The resort town of Rothesay is the gateway to the enchanting Isle of Bute/.
Visitors making the short ferry trip from the mainland to the Isle of Bute arrive in the island’s principal town of Rothesay. While Rothesay is not quite the bustling holiday resort town it once was, over recent years the town has been springing back to life and many of its pretty Victorian-era buildings have been restored to their former glory. Before heading off around the rest of the island, visitors can explore the impressive Rothesay Castle in the centre of town and take a wander along the attractive seafront along Rothesay Bay. Campsites are limited on Bute, but wild camping is always an option.
Just behind Rothesay, the steep summit of Canada Hill views over Rothesay Bay to the Firth of Clyde and the Cowal Peninsula. Set on the hill, Roseland Touring and Camping Park is the only organised campsite on the island and has pitches for caravans, motorhomes, campervans and tents.
On the west coast of Bute, a 10-minute drive north of Rothesay, the wide, sandy beach at Ettrick Bay has safe waters for able swimmers and paddlers. Nearby, you can see the Ettrick Bay Stone Circle and look for seabirds in the bird hide south of the bay.
Four miles (six kilometres) south of Rothesay, Mount Stuart is a must-see. This Gothic-style 19th-century manor house is filled with art, imposing architecture and fascinating astronomy influenced ceilings. Leave plenty of time to explore the sprawling gardens.
Seven miles (11 kilometres) south of Rothesay, Kilchattan Bay marks the starting point of the West Island Way, a long-distance, waymarked footpath that takes you across the Isle of Bute, crossing a variety of landscapes, including seashore, moorland and forest, along the way. The five-mile (eight kilometre) Kilchattan Bay Circular is the first stage in the route and offers views across the Firth of Clyde to the Cumbraes, Arran and Ailsa Craig.
For your best chance of good weather, visiting the Isle of Bute between May and September is ideal. Visitor numbers are at their highest in summer, however, especially on weekends and during the school summer holidays. Autumn, particularly early September, is a good time to visit as it avoids the peak summer tourist season, while still having milder temperatures and longer hours of daylight. Winter visitors can be sure of a crowd-free (and chilly) experience but some businesses may be closed.