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Trip Report Island Hopping and Whisky Tasting in South West Scotland

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Mrs R and I recently returned from an amazing week’s island hopping around the southwest coast of Scotland. It might provide some ideas/inspiration for those who’re interested in getting off the beaten track a bit - away from the usual Fort William / Loch Ness / Edinburgh tourist triangle. Perhaps not suitable for a first-time visit to Scotland, but for those on return visits. Our road trip started and finished in Glasgow and we visited the Isle of Bute, Mull of Kintyre, Isle of Gigha, Islay, Jura and looped back to Glasgow through Inveraray.

Day 1: BA to GLA & A Very Victorian Lavvie
We flew up to Glasgow on a BA flight from LHR T5 on a Sunday lunchtime. LHR was the usual frenetic circus and I wished we had taken our more usual route from the more civilised Southampton airport to GLA – but we had discounted FF flights on BA to use. Once in Glasgow we picked up our hire car from Hertz, booked through AutoEurope (with an additional £15 discount thrown in by them in recognition of a small problem I’d had on a previous AE booking). We were upgraded to a brand new Nissan Qashqai (yes, really - try saying that after a few whiskies!) – a popular “crossover” vehicle with loads of technology and bags of storage space.

We headed along the drizzly, grey shoreline of the Clyde west of Glasgow, through Greenock and down to Wemyss Bay where we caught the next CalMac ferry across to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute (35 mins crossing time). More about the fantastic CalMac ferries in later stages of this TR.

Rothesay is little-known outside Scotland but was a hugely popular seaside holiday destination for generations of Glaswegians, from Victorian times right through to the early 1960’s, before cheap flights to Spanish resorts came in. It’s a small fishing town with a good deal of slightly faded charm, Italian fish & chip shops, a wonderful ruined castle right in the centre of town and is well-placed as a stopping off point en route to the southern Hebrides. Our accommodation for the night was the snazzy Boathouse B&B, where we had a bay window overlooking the Calmac ferries sailing back and forth with the mountains in the background.

We walked around the town prior to dinner in the now much improved weather (as folk often say in the west of Scotland, “if you don’t like the weather now, just wait ten minutes”). We found ourselves at one of Scotland’s most unusual tourist attractions – the splendidly preserved Victorian public toilets on the esplanade. These date from Rothesay’s heyday, when local civic pride dictated that visitors should be impressed by a lavvie with Italian marble and ornate tiling.

Dinner was extremely good fish and chips and Isle of Arran beer at Harry Haw’s – a popular new bistro next to the Castle.

Coming up next: More Victorian ostentation at Mount Stuart and on to Macca’s spiritual home

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