Thursday, 9 June 2011

All change at the south end of Bute

There is a further geological change at the south end of the Isle of Bute where intrusions of igneous rocks, mainly basalt and spilite, form a distinctive landscape.  Some of the outcrops have iron age remains on them, notably a vitrified hillfort at Dunagoil

Outcrops close to the shore contain small dry caves, adding a possibility for bivvying.

The southern tip of Bute can be tricky to paddle, particularly on the ebb tide where the streams flowing south down both sides of the island meet.  If they confront a southerly wind overfalls can be formed.  This evening, although the ebb was in full swing all was calm apart from some boils and upwellings around Rubh 'an Eun (point of the birds).

The light at the point was built in 1911 and forms an important mark for shipping.  It flashes red every six seconds, reflecting its position marking the port side of the inbound shipping channels.

I soon arrived at Kilchattan Bay and was picked up.  No need for a wild camp tonight, a steak meal and a glass of wine beckoned!

The south tip of the island marks a change in the paddling; the east coast of Bute is relatively well populated and in usual weather conditions is more sheltered from the prevailing southwesterly wind.  Unortunately, a fresh northeasterly was forecast for the following day, a change from the expected northwesterly.

Launching again at Kilchattan Bay the wind was immediately obvious.  It was a steady grind into the wind and a short chop, picked up with wind over tide conditions.  There are plenty of opportunities to land along this coast, but few in an easterly airflow.  The best option was tucked in behind a pier at the village of Kerrycroy.  The buildings here look as if they've been transplanted from the south of England, and indeed this was the intention.  It's said that the village was rebuilt in 1803 by the first Marquess of Bute to make his English wife feel more at home.  The road to the "big house" of Mount Stuart starts here.

A further choppy paddle took me north to Rothesay Bay and my finish where I'd launched the previous day.  There aren't any pictures from this leg due to the bouncy conditions.  An unwelcome close pass by a RIB in the more sheltered waters of the bay "livened up" my last kilometre - 20 metres away at 40 knots felt too close for comfort.

Information about this trip

This was a 65km paddle over two days. 

Bute can be reached by Calmac ferry from Wemyss Bay or Colintraive, the crossings can be expensive if cars are taken.

The whole trip is on OS Landranger 1:50K sheet 63 (Firth of Clyde), although sheet 62 (North Kintyre & Tarbert) is useful for the area of the West Kyle and Tignabruaich

There are numerous opportunities for wild camping on the west side of the island, it's less easy on the east side.

Tidal streams may be encountered in the Kyles where the flood enters both Kyles and meets near the Burnt Islands, and at the south end as noted above.


  1. A great couple of day's paddling you certainly made the most of the weather window.
    Looks a fantastic island would love to paddle especially with the links between the Marquess's of Bute and my home city of Cardiff.

  2. Hi Richard,

    Bute is a great place to paddle, there are lots of options if the weather's not suitable for a circumnavigation. It's also very accessible as one of the ferry ports is just 45 minutes from Glasgow. Let me know if you come to paddle it!