Saturday, 2 May 2015

Bute. West Island Way.Arran Ridge.Scotland in Springtime.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
An orange selfie. Being shy and retiring,the kind of selfie I prefer. Maybe I'll use different parts of my anatomy to create an identikit image of myself, as my personality is like that sometimes. "Call us legion, for we are many." This is Red Currant and Kerris Japonica (Batchelor's Buttons) in someone's garden.
Berberis. A beautiful waxy deep orange shrub that can take care of itself as it is covered in sharp spines if you get too close and is often used as a barrier to deter intruders. I've known someone like that since childhood, mind you :o)
Feeding the five thousand.
Frogs mating.
As it was the sheer joy of spring again I fancied an island trip and Bute, for the moment, tends to be quieter than Arran as it is perceived, wrongly, to be free of outdoor adventure.
Cal Mac ferry on the Bute Crossing. For £8:75 return this hardworking ferry crossing will transport you from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay Town in under 40 mins to one of the jewel islands in the Firth of Clyde.
Just Alan and myself on this trip, with bikes, which go over free. Alan has been fishing on Bute before as he's a keen angler but had never explored the rest of the island properly. This is Holy Isle and the detached atoll/ extinct volcanic granite plug of Ailsa Craig. Where the best curling stones come from.
Ferry entering Rothesay Town. One of the easier walks in my guide book "A Guide to Walking and Cycling around the River Clyde and the Firth of Clyde" starts from here and climbs a set of long steps up a lane beside this old school, which is now derelict. It covers from Lanark to Girvan and includes all the Clyde islands you can get enjoyable walks or cycle rides on with 148 colour photographs and descriptions of over 80 different routes. Arran and Ailsa Craig are also covered in the book.Many walks are not well known as I wanted to avoid ones already done to death in other publications. £2:32 on Kindle. Bute is actually a walkers paradise at any time of year in fine conditions but is little known for that... even now. It is also perfect for cycling. Rothesay Town itself has many great, relatively easy walks that start from the ferry.

We set off round the island from the 9:20 ferry and soon found ourselves whizzing past Bogany Point, Orcadia,with its joy inducing vertical red sandstone cliffs and back garden (strictly private) zig zag stairs leading up them on the way round to Mount Stuart via the empty and mostly traffic free main road.
The small seaside clusters of Victorian and Edwardian villas around this island often rise steeply up the hillsides. If Heaven, if I ever get there, does not look, smell, or feel like this I'll be extremely disappointed clutching a one way ticket in my hand. This island, in good sunny weather, is heaven on earth already for me. Note the local bus going around the island in photo.  According to summer ferry timetables 2015 it may be better to check with Cal Mac before you go as they are doing some work to the Wemyss bay pier although I didn't notice anything. They should be ended by June in any case. Car parking £3 a day garage next to ferry or inside train station. for ferry info and you may find this bus link and other island info helpful. Regular trains run from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay.

Rothesay again with the Barone ridge just sticking up behind.
In places the sweet aromatic coconut smell of flowering gorse was overpowering in the spring heat and always brings back youthful memories of a certain person, who still likes to wear coconut cream suntan lotion on occasion.
The higher mountains of Arran were covered in fluffy clouds and sat cool and dark in the shade at this early hour but started to burn off as we travelled round the island.
Ascog Bay near Mount Stuart.
Livestock in fields. Bute is a flat or gently rolling pastoral island and very fertile compared to rocky Arran with its granite ridge interior dominating the landscape.
A view of Arran from the small informal airfield on Bute. This was a busy day with a small private plane and a micro light touching down on the grass strip runway.
We soon reached the village of Kilchattan where you get off if coming by bus from Rothesay, which sits under the ancient volcanic plug of Suidhe Chatain. From here a path leads round the Garroch Head peninsula and this distinctive rugged landscape was formed by successive lava flows from the surrounding volcano then worn down by successive ice sheets and glaciers to the jutting bare bones we see today. This is Glencallum Bay and the automated lighthouse. The ruins of an old inn for sailing ships which used to anchor here in this sheltered bay waiting for favourable winds to take them to the Americas can still be seen in the bracken.
Alan heading back from the inn ruins under the steep cliffs of Torr Mor. To reach this point is an easy walk and you can take bikes around the peninsula but you have to be prepared to roll or carry them over several gates, a minefield of extensive boulders and up several small hills. A light bike, surefootedness over rough terrain, and a general degree of fitness is required. There are stretches you could cycle on grass but as it is a walking route I always walk round it rolling or carrying the bike as I've seen too many lovely grass routes completely ruined by mountain bike exploits recently. All it takes is a few days of sustained wet weather coupled with increased traffic and you end up with a mud rut of deep grooves which takes years to recover and may well be permanent if it isn't rested or closed off for a season. Many of the more popular country parks have this problem already and are putting tarmac surfaces down which devalues the wild natural experience.
I mention this because we met several other groups doing the same thing as ourselves. This makes perfect sense if exploring the island by bike if you want to visit this semi remote corner as well but I always try to minimize any damage to these fragile areas for future visitors to enjoy.
Dog violets, primroses, and other spring flowers grow in abundance here but it doesn't take much to spoil this natural beauty.
This group of three we met were pleasant and responsible individuals from overseas and enjoyed the route as much as we did but I've lost count on walks and cycle rides recently of folk eating fast food then leaving all the packaging sitting by the roadside  on the pavement right beside the car when an empty bin was 15 feet away from the vehicle. Also folk throwing empty drink cans out car windows onto the verge so they presumably have a tidy car interior when driving. Beats me why they do it. The UK has one of the most diverse, varied and beautifully different landscapes on earth given its small size yet is one of the dirtiest countries in the so called civilized world for throwaway litter and other unnecessary junk tossed away without a thought. Thankfully Bute is still pristine in many ways but a recent walk elsewhere nearer Glasgow brought this fact home and it is one of the main complaints from overseas tourists visiting this country.
Glencallum Bay and Little Cumbrae island. The ancient lighthouse you can just see on this faraway island was one of many constructed by the first generation of lighthouse pioneers, The Stevenson family, and was lit at night by fossils fuels shovelled in laboriously by hand in the early days. The famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson was a relation.
Climbing a small escarpment on the West Island Way, carrying and rolling bikes.
Yacht in main channel between islands.
We came out as usual at St Blane's which is a lovely spot. St Blane's Hill and Loch na Leighe. The Route back was via Loch Fad and the A844. Walkers doing this route can get a bus back to Rothesay by walking down the pleasant minor road to the Kingarth Hotel where the bus stop is. Five star route. There is also a path back via Suidhe Chatain for those who wish to visit this summit on foot
Dunagoil iron age fort, Arran and Bute Airfield.
Holy Isle again.
Fields ready for crops.
Spring lambs near Loch Quien.
The exhilarating freewheel descent back into Rothesay. Around 13 kilometers cycle to Kilchattan. 8 to 10 for Peninsula and minor road walk. 10 kilometers cycle back to Rothesay. Around 5 to 6 hours total trip by bike. A cracking outing.
 When I got back I was looking out of interest to see if I could find a GoPro film of the route and stumbled on this instead. A couple who also like the island. Natural presenters in front of a camera this couple could easily have a Scottish mini TV series along the lines of Tom Weir or Muriel Gray but their entertaining You Tube videos have had scant attention which is why I'm posting it on here. Usual story... it's not so much how good or talented you are but who you know and how much publicity you manage to create..Hope they don't mind me putting this on here but they have  enthusiasm, sparkle and personality.( If they want it removed just leave a comment and I will remove it right away.)


Linda W. said...

What a lovely place for a bike ride! Thanks for taking us along.

andamento said...

I enjoyed the video you linked to, makes me want to go to Bute right now! Except that it's pouring rain - bah, typical bank holiday waether and all that!

Douglas Wilcox said...

Great stuff Bob, as you know I too like Bute though we often see it from a different perspective. Last year we walked up to St Blane's from where we landed our kayaks (a bit to the west of Glencallum Bay). As you say parts of Bute truly are Heaven on Earth. :o)

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
Yes, it's a special island.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anne,
Well worth a trip in good weather. Don't know what it's like for accommodation though as it's always day visits these days for me.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Douglas,
I also enjoyed that video couple's
Kayak trip to the Slate Islands as that's a solo kayak tour I did years ago myself. I was eager and excited then with my new kayak but obviously it's dangerous going out on your own unless you are really experienced, which I wasn't.Couldn't find anyone else to join me though as I was in a hillwalking club.Fortune smiled on me that day. I read your Bute trips with interest.

Carol said...

I'll have to watch your YouTube clip at a later time as I'm literally having to blast my head off with some very loud Thrash Metal to endeavour to drown out my loudly-guffawing shift colleagues who are watching boring fitba on their workstations!

That looks a really nice route, although I wouldn't be taking my bike offroad, I'd just tie it up nearby. You're right what you say about some of the off-road cycling of walking routes going on nowadays. I found one of my favourite local moorland routes was completely ruined when I came back to it in the dry season. I wouldn't walk it in the wet season as it causes too much damage, yet the mountain bikers had already been there and it's almost destroyed now :-( Various of my favourite Lake District mountain paths have been destroyed the same way too with zig-zags obliterated and the like.

You also make some excellent points about the litter-buggers. It used to be just the odd can and smokers litter (which weren't acceptable either). Nowadays that's been superceded by the 'takeaway'/fast food rubbish everywhere. I'm honestly thinking they should ban take-aways now. Mind you, a lot can probably be said about the correlation between the fast-food litter and the intelligence of people who can eat that muck.

You're right about people not knowing enough about Bute - I've been across to Rothesay for a trip with my Dad years ago but had no idea there was any decent walking there. Now I know!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
Just seems easier and more convenient to take bike round peninsula although you could walk round then visit St Blane's then walk back over Suidhe Chatain to Kilchattan to reclaim it if you leave it there.Great walking on Bute just not above 1000feet but rugged enough.Windy Hill, 278 metres is the highest point.
Great walk last Sunday but almost spoiled by the amount of litter lying in the road verges and it takes a lot before I notice it as I'm so used to mountains of crap dumped everywhere near cities and rubbish bins sitting empty nearby. Every other country I've been in abroad is cleaner than the UK, except Germany, which is on a par. Berlin was covered in graffiti from the pavements to the first floor of inner city buildings which surprised me as Glasgow no longer has that particular problem. I suspected then it might have something to do with anti social pop culture since the 1950s as loads of teenagers, punks, goths,rockers, rappers etc were very much in evidence at night, just like here in British cities and parts of the USA have the same problem. A shared anti establishment F*** you-me first attitude but that's just a guess. They do share similar music tastes and fast food heritage though since the Second World War.

Carol said...

Might sound racist but that just HAS to be since Germany let the East Germans in then as, before the Berlin Wall came down, I noted Germany was the cleanest and neatest place I'd ever seen! That would have been in the 80s. How sad that it's changed.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Not sure about that as we were in East Germany as well on that trip over 10 years ago visiting Dresden and the nearby Saxony Alps, which is a cracking area of huge sandstone towers above the River Elbe that runs into the Czech Republic. Dresden was a clean, beautiful city and I don't remember any graffiti there at all or any litter in the streets or countryside around it. One of The Narnia films features the Saxon Alps as I recognized them straight away and that area has been used in many other films. Visited the Czech Republic briefly as well to bag some mountains.
Only spent a short time in Berlin sightseeing, which is a lovely, interesting city, but I was surprised by the amount of graffiti in that city on all the back street buildings, far more than Glasgow...Don't remember much litter around that time... how early they go to work there... rush hour seemed to start around half 6 or 7am... and the number of David Bowie and Andy Warhol references in Berlin. We even visited two bars themed around them, although Bowie did live there for a number of years and 3 albums.Don't remember seeing much litter around in the German countryside but do remember being shocked by how much their was in London's streets travelling back up on the night bus but the street cleaners do a good job of removing most of it by morning... again takeaway leftovers just tossed onto the pavement. I also heard recently that they were making a film, supposed to be set in New York, but filmed in another city elsewhere and it was far too clean and the director ordered bags of rubbish to be spilled around the back alleys on the set to give it more authenticity:)
On the subject of pop/rock culture having a detrimental influence on society where it is popular I will illustrate by my next video pick.

Carol said...

I think then that it must have been because I was there pre-take-aways (or before they really took off - don't know when that was) or maybe because I didn't go to any large cities, just nice, smaller towns.

blueskyscotland said...

Sorry Carol,
I may have misled you regarding litter in Berlin and Germany as it was mainly the amount of graffiti in the back streets I was thinking of when I mentioned that. Also was up Ben Lomond a few years ago and several German girls left their empty coke cans sitting on the trig when they left which got me thinking about pop culture in the comments section. Unfair to judge a country on three individuals though wearing a well known UK punk bands T shirts.

Lux G. said...

So many great places to see, so much to do. Life's an adventure in the outdoors as amazing as this. :)

Tom said...

Bute is indeed very underrated, its a great daytrip to take bikes over, cycle round via west coast to kingarth for lunch, then the walk round the south end you describe is a must. No need to pay the £3 parking either, with bikes parking even a mile away in wemyss bay or skelmorlie and peddling to the ferry is no inconvenience.

I grew up in millport and the south end of bute has very happy memories as teenagers of taking a boat over to glencallums bay and climbing tor mor in summer evenings. I remember climbing one of the crags one evening and it wasnt until i knocked off a rock and it hit the ground and kept rolling for fifty yards or more i realised what a dangerous situation id got myself into, suppose most people are a bit foolhardy at that age!

The whole south of bute is very hebridean in character i always think, wee cumbrae is also very similar but not very easy to visit unless you have your own sea transport!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Lux G,
Yes, Scotland is not short of great scenery and amazing islands. Around 800 at the last count off the Scottish coastline from remote sea stacks to major island communities.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Tom.
Bute is probably my favourite island in Scotland. Lucky it's so close to Glasgow.