Monday, 11 October 2010

The Isle of Rothesay

Years ago, on school trips or summer holidays, we would take the Waverley for a daytrip down the Clyde to Rothesay, flinging chips to seagulls and staring in fascination at the Waverley's immaculate steam engines. The Waverley - the last seagoing paddle-steamer in the world - is still going strong, and provides a link with the Victorian past of the Clyde holiday resorts:

PS Waverley:

Rothesay was the end of the cruise except for those staying on board for a steam round the Kyles of Bute. Although Rothesay is only the main town on Bute, for some reason we'd say Rothesay when we meant the whole island. Could this be a folk memory of an older name? It's not impossible. After all, Rothesay sounds like Hross-ey, horse-island in old Norse. And similarly, Weegies often say Millport when the mean the whole of Cumbrae. I don't know how widespread this practice is. But it is like referring to the Isle of Stornoway or the Isle of London.

In all my visits to Bute until now I never made it past Rothesay. The Waverley would return after a couple of hours from the Kyle so there was little time to go anywhere else. I returned recently, and the changes that have happened since the 1980s seem to lie lighter over Rothesay than the rest of the world - at least in the decor of its main streets.

Rothesay's for me:

Rothesay at dawn:

However the Victorian pavilions on the seafront have been restored, with an unusually ornate gents public toilet. Women are allowed in for a peek if there is nobody using the facility. Hold your nose, ladies!

Victorian toilet, Rothesay pier:

Being on the mild side for Scotland, and being an old established holiday island, Bute seems to have forgotten itself. Where are these palm trees, except on the seafront at Palma?

Palm trees on Rothesay promenade:

And what is this sun-drenched keep, except a castle of the Templars in the Balearics?

Rothesay Castle:

This castle was built early in the thirteenth century when Bute was on the frontier between the Norweigan empire and the Scots kingdom, and was beseiged twice by Viking fleets soon after being built.

A personal frontier was about to be broken, as we headed out of Rothesay for the first ever time and into Bute. The view from the top of Canada Hill, looking over Rothesay Golf Course, gave us a hint of the scenery in store.

Hills of Arran from Rothesay Golf Course:

Bute adventures continued....


-maria- said...

What a beutiful steamer!

Looking forward to the story continuing, looks like an interesting island.

PurestGreen said...

I've not yet managed to get to Bute. I would love especially to see Mount Stuart House and Gardens, and to walk the West Island Way. Beautiful post. :)

Hamilton Coe said...

It's years since I've been to Rothesay. You've given me an inkling to nip over.

Maureen said...

My father in law was born on the Isle of Bute and was there until he was 15. He is now 85. I am currently writing a story about him, his life on the island and his life in the British Navy - fascinating.

Robert Craig said...

maureen - sounds like an interesting book. Lots of islanders joined the navy - makes sense when you think about it!

Hamilton - it's great, go in winter and look at the shopfronts and visit the pubs, instant time travel.

PG - Thanks, and Mount Stuart will be in the next post :)

Alex said...

Aha...Bute.No doubt Bob will be along to enthuse after he has recovered from his Australian jaunt..!

Jane said...

Wonderful to see this - I (and my husband) are thinking of retiring to Rothesay and have had a few very happy trips over there. I shall explore more of your blog soon!

Mo said...


I have really enjoyed reading everything that you have had to say, especially your entomological musings with regard to why people say 'Rothesay', when in fact they do mean the whole island of Bute. They definitely do this. My sister and her husband have a lovely place on the Port, but say they are going down to Rothesay for a short break. I think that locals call Port Bannatyne 'the Port), so I am trying to come over all 'au fait'! My name is also Maureen, and my dad too was in the navy, and my family have had long connections, through the generations, with Rothesay (or Bute). I too am a bit of a writer, (although have not given up the day job - I just know that writer's block would descend, and penury 'would come again'). I wish the other Maureen every success with her book, and I, for one, would buy it.
Although my retirement is probably many years hence, (although perhaps not that many, as I could 'go early'), I am thinking about where I could happily live and breathe and have my being, if you get my drift. Good luck to the lady and her husband who are thinking of going to Rothesay in their retirement. There are a few charming blogs, one written by a lovely lady, depicting the joy she and her husband are having, since they moved from city life to this coastal resort. She really brings Rothesay to life, and is inspirational about the many activities and sheer fun that is to be had in this vibrant, yet peaceful place. People nowadays are so young and full of energy when they retire, so I think it is important to give the chosen place a great deal of consideration, so it's great that writers like you describe places, as all of this can help a person to make up their mind. There would be nothing worse than selling up, then buying a property in a new place, and then absolutely hating it once you moved there!

Duncan McFadden said...

As a Rothesay lad born and bred (a Brandane) I can maybe help you out on the Rothesay/Bute debacle.
The Island was originally called Rothesay (during the Viking period it is believed)and the main town (now Rothesay) was called Bute.
The names were reversed after this period at some point.
Hope this helps and by all means enjoy your stay on the Jewel of the Clyde.
A nice place with nice folk who will welcome any visitor with open arms.