A day trip to Bute is a great choice for an outing from Glasgow. In just over 90 minutes you can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy some island tranquillity. The Isle of Bute is often overlooked in favour of better known Scottish islands but it has a unique charm all of it's own.
Although one day won't be enough to take in all the history, wildlife and activities that Bute has to offer, it will certainly give you a flavour of the island and a reason to return.
HOW TO GET TO THE ISLE OF BUTE
Wemyss Bay to Rothesay Ferry
There are two ferry route options to the Isle of Bute, one at the more secluded north end of the island and one that takes you to the main town of Rothesay. If you are travelling over for a day, the easiest option is the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay ferry route.
The cheapest and most convenient way to get there is by public transport. A one hour train journey from Glasgow Central Station runs direct to the CalMac ferry terminal at Wemyss Bay Station. From there, a 35 minute connecting ferry ride takes you to Rothesay, the main town on Bute. This makes it one of the most accessible islands to get to in Scotland. Buying a combined rail and sail ticket from the station or on the train can potentially save you money.
There is also the option to drive to Wemyss Bay and leave your vehicle in the car park at the train station although be aware there is a charge and spaces are quite limited.
If you are only going on a day trip to the Isle of Bute, then there really is no need to take a vehicle across on the ferry unless you really want to. My recommended suggestions can all be easily visited on foot or by using public transport.
The island is also popular with cyclists so you may even want to bring your bike across and explore on two wheels.
How to spend a day on Bute
Bute is the little west coast island oasis that I called home for 5 years. Knowing all that it has to offer has made it difficult to narrow down the list of places you should visit in a day. However, I feel that visiting an island should be a relaxing experience and I think my suggested things to do find a balance between exploring some interesting attractions and taking the day at an easy pace. Hopefully you will leave feeling not only chilled out but with a little bit of knowledge about this historical Scottish island and a yearning to come back.
I recommend spending the morning exploring Rothesay itself as there is more than enough to keep you busy. First stop as you leave the ferry terminal should be the Victorian Toilets, yes I know that might sound like a weird suggestion but you will hopefully thank me for it.
The toilets date back to 1899 when Rothesay was a fashionable and popular seaside holiday resort. The decor, fixture and fittings are almost completely original to the day they were built and are quite special to see. Although it is the gent's lavatories that are the real attraction, ladies can visit too, just check with the attendant that they are empty first! There is a small entry charge.
Next, take a short walk to The Discovery Centre which is housed in the old Winter Gardens. Here you will find tourist information and a free multi-media exhibition that explains some of the history of Bute. It is only a few minutes from the ferry terminal and a great introduction to the island.
If the sun is shining, take a stroll along the Esplanade, admire the beautiful flower displays and the views over the Firth of Clyde to the mainland. You can even enjoy a shot on the putting green or take a seat by the pretty fountain.
When you are ready, cross the road to the town centre which is compact and easy to navigate. Browse the many independent shops before heading to Rothesay Castle which dominates the town. Depending on your time and preferences you might want to visit inside the castle (an entry fee applies unless you are a member of Historic Scotland) or head to Bute Museum across the road at the rear of the castle (a small entry fee applies).
If you are short on time, I would suggest the museum has more to offer than the castle. It is quite small but it has some fascinating displays and important artefacts found on the island. It covers the story of Bute's long history from Neolithic to the present day and I personally think it is a great wee museum.
Finish off your morning with some lunch in Rothesay. Next to the castle you will find a few recommended places to eat which are almost next door to each other. Musicker Cafe, The Coffee Stop and Harry Haw's are all good choices and if you are lucky enough to get a seat at the window, you can admire the castle view.
I'm going to give you a few options for the afternoon - which one you pick will likely depend on the weather and your own interests.
CITY SIGHTSEEING BUTE OPEN-TOP BUS TOUR
This would be my first choice as I think this is a good way to get a flavour of the rest of the island which is very different to Rothesay. The tour takes you past open countryside, beaches, sea views and some historic attractions as it travels on a circular route. The addition of live commentary from a local adds to the experience and you will learn some interesting facts about Bute as you sit back, relax and take in the scenery. Tours run from May to September and leave from Guildford Square. Your ticket also gives you travel on local buses for the rest of the day.
During the tour I recommend taking the option of getting off and visiting Mount Stuart (see below) and returning to town either on a later tour bus or a local service bus.
The biggest and most popular tourist attraction on Bute is Mount Stuart, a Gothic style mansion with impressive grounds. To reach the visitor centre you can either get a public West Coast Motors bus direct from Rothesay near to the ferry terminal which takes about 10 minutes or hop off the sightseeing tour bus mentioned above.
An entrance ticket to Mount Stuart gives you access to the house and grounds - allow at least 2 hours to make the most of the experience. Depending on the time of day and year you visit, you will be directed to explore the house at your leisure or join a guided tour. The interior is just incredible and really has to be seen to be believed. If you have enough time, finish you visit with a walk around the gardens.
If the weather is good and you prefer to spend some time soaking up the rays than exploring an indoor attraction, then head to Ettrick Bay. It is arguably the best beach on the island with a mile of clean, golden sand. It also has a little tearoom if you are in need of refreshment.
This is a good choice if your day out is more about relaxation or you have some wee ones that need entertaining, just don't forget the bucket and spade! Local buses run direct from Guildford Square in Rothesay to the tearoom.
If you have a car then you will have your choice of beaches to visit. Check out my blog post for a list of the best beaches on Bute.
So those are my suggestions which I feel include some of the best attractions that can be easily visited in a day. However, it is only a guide and you may decide to do nothing more than potter around the coast or cram even more in to your day. Whatever you end up doing, I'm sure Bute will surprise you with all it has to offer.
If you are looking for a unique day out from Glasgow, then a visit to one of Scotland's most beautiful and accessible islands makes for a memorable mini adventure. Hopefully my blog post will help you get the most out of a short visit but be warned that as the ferry leaves for the mainland and you leave the palm trees and beaches behind you may be wishing you stayed for longer!
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