Rothesay is a Victorian seaside resort and the main town on the east side of Isle of Bute.
It is a very traditional and good looking town with signs of its Victorian heritage. Dominating the shoreline amongst the glorious esplanade gardens is the refurbished Isle of Bute Discovery Centre, a unique 1920s circular structure of cast iron and glass, now housing a cinema, an interactive display on the history of the island as well as an information centre and a gift shop.
Visitors can also explore Rothesay Castle, its thick outer walls and grand hall which are all now fully restored. Just behind it is located the Bute Museum.
To the north of Rothesay, via Port Bannatyne, lies Ettrick Bay, Bute’s most accessible beach, which is a relative safe haven for able swimmers. The famous tea room at Ettrick bay offers a wide variety of drinks, snacks, meals and desserts. It is much beloved by dog owners.
Rothesay Castle is unique among Scottish castles for its unusual circular shape. It’s also famous for its close links with the Stewarts. To this day, the heir to the throne still has the title the Duke of Rothesay.
In 1230 and 1263, the kings of Norway besieged and took Rothesay. The Stewarts added four projecting towers to prevent the castle falling into enemy hands but, fortunately, they were never put to the test again.
The castle soon fell into decline. In the 1800s, the Crichton Stuarts, Marquises of Bute, restored the ruined castle to its present state.
In 1098, Edgar of Scotland gave up the Hebrides, including Bute, to Norway.
By 1200, Alan, second High Steward, had taken Bute.
In 1230, Haakon IV of Norway ordered his men to sail into the Clyde and capture Rothesay. This they did, after a three-day siege and a great loss of life. However, they were soon forced to retreat.
After an inconclusive skirmish at Largs, the Norse retreated in 1263 . Haakon died in the Bishop’s Palace, Kirkwall, on his return to Norway. Three years later, his son Magnus handed back the Hebrides to Alexander III.
When David II died in 1371, the throne passed to his nephew, Robert Stewart.
Rothesay was given a makeover in the later 1400s. James IV and James V carried out major works, including adding the impressive gatehouse and St Michael’s Chapel in the courtyard.
Rothesay then fell into ruins and was restored only in the 1800s, by the Crichton Stuarts.
Bute is only 33miles from Glasgow so a trip down the Clyde is definitely an option. The ferries from Wemyss bay to Rothesay run regularly every day. You ship your car, as well.
The island is only 24 km long by 6 km wide but there is lots to see and do. You might spot porpoises accompanying your ferry journey and if you’ve never seen a seal up close in the wild you should head over to Scalpsie Bay. The West Island Way is an island long marked trail which can be walked in sections. The West Island Way is a great way to see Bute’s flora and fauna and of course, to glimpse Arran and Cowal.
Bute is famous with its glorious gardens and grand architecture. The Esplanade Gardens on the front are a summer favourite for a relaxing walk by the beach. If you are the sporty type, you can try your hand on the putting green. Visit Ardencraig Gardens on Canada Hill which boasts a walled garden and an exotic aviary. The marvellous gardens of Mount Stuart House and Ascog Fernery are a must.
Rothesay and Port Bannatyne are great places to eat with cafes, bistros, bars and restaurants. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, there are hotels and B&Bs overlooking Rothesay Bay, and lots of self-catering flats and houses to choose from..