Gents urinal in the Victorian public toilets in Rothesay
Other Stuff
These public toilets are situated beside the harbour. The quality of workmanship and majestic splendour of the interior fixtures and fittings is very much typical of that found in so many everyday structures built in the Victorian period. Sadly, there are precious few reminders left of that glorious heyday. It was commissioned in 1898 and is said to be 'the most impressive surviving Gents Public Lavatory in Scotland of the late Victorian era.' I mean, it's just a public toilet. You go in and empty your bladder, or whatever. And yet it is visually stunning. It was intended to impress. If it doesn't impress you then you should perhaps see your doctor because you might be dead. Even if there was nothing else of note in Rothesay, this would be one good solid reason for heading straight here. Tremendous.
Also known as the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre and housing the Tourist Information Office, this building is on the front, located just behind the Esplanade. It was built in the 1920s as the Winter Garden Theatre, and saw many stars of the day performing on its stage, like Andy Stewart, Jimmy Logan, Chic Murray, Jack Milroy, Tommy Morgan, and such like. The building itself is a work of art, being a typical seaside resort structure fashioned from cast iron and wood. The cast iron skeleton was made at McFarlane's Saracen Foundries in Glasgow, and is thankfully very visible inside. When Joe Public decided that a brown wrinkly and possibly cancerous skin from abroad was more desirable than a good old fashioned British seaside holiday, places like Rothesay and its Winter Garden Theatre died a death, and in 1982 the building was threatened with demolition. But thankfully there are still some sensible folk in the world, and the building was saved. It now mainly serves to provide information about the town and the Island of Bute, and houses some good displays on Rothesay's past.
A 13th-century castle long associated with the royal house of Stewart. As you may read on the memorial stone beside the Winter Garden, Sir John Stewart and hundreds of 'Men of Bute' fought beside William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. They were all killed during that battle, and no one returned to the island. This castle is quite unusual in that it has a circular form. Why it should be this shape I am not entirely sure, unless they thought it would increase the defensive strength of the walls. However, such a shape must have made it difficult to defend as you would have a limited view of any attackers near the wall when looking down from any one point. They later added four round towers, which may have increased its defensive capability. Or maybe not. Go now, and decide for yourself.
A musty old thing containing stuff, much of it pretty good.
St Mary's Chancel is the only surviving part of a medieval church. It's way up the High Street, past King George's Field Recreation Ground. Inside, as you close the heavy wooden door of the small room behind you, it feels strange. Spooky strange. For on the floor are the stone effigies of knights in armour. And there are more stone bodies lying prone on tombs in the walls. One is a knight in full armour. But who is he? Does a Stewart king lie buried within? Check it out for yourself.
There are many splendid walks in Rothesay and on the Island of Bute. Buy yourself a map (Ordnance Survey Landranger Series, 1:50000 - about one-and-a-quarter inches to a mile - sheet 63, 'Firth of Clyde') and you'll see them. If you wander up the High Street from the castle you'll soon see a sign on your left pointing towards Canada Hill. This is a nice little walk. The small road takes you on a wiggly route to the top of the hill, where you may walk to the topmost top and obtain views all around the Clyde coast. The road carries on back down the other side and leads back into Rothesay.
Alternatively, if you carry on up the High Street, past St Mary's Chancel (or chapel), there are some walks near Loch Fad and Loch Ascog. Just examine your map and plot your very own route. Exciting, huh? If you're feeling particularly adventurous and fit, there is in fact a West Island Way, which is a dander of about 30 miles over the island. You can buy a map of it at the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre.
You can hire a bike at the Bike Shed, 23-25 East Princes Street (one 's' or two, that is the question), and cycle anywhere you please. With your Ordnance Survey map at hand, again, the world, or the island, is your oyster. If it was me - and I'm not a regular cyclist - I'd be tempted to head up Rothesay High Street, on to the A845 road, and then on the minor road (it's yellow on your map) to explore the ruins of St Blane's Church on the south of the island. But the choice is yours.
Winter Garden (now the Isle of Bute Discovery Centre), Rothesay
Entrance to Rothesay Castle
Bute Museum, Rothesay
The Knight's Tomb, St Mary's Chancel, Rothesay
Silhouettes at Rothesay
Rothesay Winter Garden and war memorial statue
OS Landranger sheet 63 map is available in our shop