Back at the Wemyss Bay ferry terminal again but this time with a difference. Alex was with me.We were both keen to bag some west coast islands before this unpredictable soggy summer was over and Bute fitted the bill being easy to explore during a days adventure once a good forecast was certain.This time though we were aiming northwards.
The lure for Alex was Windy Hill,the highest point on the Island situated at the northern end in the middle of an expanse of nondescript empty moorland.
The lure for me was simply being back on Bute again.One of my favourite Scottish islands.Few can match it for its combination of scenery,Victorian and onwards period architecture, variety of walking, cycling,lochs, beaches and history.I,ll get more folk going over there if it kills me : o)
The plan on arrival was to cycle round from Rothesay past Skeoch Wood then sleepy Port Bannatyne and Kames Castle until we arrived at a farm road leading up into the hills just before the golden sands of Etrrick Bay.Following it to a suitable highpoint we would then leave the bikes locked up out of sight and take a dirt track leading up through cows and fields onto the higher moors.All went well and we soon arrived on the upper slopes after an entertaining approach.From here the path faded out and a romp over the open moors saw us reach the summit which didn't look like it received many visitors.
This is the view from the ferry of the route taken.It has to be said its probably the most boring hill summit in Bute for both views and situation.Even Alex admitted that. A bagger was happy though and we both enjoyed the cycle round and the ascent up the lower slopes.I didn't even bother taking any pictures of the view from the top which is unusual for me.
What I did take a picture of was this very large hairy fly.I,ve seen these before a couple of times on higher moors and mountains but can`t find out much information about them as I don't know what they are called to type in..About the size of a thumbnail,much larger than a bluebottle, they may be harmless.They do seem to take a keen interest in humans though and always settle beside folk when they stop moving for any length of time.Sure enough when we stopped for a well earned lunch one quickly appeared,sitting a few feet away, bold and unafraid.It reminded me of a polite vulture or vampire bat that just happened to find itself,completely by accident, resting next to a static person.
We studied each other as it hopped onto a closer rock,eyeball to eyeball.It seemed more interested in me than the crumbs of sticky almond slice offered so I made a mental note never to fall asleep when one was nearby just in case it was looking for somewhere warm to incubate its eggs.Cute wee bugger though!
After lunch we strolled downhill through knee high grassland back to the dirt path and the bikes.It was a warm humid day so it was something of a relief to get a cooling breeze on the bikes and ferry.
This is the farm road leading up to the hill.A good one. By this time Alex was enjoying himself and suggested cycling round via Ettrick Bay to Straad which used to be a tiny but thriving fishing village in the days of the herring fleets but nowadays is a pleasant cul de sac of houses and a few,discreet, low rise holiday apartments.
One thing that struck us as odd was the fact that the Ettrick Bay Cafe was packed to bursting with day trippers and kids munching and drinking yet only two families were actually playing on the empty expanse of beach.It was deserted by comparison.It was a fantastic day...warm and sunny! It may seem daft but I honestly believe a lot of children nowadays have simply forgotten how to amuse themselves outdoors without the aid of an endless stream of gadgets.And parents, for some reason best known to themselves, no longer make flasks of tea and home produced sandwiches if they are going away which would save them big bucks every trip.My entire lunch and two bottles of fizzy drinks that day pre bought cost under £2 quid.Alex was even less as he had home made sandwiches with him.I spent a day with a family group a few weeks ago and for two adults and two kids in a well known children's attraction restaurant a basic lunch for them was over £30 quid.It seems such an easy,painless way to save money to me.Mind you, myself and Alex are both pretty tight when it comes to spending these days :)
Barone hill was the next Summit to get a bagging from us.It sits in a great position overlooking the town of Rothesay itself but as we were reaching it by bike we climbed it from Loch Greenan,yet another picturesque Loch on an island Jam packed with them.This was the normal expected summit viewpoint on Bute with great views over the Firth of Clyde and beyond.
We thought about having a go at Canada Hill as well as we could see it across the valley but by the time we got back on the bikes and down into town again it was getting late.Better to save it for another time..For day trippers that fancy an easy hill walk any time of year Barone or Canada hill make fine excursions with superb views.For those others wishing a Full day hike Barone hill then the traverse along the low spine of hills above Loch Fad to Quien hill then returning by Birgidale Creiff Butts track and Dixons Dam track to Rothesay is a fantastic varied adventure.This is a true classic of a walk yet is hardly known.
Of course I couldn`t let Alex leave the island without showing him what I think is one of Scotland's most Iconic views, yet one I`ve never seen in any magazine or calendar.Its always the Five Sisters or Glencoe or Edinburgh Castle or the Black Cullin in them.( I buy Scottish Calendars every year to send to Australia and its fairly predictable stuff.....Its the same tired old shots year after year!Theres so much more out there to capture)
"This could be the Rockies or New Zealand." Alex admitted."What a setting!" He was further impressed when he met a wildlife photographer who showed him some of the birds and animals he`d captured earlier that day.
Here`s one I captured myself outside the Victorian toilets at the pier.This cheeky crow was doing its business over the heads of folk using the facilities then looking down to see if it had got a victim.Seemed to be enjoying itself as were the gulls with young chicks around the castle.Having a moat all the way around you means not many predators can get near without a swim.
Parts of Rothesay castle date back to the early1200s and is a very rare example in Scotland with its ornate moat and rounded structure. A lot can change in that time. Although its now right in the middle of the town surrounded by buildings it wasn`t always that way.Originally it sat on the shore.Over the years the shoreline was extended outwards to accommodate the growing town til the castle ended up several streets back from the sea.
Like many small towns Rothesay itself over the centuries has experienced many periods of boom and bust.Royal patronage from the early kings of Scotland, Herring fishing fleets, linen and Cotton industry then Victorian tourist mecca right up til cheap holiday flights took off in the 1970s .Its still here though and Bute is still the undiscovered isle for far too many living on its doorstep.
Thankfully Alex has at last seen the light.We were so overcome by holiday good will back on the esplanade that we forked out for two hot dogs from a nearby stall.He watched the bikes and took pictures of the Waverley paddle steamer which had just arrived while I waited for our order.When asked if the dogs would like a coating of mustard or tomato sauce I said the red stuff as that's what I like best.Of course Alex wanted mustard on his.Well he would wouldn't he.
A fine trip and a day of great variety with bikes, hills, gardens,paddlesteamers and fairgrounds.