THE ISLE of Bute is a haven for walking, cycling, fishing and wildlife.
Expect idyllic, deserted beaches, fab food and a whole lot of history on this Scottish isle, says writer Robin McKelvie.
Attractions include Rothesay Castle, the stately home at nearby Mount Stuart, and some of the country's best toilets
The days are gone when most holidaying Glaswegians headed “doon the watter” to this stunning 15-mile-long isle in the Firth of Clyde, but the beaches that attracted them are just as lovely as ever.
Kilchattan Bay on the south coast is a local secret, while Ettrick Bay out west is a family fave for its mile-long sands and old-school tea room serving some mean milkshakes (Facebook.com/ettrickbaytearoom).
Scalpsie Bay is worth the five-minute walk from the car park for its views of the Isle of Arran and its noisy paddling companions – a large colony of seals.
After a longer hike?
Hit the most scenic stretch of the West Island Way from Kilchattan Bay and cut along the craggy coastline and rugged hills to the remote ruins of 13th-century St Blane’s Chapel (Westislandway.co.uk).
With so much farmland and bountiful sea, Bute’s natural larder is richly stuffed.
At Caribbean-style restaurant Ab Fab, mains start at just £10, with chicken curries alongside locally smoked Ritchie’s of Rothesay salmon (Facebook.com/abfabbute).
The Courtyard Cafe at Mount Stuart serves salads and sandwiches using produce from its kitchen garden, plus great home-made cakes and traybakes.
Also, be sure to order fresh-off-the-boat seafood, like Rothesay Bay langoustines, £14, at The Bonnie Clyde (Facebook.com/thebonnie clyderestaurant).
Make a splash
New venture Bute Paddle Boards provides hire and lessons around Ettrick Bay, from £50 per person (Butepaddleboards.co.uk), while Bute Boat Trips runs adrenalin-pumping RIB rides up to the rocky islets of the Kyles of Bute, where legendary film-maker Richard Attenborough once owned a home.
A 90-minute RIB ride costs £18 per adult, £15 per child (Buteboattrips.com).
For a more relaxed afternoon, hop on one of Scotland’s shortest ferry rides – taking all of five minutes – a few hundred metres across the Kyles from Rhubodach to Colintraive, £2.50 return, and explore this tiny village (Calmac.co.uk).
Spend a penny
Hit the Victorian-era toilets by Rothesay Pier – a riot of marble and one of Scotland’s most unlikely tourist attractions, where spending a penny actually costs 40p.
Later visit Mount Stuart, a lavish country house and estate built by the 3rd Marquess of Bute, once the world’s richest man.
Take a self-guided audio tour to see the opulent chapel where Stella McCartney got married. Entry is £13 for adults, £7.50 for kids (Mountstuart.com).
Even more historic is Rothesay Castle – complete with a moat and drawbridge, plus nooks to get lost in. Entry is £6 for adults, £3.60 for kids (Historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/ places/rothesay-castle).
Hide in the hills
Brand-new Balmory Stables is a gorgeous two-bedroom, self-catering hideaway in the hills south of Rothesay, with wood-burning stoves, mid-century interiors and a swish open-plan living space and kitchen.
Hire e-bikes for £20 a day and book a Flavour of Bute dine-in dinner, £100 for two, with treats like Loch Fad trout, Kilchattan Bay beef and panna cotta with Bute rhubarb (Butekitchen.bigcartel.com).
Stays cost from £84 a night (Facebook.com/balmorystables).
The Highland Boundary Fault cuts through Bute, meaning half is in the Highlands, half in the Lowlands. Find the marked line in Rothesay and hop between the two.
Plan your trip at Visitbute.com.
Get there in 35 minutes by catching the ferry from Wemyss Bay. Cars cost £24.10 return (Calmac.co.uk).
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