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Bute Homes, 67 Mountstuart Road, Rothesay PA20 9LD.

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Isle of Bute History

Stone circle at Kingarth, Isle of Bute.

For thousands of years, the Isle of Bute has been treasured by mankind. From the arrival of the first pre-historic hunter-gatherers, after the ice age glaciers retreated, continuing through the stone age, bronze age and iron ages, and still later to Viking invaders and kings of Scotland, this beautiful gem of an island has witnessed much. And the essence of what captivated them is here for you to experience too.

St Blane's Chapel, Isle of Bute.

But stretching farther back in time, only the rocks and landscape tell of millions of years of volcanic upheaval and unimaginable forces which created and shaped the land and the lochs we can explore today.

Fortunately, you don't need to be a geologist or archaeologist to appreciate Bute, just take a short walk in any direction and you'll soon discover a wealth of history to marvel at.

Early Christianity on the Island

Although the exact date is unknown, there is significant evidence of early Christian sites on the Island, dating from around 1400 years ago. St Blane's Chapel is the most well-known and is well worth a visit to explore its extensive ruins and tranquil location.

Rothesay Castle, Isle of Bute.

Bute's Royal Connections

Even to this day, Bute maintains its Royal connections, which date back many hundreds of years. In Scotland, the "Duke of Rothesay" is the official title given to the heir to the British throne, currently Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales.

From the dramatic presence of Rothesay Castle, to the gothic splendour of Mount Stuart, the influence of kings, fortunes and power is truly remarkable on this small island.

Stuart crest, Isle of Bute.

The Victorian legacy

In more recent history, Bute's architecture has been shaped by lesser mortals. In the Victorian era, wealthy industrialists built mansions on the island; and, at the opposite end of the scale, the oppulence of the public conveniences at Rothesay Harbour has also put the renowned "Victorian Toilets" firmly on the tourist trail.

Bute and Tourism

Social change contributed towards the advent of tourism amongst the populace, and the Isle of Bute became a favourite destination from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. At peak holiday times, many steamers packed with holidaymakers vied for position to berth at Rothesay harbour after a trip "doon the watter". You can still experience some of that excitement today if you take a trip on the Paddle Steamer Waverley, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world – and a regular visitor to Rothesay.

Bute's importance in wartime

Submarines on the Clyde.

The island's location in the Firth of Clyde provides a fascinating viewpoint to observe the comings and goings of a wide variety of shipping – including the occasional submarine. However, many will be unaware that it was in these surrounding waters that one of the country's wartime secret weapons was developed: the X-Craft.

These midget submarines were designed to sink, or disable enemy shipping. Perhaps the most famous being the German battleship Tirpitz which was put out of action in a Norwegian Fjord. Read more here, including the personal account from one of the submariners. Many other brave young men who took part in these daring missions were never to return, of course.

Inchmarnock, the uninhabited island on Bute's west coast was also used for landing craft training exercises in advance of the D-Day landings. Read more here >> and here>>

Cannon at Rothesay Castle, Isle of Bute.

...and there's much more to discover

For those who like to immerse themselves in the history surrounding people and places, the Isle of Bute is a treasure trove with thousands of years worth of fascination.

With so much to choose from, perhaps your first challenge will be to decide where to begin your adventure.

Unlock the past at Bute Museum

Bute Museum, Rothesay.

Explore the Natural and Historical Heritage of the Isle of Bute, at the independantly run museum in Rothesay.

Museum website »