I am very lucky to have a friend who has a cottage on the Isle of Bute. In fact, it’s the highest cottage on the island which means that when it’s clear you can see some fabulous views. My friends had been encouraging James and I to visit for a while and at New Year we decided it was the perfect time. The island that had cast my friends under its spell did the same to us, and I definitely think we’ll be back again some day.
I’m not really a party person, and I’ve discovered over the years that although I enjoy marking New Year’s Eve as an occasion, I like to do it in a low-key sort of way. Preferably, staying somewhere reasonably rural and praying the weather will be kind enough to allow plenty of walks in the surrounding area. The Isle of Bute ticked several boxes so we headed off with plenty of books and board games (just in case the weather wasn’t so kind) ready to explore somewhere new.
Whether you are travelling by car or public transport, you will need to make a short crossing to the island via a ferry. As such, you’ll need to plan your trip accordingly. It was recommended to us to arrive on the 30th just in case the weather was too bad the following day to allow a crossing. It’s also worth noting that the ferries don’t run on the 1st January so you will need to stay until the 2nd at least. We had no problem with our crossing on the way over and had allowed ourselves plenty of time before the last ferry. If it’s still light I’d recommend getting out on deck and enjoying the views, although make sure you have a windproof layer!
We arrived after dark so couldn’t really see much. But then we woke up the next morning and enjoyed this view over breakfast.
We were incredibly lucky with the weather on our first full day. It was really clear and bright meaning that we had some wonderful views and could see out quite a long way. Deciding to make the most of the weather, we headed up for a walk over the Moor. As we reached the trig point, we could see across the Isle of Arran which was unusually clear. After passing a farm of pedigree chickens, we walked down to Scalpsie Bay. We had hoped that we might see some seals bathing on the rocks but there were too many dogs out on the beach. We walked back up over the Moor just as the sun was setting which gave us plenty of time to warm up and eat before midnight.
As we were already on top of a hill, we didn’t really have far to go to watch some fireworks. We managed to find a spot which allowed us to view the display in Rothesay, one on the mainland and one coming from Mount Stuart. We were also able to hear the ship’s horns in the harbour – something I haven’t previously experienced at New Year but was very fitting for being on an island.
The next day we went for another walk, whilst I was on the back of our friend’s horse. We stuck to roads but it was nice to be able to look across the water at the mainland. I’ve decided that the best sort of horse riding happens in beautiful places! I’m aware that not everyone will have easy access to a horse so it’s a more difficult activity to recommend but there are stables on the island so it might be possible. After we’d returned Lottie to her field we walked a circuit around the golf course to see the island from different angles.
Unfortunately getting off the island the following day was nearly rather difficult and we saw what a difference bad weather could make to the ferries. We also experienced how bleak it could be with low cloud, wind and rain. The beautiful views of our first day had disappeared and it made the prospect of a winter on the island much less appealing. Luckily after some initial technical issues one ferry was still running. This was at the North of the island so meant we had a longer drive home, although we did get to go back via Loch Fyne and Loch Lomond. The weather was far from its best but it was still quite a spectacular drive to do.
One of the things I liked best about Bute was the sense of calm on the island and how friendly everyone was. It was a change of pace for us and felt relaxed after the busy Christmas period. If you decide to go up in the New Year I’d advise bringing good company and preparing good food. A place with a fire or wood burning stove will feel more cosy, and make sure you try some potato scones and squaries (square sausages) for breakfast.
James and I loved Bute and I wouldn’t be surprised if we return. Next time we want to stay for a bit longer so there’s time to do some more walks and explore more of the island. I also wouldn’t mind popping into Rothesay to see the town as we only really drove through it.
Have you been to the Isle of Bute? What would you recommend?