Car-free adventures around theIsle of ButeArgyll and Bute

One of the UK's best car-free adventures is a train and ferry ride to the Isle of Bute, where palaces and paths, coastal scenery and castles are waiting.

  • County: Argyll and Bute
  • Great for: beaches | bird watching | boat ride | castle | gardens | historic houses | palaces | scenic bus and train |
  • Refreshments: pubs, cafes and more
  • Please note: researched/updated in November 2023. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. 4. Walk the West Island Way

    The West Island Way is a 30-mile walk along the length of the Isle of Bute that provides a smorgasbord of Scottish scenery: a ruined chapel in a wooded valley or a hill with views across the Firth of Clyde, a curving bay with a lighthouse at one end, backed by green hills with sheep on them, or a rush-fringed loch among the bracken with waterlilies spreading across the surface.

    • The opening loop, along craggy coast path and grassy tracks, has lots of beautiful moments and starts from Kilchattan Bay.
    • Hourly bus 490 runs from Rothesay to Kilchattan Bay, even on Sundays. If you stay on the bus as far as the Bus Turning Area at the end of the road, you will see a red sandstone block marking the official start of Bute’s West Island Way.
    • The path gets rougher along the cliffs, but is always clear. It passes Rubh’ an Eun lighthouse, views of the Isle of Arran and the ruins of St Blane’s chapel.
    • Kilchattan Bay Post Office serves tea and light meals (0345 6112970) and the Courtyard café at Mount Stuart is about four miles back along the road by bus (01700 503877). There are loos near Kilchattan Bay jetty.
  1. 5. Rothesay Castle and more…

    Most of the island’s 6000 inhabitants live in Rothesay, the main town and a beautiful place to linger in its own right.

    • Eat fish and chips by the harbour or drink tea in the palm-tree decked Victoria Gardens. Freshly-caught local langoustines are usually on the menu at the Bonnie Clyde
    • Rothesay Castle is currently closed for maintenance, but it’s worth strolling round the outside anyway.
    • From Rothesay, you can also take an open-topped sightseeing bus around the island or catch bus 490 a few times a day to beautiful Etterick Bay.
    • When it’s time to leave, enjoy the ferry crossing and the elegant Edwardian architecture of Wemyss Bay station with its glass-roofed arcade between boat and the train. The Friends of Wemyss Bay have reinstated the floral displays and run a bookshop on the station.