Friday, 12 June 2015

West Church, Rothesay

The West Church in the town of Rothesay on the island of Bute was built in 1846-7 and remained in use until 1978.  It is considered a fine example of a three by six bay Victorian Romanesque kirk; since 1978 there have been several applications to demolish the building but all have so far been refused.

There's no doubt that the fabric of the kirk is in decline - it couldn't yet be described as totally derelict but perhaps well on the way.  While the arguments about the future of the building rumble on, nature has found a remarkable use for the sunny south facing walls........

......which have become a vertical garden of ivy and flowering plants.

In early summer the walls surrounding the empty window apertures bloom into a carpet of brilliant purple flowers.  It's not so easy to get close enough to ell which species, but the effect is undeniably beautiful, transforming a run-down building on the edge of a car park into something more attractive entirely.

Ironically, the builders use of sandstone rubble to incorporate into some of the detail of the building has probably created the conditions in which this vertical garden has flourished.

There's a sort of symbolism in the decline of a church building giving rise to such an outpouring of natural energy - but aside from that, on its own merit this is a lovely and colourful display.


  1. Hi Ian we were thinking of you when we were in Rothesay yesterday after camps at Ardlamont,
    Kilfinan and Inchmarnock! :o)

    1. Hope you had a good trip Douglas - very envious! Any sharks in Kilbrannan Sound this time? :o)

  2. Excellent find. I've cycled past that church many times and never realized that display of colour was there at all. Someone described Rothesay recently as "Shettleston by the Sea" due to a few empty buildings but I think its beautiful, as your photos show.

    1. Thanks Bob, we lived on Bute for 10 years and there is a marked contrast between Rothesay and the rest of the island; but even in the general decline there are some wee gems....

      Kind regards

  3. What a wonderful symbol of the conservation of energy, Ian. The "spiritual" beauty that may once have graced the West Church...transformed into a floral rebirth. Who knows...? Warm wishes to you. Duncan.

  4. Hi Duncan - there does seem a nice correlation; it's a pity in some ways that the kirk isn't still in use at the same time as it provides a home for nature!

    Warm wishes


  5. Dear Friends,

    I just created the petition "SAVE THE WEST CHURCH & SPIRE , ARGYLE STREET, ROTHESAY, FROM DEMOLITION" and wanted to ask if you could add your name too.

    This campaign means a lot to me and the more support we can get behind it, the better chance we have of succeeding. You can read more and sign the petition here:

    Thank you!


    P.S. Can you also take a moment to share the petition with others? It's really easy – all you need to do is forward this email or share this link on Facebook or Twitter: