An Island Adventure – Visiting Bute With Dogs

The Isle of Bute is a beloved holiday spot for people from around the UK. Brilliant scenery and fun activities combine to make this a truly appealing destination. And it even has a warmer climate than the rest of the UK, thanks to its position in the Gulf Stream!

With Lewis heading off to his forever home soon after, we knew we needed a special trip to see him off. Our trip to Bute seemed like the perfect adventure!

Getting to Bute

The only way to get to Bute is to take a Calmac Ferry to the island. Wemyss Bay is the most common boarding point, with ferries connecting to the main town on the island, Rothesay. You can buy tickets from the office inside Wemyss Bay train station.

The lads wait in line to buy their ferry tickets

There is a second ferry route to the island, running every half hour from Colintraive on the Cowal peninsula to Rhubodach on the island’s north end, with a crossing time of just five minutes. Public transport connections are very limited on this route, with only four buses each day running to Colintraive.

Wemyss Bay from the ferry

Calmac Ferries on this route are well-equipped with indoor and outdoor pet areas, shops, and all other conveniences.  Enjoy the beautiful ocean views during the crossing. You’ll see the Isle of Cumbrae, Wemyss Bay, and other coastal settlements.

Inside a Calmac Ferry

The ferry journey will not be for every dog. It’s a noisy place to be with announcements blaring over the loudspeakers and car alarms squawking.  If you choose to go outside, you will also need to navigate some steep staircases.

Chase and Lewis boarded the ferry with ease but it may be harder for some dogs

Our lads seemed to enjoy the experience very much. On the way over, they spent time enjoying the view and receiving pats from fellow passengers. On the way back, they lay on their blanket and went to sleep, despite the high wind!

Lewis enjoyed the views

Getting to the Ferry

If travelling by train, there is a service every hour from Glasgow Central, taking approximately 50 minutes, and for most of the day, they’ll connect with a ferry – the last train with a connection to Rothesay leaves Glasgow at 18:50 (19:50 on Fridays and Saturdays). The connection times are quite generous, with about 20 minutes available to make the connection within the building.

The view from the train on the way to Wemyss Bay

In Rothesay

The ferry will land at the terminal in Rothesay. This is the largest and most notable town on Bute, with a population of around 4,000 people.

Rothesay as seen from the ferry

It’s worth spending a little time exploring the town. It has an almost exotic feel, with palm trees growing in many gardens. Due to the mild climate on Bute, many plants grow here that are found nowhere else within the UK! Take a stroll through the Winter Gardens to enjoy the best of the island’s plant life.

It’s pleasant to walk around Rothesay’s harbour

A popular walk near Rothesay is the woodland walk to Ardencraig Gardens. These beautifully maintained gardens have brightly coloured flowerbeds and various rare plants.

There are lots of great shops and businesses to enjoy too. We took Lewis to Bute Pets, allowing him to choose some treats to take with him to his new home.

Lewis chose some snacks to take to his new home

Around the Island

There are lots of small, pleasant settlements around the island. These offer pleasant spots to enjoy a bite to eat or take a walk.

Port Bannatyne is another settlement worth visiting. This small village lies just to the north of Rothesay and has views of Kames Bay. You can walk along the waterfront or enjoy a drink in the Anchor Tavern.

One of our favourite spots is on the south-east side of the island. There, you will find the twin villages of Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay. This area has a post office and a small shop, along with beautiful coastal views and walks. The local shop sells a beautifully illustrated book all about the villages’ history and points of interest.

This lovely book provides information about Kilchattan and Kingarth

Heading south from these villages offers some of the most pleasant, isolated walks on the island. One mystical trail features several historic attractions.

First, you will encounter the ruins of St Blane’s Chapel. This 12th-century chapel lies in the hills above Dunagoil and is surrounded by ancient woodland. The ruins lie between two burial grounds. The path culminates on the southwest coast of the island at Dunagoil Head, an Iron Age fort sometimes called “the fort of the stranger”.

The smaller settlements on Bute have lots to offer

Go due east from between the two villages and you will encounter the Blackpark Stone Circle. These Bronze Age-era standing stones may have formed a central point of ancient rituals.

Heading southeast from the villages, you will find Garroch Head Lighthouse. This imposing structure is known as Rubh’ an Eun or “point of the birds” and offers a perfect background for photos.

A local artist’s illustration of Garroch Head Lighthouse

Be warned though, the paths south of the villages are a little rocky. If your dog doesn’t enjoy rough surfaces, this may not be the ideal route for you.

Bute Wildlife

Bute is largely undeveloped, with plenty of woods, hills and meadows. As a result, it is teeming with wildlife. Keep your eyes open while enjoying walks or bus rides and you could see all kinds of interesting creatures.

Bute’s unspoiled countryside is home to lots of wildlife

You can see red squirrels, hedgehogs, mice and all sorts of insects in the forests. By the sea, you might spot otters or even seals basking on rocks! There are plenty of birds around too, including golden eagles.

If your dog doesn’t have good recall, be sure to keep them on a lead. The fragile ecosystem of this beautiful island needs to be protected.

Transport on Bute

Getting around on Bute is easy, even if you don’t have a car. There are regular bus services from Rothesay that will take you to a wide range of small settlements and tourist hotspots.

West Coast Motors run the island’s bus routes. You can also ride open-top buses provided if you’re looking to enjoy the wind on your face, although these run a little less frequently.

An open-top tour bus in Rothesay

We met lots of friendly dog owners on our bus travels. One gentleman even boarded with a greyhound, adopted the previous day! Chase gave this hound a few licks to welcome him onboard.

Chase and his new hound friend

Things to Do With Dogs on Bute

Most of the fun you’ll have on Bute will be found in enjoying the scenery. Take a walk, go camping, swim in the sea if the weather is warm enough.

Outside the Discovery Centre

Bute Discovery Centre is a great dog-friendly attraction. Located in the former winter gardens building, this visitor centre has the usual leaflets and maps that can help you get the most from your visit, but it also features a small museum about the island’s history and nature. The whole building is dog-friendly and Chase and Lewis loved browsing around and sniffing the exhibits.

The lads enjoyed sniffing around the various exhibits

Rothesay Castle is a popular spot on the island. This 12th-century castle has a unique circular design. Dogs are allowed within the grounds, although not in any roofed areas. Sadly, it was closed during our visit, but we walked around the perimeter and enjoyed the view.

You can get good views of Rothesay Castle without going in, although dogs are allowed on the grounds

Another popular activity in Bute is visiting the beach. We travelled by bus to Ettrick Bay for a paddle. We were surprised to note that even on a warm Saturday, the beach was fairly quiet, with just a few families and dogs enjoying the area.

Relaxing on the sands at Ettrick Bay

The lads had a quick paddle in the ocean before lying on the sand and enjoying the views. It was lovely and cool on the beach, a wonderful respite from the hot sun.

A quick paddle in the sea was just what Chase needed

Places to Eat With Dogs on Bute

Everywhere you look in Bute, there’s something good to eat. Rothesay is full of great restaurants and cafes, and many of the other settlements have dog-friendly cafes. Some great spots include:

  • The Bonnie Clude in Rothesay, a seafront restaurant with Scottish and Italian options
  • Caledonia Bistro & Deli in Port Bannatyne, decorated with local artwork and offering a varied menu with vegetarian and vegan options
  • The Black Bull Inn, a Rothesay pub with traditional food options

In Bute, the vast majority of eateries seem to welcome dogs. You’re unlikely to have a problem finding somewhere to eat.

Helmi’s mis our favourite place to eat on Bute

Helmi’s is one of our favourite spots on the island. This café was founded by Syrian refugees, so you can enjoy all sorts of dishes with a Middle Eastern flair. We had a hummus plate and a halloumi roll respectively. Afterwards, we had freshly made cakes from their excellent selection.

Lewis had his eye on this pistachio and raspberry cake (we let him try a tiny piece!)

Later in the day, we had ice creams from a small stand at the Ettrick Bay Tearoom. Although they offered dog ice creams, they had run out in the hot weather. This was the second week in a row that the lads had been denied a frozen treat after a similar disappointment on our trip to Balloch. This time, we got the lads a tub of regular vanilla to share as a special treat.

The ice cream didn’t last long!

Stay in Bute

A longer stay on Bute is highly recommended if you want to explore everything the island has to offer. Lots of accomodations on the island welcome dogs. Some popular options include:

  • Cannon House Hotel in Rothesay, offering sea views and luxurious rooms
  • Roseland Carvan Park, just south of Rothesay
  • Kames Castle Cottages, built around a 14th century keep in Port Bannatyne

There are various campsites around the island too and all of them welcome dogs. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even enjoy a spot of wild camping in the hills or on the beach.

Glamping pods at Ettrick Bay

Island Paradise

There is so much to enjoy and explore on the Isle of Bute. It’s worth staying a while or taking numerous trips to see everything.

This amazing trip was the perfect send-off for Lewis. We’ll miss him so much but cherish the memories. Be sure to follow us on Facebook for more adventures!

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