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Bute in a Nutshell


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Lying close to the mainland of west central Scotland, and only 15 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest, the Isle of Bute ('fire', or 'beacon fire' or 'victory Isle') is popularly described as "The Jewel in the Clyde". It has also been labeled 'the first island in the Scottish Highlands' on account of the Highland Boundary Fault (HBF) passing roughly NE-SW through the middle of the island. Although this HBF is by far Bute's dominant geological feature, there are many other features of the Island's Geology (both solid and drift) and Geomorphology which together contribute, over surprisingly small distances, to fascinating variations in landform and resultant countryside and coastal scenery. The Northern portion of the Island falls within the National Scenic Area.

The bisection of the Island by the HBF is reflected in a dramatic contrast between the higher-lying and more rugged north, and the generally lower-lying and gently undulating southern portions of the island. The landscape also testifies to the processes of the Ice Age, with numerous glacial valleys, lochs, erratics and raised beaches. Bute's almost 80km coastline boasts five idyllic bays which are over 1km wide, and more than a dozen smaller bays and inlets. Satellite View of Bute  Click your mouse on the map to drag it, and to zoom in or out using the zoom scale line.


Bute's position in the Firth of Clyde (sheltered by the Isle of Arran and the Kintyre peninsula to the west, and the peninsulas of Cowal to the NE, N & NW), together with the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream that washes its shores, makes for a climate that is much milder than would otherwise be expected of a place located at 55░ North latitude.

Bute's wonderful gardens, with their splendid variety of flora, are the beneficiaries of this unexpectedly benign climate, as this is no-better evidenced than by Rothesay Esplanade's legendary palm trees!


The geomorphological variety on Bute, together with the mild macro-climate and the range of micro-climate regimes, combine to produce a truly remarkable bio-diversity, making the Island a nature lover's delight. Countryside habitats range from woodlands, wetlands and grasslands to natural forests, plantations and moorlands; while coastal habitats range from the gentlest shelving sandy beaches, inter-tidal marshes, to rocky shorelines and cliffs.

Two sites on the Island are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The Central Lochs SSSI is noted as a Greylag Geese and Wigeon over-wintering habitat, while the north-end SSSI is noted for its mosses and ancient Oak Woodland, as well as being an important breeding ground for Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin and Buzzard.

The waters around the Island are some of the finest in Europe for wildlife, hosting resident colonies of seals, oystercatchers, gannets, eider duck, swans and many other species. More than 100 species of birds live on the Island.


Bute is an archaeological and heritage paradise. It's human occupation goes back into the mists of pre-history, as evidenced by the discovery of Stone Age, Mesolithic, and Neolithic sites and artifacts, as well as Iron Age defence systems. The island also boasts an impressive array of Early Historic sites (both Pre-Christian and Early Christian) with St Blane's Chapel (named after St Blane who was born on Bute in the 6th century) dating back to the 12th century.

Bute is the ancestral home of the Stuart Kings of Scotland. Built over 800 years ago by a hereditary High Steward of Scotland named Stewart (later Stuart), Rothesay Castle, with its circular design and perimeter moat is unique in Scotland. During the late 14th and early 15th centuries Rothesay Castle was a favourite residence of Robert II (King 1371-1390) and Robert III (King 1390-1406). The former built the small chapel of St Michael in the courtyard. [St Michael the Archangel was the patron saint of warriors] Robert III, was the first monarch to designate his eldest son (David) the Duke of Rothesay thus commencing the tradition of the Dukedom. That title is still bestowed on the heir-apparent to the throne and is currently held by HRH Prince Charles. It was also Robert III who gave the town of Rothesay its Royal Charter in 1401. Rothesay's Charter is the first occasion in which the term 'royal burgh' is used in a Scottish document.

Rothesay Castle withstood many onslaughts including a Viking invasion, was captured by the English during the wars of independence, was retaken by Robert the Bruce in 1311, was partially destroyed in1659 by Cromwell's troops, and was finally burned and sacked by the Duke of Argyll in 1685. Substantial restoration work has been undertaken over the past 120 odd years.

The 19th century of course witnessed considerable social and economic change, which is dramatically reflected both in Bute's rural parts and in the Island's principal town, Rothesay (architecture). Further changes were wrought during the 20th century, and they, too, have left their stamp on the character of Bute.

The legacy of this long, varied and fascinating past is a multitude of tourist attractions that impel visitors to keep coming back.


Bute is home to 7,228 inhabitants (2001 Census), giving an average population density of just 59 persons per km2. Approximately 5000 (80%) live in the principal town of Rothesay, the fourth largest town situated on any Scottish island.

Rothesay is steeped in history, which is closely interwoven with the history of the Castle and the Stuart Family which dates back to the early 13th century. Declared a Royal Burgh by King Robert in 1400, home of wealthy Victorian industrialists in the latter part of the 19th century, and a popular and flourishing tourist resort in the first half of the 20th century, Rothesay has played many roles over the centuries, and each is prominently reflected in the town's architecture. Rothesay Castle originally commanded an outstanding defenive position on the shoreline, but is now located some 100 meters back from the shore, and right in the heart of the town, due to the large-scale reclamation works undertaken in Victorian times. The classic Victorian seafront fašade, promenade, and the pier in Rothesay were built on this reclaimed land. For an account of the Royal Burgh of Rothesay in earlier times click here.

To the south, the grand Victorian mansions of Craigmore are the architectural legacy of those wealthy Victorian industrialists who made their homes on Bute. As one proceeds southward from Craigmore one comes to the linear settlement of Ascog which is also steeped in the history of the island.

Notwithstanding Bute's relatively small population, there is a full range of services and facilities on-tap in Rothesay, and so Bute's unique lifestyle can rightly be characterised as "Urban convenience in a rural ambience". Besides, Glasgow is just a 90-minute ferry and train journey away!

Bute also has a range of other settlements from small hamlets (eg. Kingarth, Kerrycroy, Straad) to villages (eg Port Bannatyne, Kilchattan Bay)


BACKGROUND: Bute's economy has undergone significant change since the halcyon days of the first half of the 20th century. In this period Bute's economy and quality of life could rightly be described as vibrant and prosperous. However, paralleling trends elsewhere in many of the remoter parts of Scotland, from the 1950's onwards, the Island's fortunes declined, and an era of stagnation and de-population ensued. Lack of investment in the built fabric of Rothesay became reflected in decaying buildings and a deterioration in the visual amenity of the townscape.

In the 1990's however a major programme of regeneration was initiated and, with continuing effort, a great deal of progress has been made; to the point that Bute presently stands on the threshold of a significant economic and environmental renaissance. With many renewal projects completed over the past few years, despondency and gloom has given way to a mood of confidence and positivism, and a community that is re-inventing itself. A barometer of the change that has taken place, and that continues a-pace, is the bourgeoning property market. It is clear that Bute's wonderful assets are capturing the imagination of a new generation of investors, reflected in the increasing number of incomers, the refurbishment of previously neglected buildings, and the sprouting of many new businesses.

STRUCTURE OF BUTE'S ECONOMY: The mainstays of Bute's economy are the hospitality sector, agriculture, retail business, and construction, together with several sizeable individual enterprises including a large Call Centre (TSC), FlexiTech (electronics), Rothesay Creamery, Bute Fabrics, Ardmaleish Boat Building, and Bute Foods. While tourism and agriculture are traditionally seasonal industries, a significant number of public service positions contribute to employment opportunities and to local spending power, and serves as a stabilizing influence on Bute's overall economy.

RECENT TRENDS AND OPPORTUNITIES: Developments in ICT mean of course that many businesses now do not need to be as place-bound as in the past. This greater flexibility in workplace location, plus quick and convenient accessibility to the established commercial hubs and even further a-field when needed, makes Bute an ideal base from which to operate. Since late 2005 the Island has enjoyed a full Broadband service. There must be few other places where one can conduct business in such an idyllic setting of beauty, peace, tranquility, friendliness and security! And this reality is being increasingly recognised by those who seek to abandon the urban jungle and to come and enjoy the unique 'Bute Lifestyle'.

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