Overlooking the Firth of Clyde, Rothesay is a historic harbour town on the Isle of Bute’s east coast. At its heart lie the 13th-century ruins of Rothesay Castle, which has been attracting visitors since the Victorian era. During World War II, Rothesay Bay was the home port of the HMS Cyclops and the principal training base for British submariners.
Things to do in Rothesay
Dominated by a 13th-century curtain wall and four round towers, Rothesay Castle is a ruined fortification that is considered one of the most impressive in Scotland. Built by the Stewart family and now managed by Historic Environment Scotland, it houses exhibits detailing the castle’s storied past and its royal owners. A highlight of visiting Rothesay Castle is walking around its duck-filled moat to admire the immense stone wall.
A short walk from Rothesay Castle is the Bute Museum where you’ll find displays dedicated to the island’s natural history and archaeology. Get up close to Mesolithic microliths and stone tools used by Neolithic settlers, as well as the bones and beaded jewellery of a young Bronze Age woman. The museum also features artefacts uncovered at Rothesay Castle, including a rare Viking sword from a centuries-old attack.
Rising east of Rothesay is Canada Hill, which can be accessed along one of Scotland’s windiest roads. Serpentine Road contains no less than 14 hairpin bends, providing a challenge for both motorists and cyclists. From the top of Canada Hill, there are sweeping views across Rothesay Bay and the town below.
Getting around Rothesay
Regular ferries travel to Rothesay from Wemyss Bay in Inverclyde, with trains connecting to Glasgow. Buses travel from Rothesay to villages around Bute Island, although cycling is the preferred way of exploring the island. Most of Rothesay’s attractions are easily accessed on foot.