Thursday, 5 June 2014

SCOTLAND 6 - Argyle & Bute

This part of the west coast is one of beautiful lochs and small islands.
 The island of Bute is reached by a short ferry crossing from Wemyss Bay across the Firth of Clyde to Rothesay. The ferry terminal is connected to a railway terminal and the complex dates back to Victorian times when the island was, and still is, a very popular tourist resort.  

On the approach to Rothesay this fine building is prominent. Now a hotel, it was formerly a hydropathic establishment in the 19th century boom years of the Hydropathy movement.

The car ferry finally arrives at Rothesay.


Rothesay is the only town on this small island which is just 15 miles long.
During the Victorian era is was a hugely popular resort with Glaswegians and its wooden pier was much busier with steamer boats.

Rothesay Bay

The former ferry terminal is now a fine exhibition centre.

Opposite is the elegant Victoria Hotel which retains much of its former appeal.


The fine Victorian toilets are still in use.


The 13th century castle dominates the centre of the town. It was partially destroyed Robert Bruce and by Cromwell's troops.
We are reminded that Prince Charles is also The Duke of Rothesay.

Mount Stuart House on the east coast is a magnificent Neo-Gothic country house with extensive gardens. The outstanding architecture makes it one of the world's great houses.  It was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson in the late 1870's for the 3rd Marquess of Bute to replace an earlier house which was burnt down in 1877. The house is a flamboyant example of Gothic Revival built in reddish brown stone. The colonnaded Marble Hall is a sight to behold and the Marble Chapel with its elaborate spired tower in quite amazing. It was the first home in Scotland to be lit my electricity.

Wikipedia tells us that :
"The house is the seat of the Stuarts of Bute, derived from the hereditary office "Steward of Bute" held since 1157. The family are direct male-line descendants of John Stewart, the illegitimate son of King Robert II of Scotland, the first Stuart King, by his mistress, Moira Leitch. By virtue of this descent, they are also descendants of Robert the Bruce, whose daughter Marjorie was mother of Robert II by her marriage to Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland."


There is a second smaller car ferry at Rhubodach in  the north of the island making the short crossing of the Kyles of Bute to Colintrave on the mainland.

This area to the north of the island is the most picturesque part with the lovely Kyles of Bute to the east and to the west.

Colintrave and the ferry on its way to Bute.

The road northwards from Colintrave runs alongside Loch Riddon and then  Loch Fyne stretching some 40 miles to just above Inveraray.

Loch Fyne

Inveraray is a lovely little former Royal Burgh, its white buildings standing on the west side near the head of Loch Fyne. It is a relatively new town which replaced the old settlement when the castle was rebuilt in the mid 18th century.

The road into Inveraray crosses Aray bridge built by General Wade in 1775 century and passes Inveraray Castle.
The castle is the seat of The Duke of Argyll, head of the Clan Campbell. Although there has been a castle on the site since medieval times, the present castle, inspired by Vanburgh, dates from the mid 18th century and took some 43 years to build. 

The Dukes Tower alongside All Saints church dominates this little town. It was built by the 10th Duke as a memorial to all sons of Clan Campbell who fell in WW1. Its famous bells weigh nearly 8 tons and are the second heaviest in the world after Wells Cathedral.


This 15th century Mercat Cross stands at the foot of the main street

The parish church seen at the top of the Main Street was built in 1802 to house both Gaelic and English speaking congregations divided by a central wall. A huge steeple was removed in 1941 for safe keeping during WW2. Each stone was numbered and stored in an old quarry with the intention of rebuilding it in due course. Sadly the stones seem to have disappeared and the steeple
was never rebuilt.

Inveraray Jail is now a tourist attraction and is open to the public all year round. It was built in 1820 as the courthouse and county prison for Argyll
and closed in 1889.

The road east from Inveraray travels a torturous route through Glen Kinglas and over the interestingly named Rest and Be Thankful to Glen Croe before reaching Loch Long at Ardgarten and Arrochar on Loch Long.

Northern end of Loch Long

Looking south down Loch Long

The Ardgarten Hotel is situated on the north west side of Loch Long
at the foot of the 'Arrochar Alps'.

North of Inveraray is Loch Awe in Mid Argyle, 25 miles long and 1 mile wide. it is noted for its fishing. This remote area prospered when the railway arrived in 1877

The huge Victorian Loch Awe Hotel was built in 1881 and has its own railway station alongside. Parts of The Thirty Nine Steps and To Catch a Spy were filmed in this hotel.

Further north Loch Tulla lies on the edge of the Black Mount amidst increasingly beautiful highland scenery.


The little island of Seil is off the west coast south of Oban. It is separated from the mainland by the narrow stretch of water, Seil Sound, which is technically an arm of the Atlantic Ocean. The island is reached via Clachan Bridge which spans the sound and is known as ' The Bridge Over The Atlantic'.  This picturesque single-arched bridge was designed by Thomas Telford in 1792.

Just over the bridge on the island is an old highland pub called  Tigh-An-Truish  or ‘House of the Trousers'!   Before the rebellion, highland soldiers were not allowed to wear the kilt whilst serving in the army and when they returned home on leave they changed into their kilts at the pub.


Oban is a small tourist resort with a fine harbour. Here ferries sail to the Isle of Mull and other Hebridean islands.
The town is dominated by a huge edifice known as McCaig's Folly.
In 1897, John Stuart McCaig, an Oban banker and art critic, wanted to give work to the local unemployed men and at the same time to build a lasting memorial to himself.  The result was the construction of a large granite replica of Rome’s Colosseum, still to be seen dominating a hill which overlooks the town.   His grandiose scheme kept local stonemasons and labourers in work which continued until his death.   Wonderful views over the town, harbour and islands are to be seen from a viewing platform near the folly.



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