bird species or if you’re more into your history you can visit archaeological sites or the WWII decoy village bunker.
You can wander anywhere in the forest and make your own discoveries or follow the waymarked paths to see some of our favourite spots.
There’s a load of more detailed information on the forest website. buteforest.org.uk
WEST Island WAY
The West Island Way was officially opened in 2000 by Janet Street-Porter, the journalist and former president of the Ramblers Association.
The route runs the length of the island for about 25 miles (40km) and can be accessed from various points if you want to split the journey.
The views of the island and the seascapes are fantastic and make a walk along the route more than worthwhile.
The West Island Way was the first waymarked long distance island footpath in Scotland. You could walk it between one and five days, but it is best walked over two.
It crosses a dramatic landscape, with a beautiful coastline, beaches, farmland, the moors and forests.
Pick up a Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme Map from most local shops to find your way round the West Island Way and along other walks.
You can find out further information on the West Island Way here – www.westislandway.co.uk
All the information about the West Island Way has been taken from their website.
To purchase a map click here: Footprint: Visitor Maps (stirlingsurveys.co.uk)
The route is now part of the Scotland’s Great Trails network it can easily be broken down into a series of shorter walks as listed below:
Stage 1 – Kilchattan Bay Loop (5 miles)
This loop begins and ends in Kilchattan Bay.
It takes in the coast, with amazing views and the nationally significant site of St Blane’s chapel. Although short, it can be strenuous with some rough terrain
● At the very end of the road through Kilchattan Bay village there is a turning area for buses and a parking area. Here a carved sandstone pillar marks the start of the West Island Way.
● The footpath is clear and follows the rugged coastline down to the south end of Bute. Take extra care where the rocky path is narrow and close to the shoreline – this is the most rugged section you will encounter on the West Island Way.
● You will pass below a rocky outcrop known as the ‘Hawk’s Neb’ – still an impressive sight but it’s neb (beak) was much reduced by rockfall in recent years.
● Soon you will see the lighthouse of Rubh’ an Eun and Glencallum Bay coming into view.
● Follow the path around the edge of the bay to the far side. Looking up, a marker shows where the path climbs up. At the top, pause to look back and enjoy the view of the bay, the lighthouse and across to Wee Cumbrae.
● Follow the curving path for about half a mile and you will reach the southernmost part of the walk. You will have a fine view of Arran and of Holy Isle in Lamlash Bay.
● The path now turns right to reveal Loch na Leighe below. The path takes you downhill and to the left of this peaceful little loch and heads in the direction of The Plan Farm turning right onto a vehicle track before reaching the farm. Follow the signpost to take you up to the higher ground, looking down on the Farm.
● Walk a little further and the ruin of St Blane’s Chapel can be seen, sitting high on a mound and surrounded by native trees. Take time to go into the Chapel to learn its story and feel the atmosphere of this special place – the gate is at the far side of the mound. What we see of the Chapel today owes much to the restoration work carried out by the 3rd Marquess of Bute and his architect Robert Schulz.
● Turn to the north end of the St Blane’s site to pick up the signs to where the path leads you to the farm track that will take you uphill. After passing the ruined township of Kingaven, follow the track up the hill to go through a bridle gate leading to a field. Turn right to walk downhill to a small bridge at the bottom.
● Head uphill in the direction of the summit of the hill called Suidhe Chatain.
● Stop at an interpretation ‘Swing’ Post will tell you about the ruined township of Branser.
● The West Island Way path will lead you to the right, skirting around the summit. But it is well worth making the short diversion (uphill to the Ordnance Survey trig point marker) to enjoy the view of the red sands of Kilchattan Bay and to the Firth of Clyde beyond.
● Rejoin the main path and head downhill to the Suidhe Wood and the stepped path that will take you back into the village of Kilchattan Bay.
● If you are continuing to Stage 2, turn left after the steps and follow the path that will take you out of Kilchattan Bay along the back gardens of the houses.
● If you are ending your walk at Kilchattan Bay, after the stepped path take the passage between the village houses that will take you back to the seafront and to the Car Park and Start of the Way.
● You have now reached the end of Stage One.
Stage 2: Kilchattan Bay to Port Bannatyne (11.5 miles, 18.5km)
This highly varied section of the Way takes in farmland, woodland, rocky shore, sandy beach, moorland track, golf course links, lochside and even an airfield!
● Follow the path along the back gardens of the village houses and take the gate leading into the Suidhe Wood, passing the Community Orchard on your right.
Stretches of boardwalk will take you safely over some occasionally very boggy sections.
● At the end of the Wood cross the ‘Plan Road’ to pass down a field leading to the edge of an Airfield and to the Golf Course (take care if any golfers are playing).
Near the shore, cross the Course to the rocks and sands of Stravanan Bay beach.
● Walk halfway along the shoreline of the bay then turn inland to cross the open grassy area (if cattle are grazing take extra care) to a gate that will lead you up a track to Langalbuinoch Farm. Turn right through the two farmyard gates and up the farm track to the main road – this is a working farm so take special care to leave the gates open or closed as you find them. Turn left here to follow the main road. Soon you will see a lane on your right (with a fingerpost) that will lead you upwards in the direction of Scoulag Moor.
● Follow the track until you reach a T-junction where a fingerpost will direct you to turn left.
● At the next gate a signpost will direct you to turn right onto Lord James’ Ride.
Walk uphill and at the summit you will find a stone cairn and a welcome seat from which to enjoy the fine views of Bute and over to Arran….
● From Lord James’ Ride, the track will reach a crossroads – turn left here to join the Moor Road. This will take you gently downhill to Loch Ascog, and onwards to a main road, the B881.
● The Way continues across the road, and down through field and track to the causeway near the end of Loch Fad.
After the causeway follow the quiet minor road that will lead you to Barone Cottage and the B878 – on the outskirts of Rothesay. Bear right onto this road and soon you will see a signpost to take you left (over a stile) into a field.
● Cross the field to reach a residential road end after which you will follow a downhill path and emerge opposite an old school building. Turn left here and, passing a waste transfer station on your left, continue uphill.
● Before you reach Westlands Farm, a Way fingerpost will direct you to turn right onto a long, raised track at the edge of a field.
● Continue on this track until you reach the second of two high metal gates – turn left immediately before the gate (as directed by the signpost).
● The path then skirts around the buildings of the Gortans and takes you through gates to reach the Kames Hill woodland. Follow the path downhill (known locally as the Boggely Road) to reach a minor road above the town of Port Bannatyne.
● Turn left and head uphill on this minor road. Bear right before reaching the Golf Clubhouse.
● Immediately on your right is a short path that will take you down to the seafront at Port Bannatyne and the end of Stage 2 of the Way.
● If you are pressing on to Stage 3 continue on the path heading downhill through trees and you will emerge onto the A844, with Kames Bay on your right and Kames Castle across the field in front of you.
Turn left to begin Section 3 of the Way.
Stage 3: Port Bannatyne to Rhubodach (8.5 miles, 13.75km)
Stage 3 opens by following the route of the old Tramway. It then turns northwards up a winding and peaceful glen. At the head of the glen the path enters the forest, then winds its way down to Rhubodach and the ferry to Colintraive.
● If you are starting Stage 3 from the Port Bannatyne seafront, walk north to Kames Bay and turn left at the first road turning (beside the gateway into Kames Castle) along the A844 signed for Ettrick Bay.
● Soon you will meet, on your left, the end of the woodland path taken by walkers continuing from Stage 2 to Stage 3 without a break at Port Bannatyne.
● The pavement walk goes gently uphill. Bear right where the road divides and take the B875 signed for Ettrick Bay. You will now switch to an enclosed track that follows the line of the Tramway that once took holidaymakers from Rothesay to enjoy the sands and Tearoom at Ettrick Bay (which you can still do today with only a very slight diversion).
Unsurprisingly, the Tramway section is very level and is easy walking.
● After about a mile, Ettrick Bay (and the Tearoom) will come into view. But just before it, at the fingerpost, turn right up the single track road heading inland. Keep straight on up this road, passing houses and farms on the way. Eventually you will reach a point where a road leads down to Achavoulaig Farm – but at this point you will continue straight ahead onto a rougher farm track leading to Glenmore Farm.
● Continue past the farm and through the gate. Your path is roughly straight ahead – but take care to look for the waymarkers. You will come to a dip and bend.
● Carry on for about half a mile – watch out for a fingerpost to guide you. You will come to an interpretation ‘Swing’ Post that tells you about the site of a farmstead called Achavoulaig Butt.
● Next you will come to a bridge across a small burn and arrive at the ruins of another farmstead, Butt a’ Croit – another Interpretation ‘Swing’ Post tells you its history.
● Continuing onwards, you will reach a gate that leads down onto the open moorland. A small bridge lies directly ahead to take you across the Glenmore Burn. Follow the path towards the waymarker on the higher ground ahead of you.
● Continuing on this path you will soon reach a marker post and a ‘sliding’ gate that will take you into the forestry plantation.
● The path meets a forestry turning circle and track. Follow the forestry track northwards.
After about one mile you will meet a turning to the right – ignore this and continue straight ahead.
● You will come to a junction signposted for the ‘Balnakailly Loop’. At this point you will have a choice of two options, as shown on the Information Board at this Junction:
▪ [Option 1] The official West Island Way route to Rhubodach by gentle forestry track and a short stretch of main road to finish.
▪ [Option 2] A more scenic but longer route To Rhubodach via the ruins of Balnakailly village and a native woodland walk – designated by Scottish Natural Heritage as a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’.
(WARNING: Allow at least an hour to cover the 2 extra miles)
The official Way route to Rhubodach by gentle forestry track and a short stretch of main road to finish.
● Take the right hand track and continue on the official Way route on forest track.
● After about a mile and a half you will reach a junction. Turn left to walk the track down to the main A886 road and the short section to Car Park, Bus Stop and the Rhubodach ferry slipway and the end of Stage 3.
The more scenic but longer route to Rhubodach via the ruins of Balnakailly village and a native woodland walk.
(WARNING: Allow an hour to cover the two extra miles)
● Take the left hand track (the Balnakailly Loop) an alternative and arguably more scenic route to Rhubodach. After a short distance you will arrive at a forestry vehicle turning circle. An information board and fingerpost will point the way down to the old Balnakailly settlement.
● At the forestry turning circle you may wish to break off the route and follow a signpost to visit the site of the World War 2 ‘decoy village’ and learn about its history (with the bonus of a comfortable seat on which to enjoy a break and a fine view of the Kyles of Bute, Loch Ruel and the Burnt Islands).
Returning to the turning circle, follow the sign down a path and through the ruins of the old settlement. Leave the ruins at the lower end and take the path through a short stretch of dense conifers.
● Cross a low dyke and follow signs for the downward path through the native woodland of Balnakailly Wood, arriving at a bridge over Balnakailly Burn taking you towards the shore and a track to the end of Stage 3 at Rhubodach.
Stage 4: Rhubodach to Port Bannatyne (8.5km / 5.25 miles)
The first half of this section is on gentle forest track and pathway. The second is across rough and steep moorland. In places the moorland grass and bracken path makes the route unclear without an obvious path on the ground.
● The starting point for Stage 4 is from the Car Park and Bus Stop beside the Rhubodach Ferry slipway.
● If you have already walked to Rhubodach via the Balnakailly Village Loop, you will now be setting off on unexplored territory. If you chose to complete Stage 3 by the forestry track route, you will now retrace your steps for a short while.
● Begin by heading south on the grass verge of the A886 roadway. Soon you will pass the road-end of Rhubodach Farm. Just a little further ahead you will see Rhubodach Cottage.
● Turn right to go up the track beside the cottage. There is a stile to use if the second gate is locked.
● Continue up this forestry track. Pass some forestry buildings and equipment on your left and then arrive at a junction. Take the path leading to the left – if you turn right it will take you back to Stage 3.
● Continue along the forestry track for over a mile until you reach a turning circle at the end. Look right to cross a wooden bridge that leads you up to a shady path through the rest of Shalunt Wood.
● Soon you will emerge into bright daylight. Look for the finger post and stile that will lead you onto the open moorland.
● Now walking mostly uphill, your route will skirt around the summit of Windy Hill. It then falls and rises as you pass near the summit of Kames Hill, finally reaching the summit of Edinbeg Hill.
● Enjoy the fantastic view from Edinbeg Hill over Kames Bay and Port Bannatyne below, and the Cowal peninsula and the Firth of Clyde beyond.
● The hardest work is all behind you now – the route is now all downhill to Port Bannatyne.
● Follow the visible path down in almost a straight line (keeping the distant Hilton Farm and track over to your right.
● Cross a stile and then bear right onto a path (watching carefully for the waymarkers) that will lead you around a large area of gorse bushes. Then cross some open ground and reach a wooden gate.
● The gate leads to the Hilton farm track. Turn left and walk down this pleasant track to emerge at Kames Bay.
● Walk round the shore pavement and into Port Bannatyne – you are now at the end of Stage 4 and have Completed Bute’s ‘West Island Way’!
Glen More (Ettrick Bay) – Rhubodach (6 miles)
Glen More is a winding and peaceful glen with a deserted township.
At the top of the glen the path enters the forest, then winds its way down to Rhubodach and the ferry to Colintraive.