Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Rothesay’s West Church set to be a partial survivor

It’s not been that long since I finally decided to give the unfortunate West Church in Rothesay a mention.

After many years of doubt, and not a little controversy with conflicting views, the church is now set to take on an altered appearance to render it safe:

Councillor Robert Macintyre, chair of Bute and Cowal Area Committee, told The Buteman: “The building standards section of the council have been in continual discussions with the structural engineer to establish the absolute minimum of work and most cost-effective way to make the building permanently safe.

“It has been decided that the roof of the main church building must be removed as soon as possible and the remaining walls lowered to a safe height.”

Via Partial demolition for former Rothesay church – The Buteman

I hope the cats that once called it ‘home’ have somewhere to go (of course they do).

It used to be fun watching them, and even thought they were too wary to let strangers near them (although the ladies that looked after them were, of course, tolerated), they would jump up on the car and stare at the occupants…

Maybe they thought we were in some sort of ‘Travelling Zoo’, and were placed there for them to look at!

06/09/2015 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | 1 Comment

Any love for the former West Church lying derelict on the Isle of Bute?

Any love for the former West Church in Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute?

It’s one of a number of similar derelicts you can find on the island if you go for a wander, but is the only one I see being picked on in the media.

I’ve known this one for years, as it lies on the edge of once hidden car park. Access was via a narrow gap between two building on the main street, but was made easier when a second access was created using the space left at he front of the church, when it fell out of use.

It was a handy place to park off-street many moons ago when we stayed in a nearby attic flat. In later years it served as a handy place to stop for lunch, being close to the shops for some food (if we had no sandwiches), and a kiosk on the esplanade that sold giant mugs of tea (albeit in a plastic cup) to help wash it down.

Going back to the church, it was taken over by the local stray cats, and they were adopted by the ladies that look after and feed such lost souls, and make sure they see the vet. It used be fun spotting them, but they were generally wary of strangers, so little or no fun playing with them.

But the building has been derelict and abandoned for years now, and concerns are growing over its condition. Some are calling for it to be demolished, while others are trying to find a use for it, or maybe just part of it.

As always, not being there, or being involved, makes it hard to get at the truth.

Are those calling for demolition after the ground for themselves for some reason?

Are those who want it retained just sentimental, and have no idea how safe it is after years of neglect?

And now those who live nearby are claiming nobody is listening to them.

But I doubt that (since we are obviously hearing their story), and suspect more likely a desperate reporter who wants some clickbait for an attention-grabbing headline. Rather than reporting concerns, I suspect leading questions were asked, and that legitimises the application of some ‘artistic licence’ after the writer raises the issue… after prompting those being interviewed.

That said, I do have to be fair and say that there is a tenement block to the immediate right of the church, on the hidden side in the pic below. But I’d still take the view that claiming they are not being listened to is wrong on the neighbour’s part – what they really mean is that they think their voice is the one that should be heard, and those seeking to retain or re-use the church should be ignored. I don’t have a pic to hand, but you can see the building if you look in Street View.

What we are seeing is merely due process being followed, and they don’t seem to like that since they are not being given blanket priority without debate.

Here are the most recent news articles that appeared this month:

Former Rothesay church beyond help, says councillor – The Buteman

Can former Rothesay church really be saved? – The Buteman

‘No-one listening to us’ say West Church neighbours – The Buteman

Decision soon on fate of former Rothesay church – The Buteman

23/08/2015 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s a swan – and family to be (but not mine)

A feature post and pic from Zak’s Bute collection today, and I think it’s a beauty.

For strangers to this phenomenon, I should expand on this by noting the presence of a swan family on Bute, which resides in the area of Rothesay castle, and breeds there every year, with the moat providing a handy and safe water feature for their convenience. However, they do go down to the harbour, and to the sea, and when they do, the town can come to a momentary halt and see parents and cygnets enjoy a police escort. See them in this past feature.

17/04/2014 Posted by | photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Window madness on the Isle of Bute

Cat window breakI seem to have been following this story – and its variants – regarding replacement windows, the council, listing (as in ‘listed building’), planning permission, and appeals for years.

And I have, as a quick search of the archives on this subject goes back to 2008, which probably means it started some time before then, and that is just when it began to hit the media.

At its simplest, the saga revolves around heritage legislation and the need for planning permission to be granted by the council before work can legally be carried out to modify a listed building. This leaves Bute hotel owners (and others) who want to upgrade their properties with uPVC double glazing (or any other modern window type) with a problem, as they can find that listing means they are obliged to replace like with like. In other word, if the building came with single glazed wooden frames, then that is what they must fit if replaced old worn out windows.

The same rules apply to any owners with listed properties, even private home owners.

The situation has become one of stalemate, with the owners reluctant to fit old style wooden frames, as they wish to upgrade their facilities to make the rooms quieter and warmer for their guests, but the council is standing by the rules and refusing planning permission for the newer and more efficient window, despite repeated applications, and even an appeal to the Scottish Government (also rejected).

There seems to be no way forward, even though the owners have the support of their neighbours, and a number of residents in favour of the new windows, the council appears unwilling to compromise.

Now, an online petition has been organised, together with a paper petition being made available in local businesses:

Bute House Hotel

We, the undersigned, disagree with the decision of Argyll and Bute Council to refuse planning permission for the installation of double-glazed UPVC windows at the Bute House Hotel in Rothesay. Following the Scottish Government’s dismissal of an appeal against refusal, we call on Argyll and Bute Council to reconsider its decision and to work without delay towards a solution which will address the urgent need for quality hotel accommodation on Bute, and be of benefit to the economy of the island.

Petition Bute House Hotel

Web site: Bute House Hotel

See also: Petition urges Bute House Hotel rethink – The Buteman

If you visit The Buteman’s web site, and just insert the word ‘windows’ into the Search Box which appears at the top right of their page, then you will be given a listing of the many stories which have appeared in that publication over the past few years.

Bute House Hotel can be seen below, and is the narrow white building on the right, on the corner of Rothesay’s Guildford Square, just inland of the harbour on the left edge of the pic, as captured by Zak’s Photo Galleries at during October 2013.


A response from the council appear later, published in The Buteman and available online:

‘We understand planning frustration’, says councillor – The Buteman

Argyll and Bute Council has apparently gone power mad

At the same time, a local builder working on a private home, which is NOT listed and therefore presumably NOT covered by the rules attached to that status:

John Morrison installed the windows in the property at 19 Battery Place last year, but has now been told Argyll and Bute Council will seek to take action against him unless the windows are removed.

Mr Morrison has hit out at council planning officials’ attitude towards conservation in Rothesay, pointing out that permission was retrospectively approved for UPVC windows at a neighbouring C-listed property in Battery Place – even though Mr Morrison’s own building has no listed status at all.

Council threatens Rothesay builder with action over UPVC windows – The Buteman

While the case of the hotel has to be resolved within the scope of the relevant rules and regulations which apply to listing, the action being taken against the owner of a property which does not fall under this category clearly shows that the personnel within Argyll and Bute Council are not competent to discharge the duties for which they are responsible, and need to be subject to some sort of audit and review which holds them accountable for their actions.

13/02/2014 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, council | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bute car sticker spotted

Waddling around George Square at Christmas, I was a little surprised to come across a car displaying one of the old Bute is Beautiful car stickers.

Carrying the phrase Scotland’s Unexplored Isle tells me this is not new, although my sieve of a memory means I can’t make a decent stab at how long ago these were ‘current’, but I think 10 years would not be too far out. I’m sure these phrases were floating around in the years close to 2004, or earlier. Somebody with a better memory might be more accurate.

Note also the Concorde sticker – the driver is someone who appreciates fine things.

Bute car sticker

17/01/2014 Posted by | photography | , | 2 Comments

Baird of Bute award announced and 2012 event (third) on Bute

Early monoplaneHaving only come into being during 2010, I was more than a little pleased to see that the Baird of Bute Society was still going strong, and that the 2012 Baird of Bute Festival had been announced for September 22 on the commemorative web site: Baird of Bute Home – First all-Scottish heavier-than-air powered flight

First Scottish powered flight

For those unfamiliar with the event, it commemorates the events of September 3, 1920, when Bute blacksmith Andrew Baird, and aviation enthusiast of the time, achieved the “first all-Scottish Heavier-than-air Powered Flight”, and which we summarised here: The first Scottish powered flight when the first commemoration took place on Bute in 2010.

Baird of Bute Society Scottish Aviation Award

The society has created this award, to be presented annually to an individual who has made a significant contribution to aviation in Scotland and in so doing provides an inspiration to the youth of Scotland.

The first recipient of this new award in 2012 has been named as Mr Scott Grier OBE, Chairman of Loganair Limited, Scotland’s airline, which celebrates its own semi-centennial 50th year of operation at the same time.

Mr Grier will be officially presented with award at the Baird Airstrip, Kingarth, as part of the annual Baird of Bute celebrations on Saturday, September 22.

The society will also launch its first publication during Saturday’s event , a book entitled ‘Andrew Blain Baird – Aviation Pioneer’, and plans to place a copy in the library of each school in Scotland.

See Baird of Bute launch new award – Local Headlines – The Buteman for more details, and where updates will be published with more information about events being held on the island during the day of the event.

From the archives:

Baird airstrip

Baird airstrip opening (from 2010) – Courtesy of Zak

Seen holding the new sign for airstrip are Andrew Blain Baird II and Andrew Blain Baird III.

07/09/2012 Posted by | Aviation, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Isle of Bute didn’t avoid the bad weather this time around

I’ve been looking outside for the past few days and counting myself and my neighbours to be lucky, for once.

In the storms and gales that have arrived over the past few years, I’ve seen many walls blown over, bricks and tiles ripped off roofs, and anything light (such as a felt-covered roof) being torn loose and carried away, never to be seen again. Last year saw many trees blown over to, with some landing on nearby houses.

This year, even though I have watched some alarming leaning and bending by some structures, I’ve yet to see the same sort of thing repeated. So far, all I have come across is some hefty branches ripped off tall trees, and they looked weakened by disease or decay. Part of this I put down to the number of repairs and renewals made after the damage of past years, but I still think we’ve been lucky, and the hills around Glasgow have sheltered us – this time.

Less fortunate of areas near me seems to have been the coastal areas of the Firth of Clyde, and after some hearing some descriptions of local damage in the area, got to see the sort of damage that the Isle of Bute suffered. While it has not escaped completely in recent years, it often seems to get off lightly, and when I used to take a jaunt over at Christmas and Hogmanay, was often surprised at just how nice it could be there, even though it was only a few miles away from ‘home,’, where things were not so cosy.

Click on the first picture below, which shows damage to the unfortunate roof of one of Rothesay’s fine ornate tenement buildings on East Princes Street, to see a gallery of the damage done on January 3, 2011.

Duncan's roof

Damaged tenement roof, January 2011 © Zak


Updated pic by Zak showing the hidden side of the damage caught in the pic above:

Duncan's roof

Damaged tenement roof, January 2011 © Zak

And finally…

I’m pleased to see that the (presumably) last pic in this series confirmed my location of the unfortunate roof shown above (which was not really difficult):

Duncans roof

Damaged tenement, January 2011 © Zak


I noticed another pic that perhaps serves to convey how serious things were, not only on the island itself, but (as I was informed by others) anywhere in this particular corner of Argyll and  Bute served by the same electrical supply.

Heavy winds knocked out the supply from  about 7 am on the 3rd until about 1 am on the 4th!

Below is a pic Zak took of a snack bar ferried over from the mainland to provide hot meals on the 3rd.

Bad as things were, seeing this is actually a good thing as it meant the weather had subsided, and the island was not suffering the additional hard of being cut off from the mainland by the high winds, which can force the ferries to stay in port because of the risks involved with going to sea.

Bute storm snacks

Snack bar ferried from the mainland, January 2011 © Zak

05/01/2012 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bute’s wee ferry crossing could be extended to midnight

An intriguing variation on the various ways that the Isle of Bute’s ferry service could be extended appeared in the news.

While I’m sure some group or other will probably appear dedicated to rubbishing the proposal, it has the advantage of being workable and economic, if not ideal for those who want to play at living on an island.

I’m told by long-term residents that calls for extensions to the big ferry have been made by a vocal few in the past, and when this extended service was tried – next to nobody turned up to use it. It doesn’t take the greatest imagination in the world to work how expensive it is to sail the MVs Bute and Argyll between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay – empty. Once, let alone on a number of late night sailings.

THE Rhubodach-Colintraive ferry timetable could be extended through to midnight each day, the Scottish Government has suggested.

A draft plan for the future of the country’s ferry services suggests that extending the timetable of the Kyles crossing “could bring substantial benefit to the local economy”, while at the same time being the most cost-effective way of bridging the gap between Bute’s current service and a ‘needs based assessment’ which recommends an operating day from 6am until midnight.

via Kyles ferry crossing ‘could be extended to midnight’ – Local Headlines – The Buteman.

Such a proposal would certainly suit an occasional touring visitor like me, and reflects my normal journey to and from the island.

Being an owl rather than a lark, I amble down to Wemyss Bay in the morning (deliberately avoiding the busiest early sailings) and buy a Hopscotch ticket, allowing me to travel over on the big ferry, and return by the wee ferry when it suit me.

The wee ferry effectively runs run during daylight hours, so the last sailing off the island during summer is between 21:00 and 22:00 (depending when I am there), but more importantly for me, it runs later than the big ferry – a difference I have often depended on.

Unlike the failed and wasteful extensions tried on the big ferry (not my assessment, but that of islanders I knew at the time), I hope this one at least gets a trial run for a while, and is not dismissed out of hand by the ‘vocal few’.

A little different from the usual view on the water, one of the wee ferries (which would be MV Loch Dunvegan if the name was in view, and RoRo sister MV Loch Alain behind) caught recently by Zak as it prepares for its next trip across the waters, which sees it risk itself daily (I’m funning!) to bridge the gap of almost 300 metres between the mainland and the island at the Kyles of Bute:

Wee Bute ferry

The wee ferry, MV Loch Dunvegan, at Rhubodach © Zak

27/12/2011 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas fun at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute

Christmas RussiaIf you’re lucky enough to be on Bute at the right time, then there’s an excuse to drop in to Mount Stuart for some events related to Christmas:

Mount Stuart Christmas Fair

Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th December

10am – 5pm

Celebrate the festive season in traditional style at Mount Stuart’s Christmas Fair. A food & craft market, festive entertainment, mulled wine and mince pies, Santa’s grotto and much more. A great place to shop for all your presents and welcome in the festive season!

Admission to the Mount Stuart Christmas Fair on 3rd and 4th December is free, as is parking.

Carol Service by Candlelight

Monday 19th December

7pm An atmospheric evening of Christmas Carols in Mount Stuart’s Marble Hall, a perfect way to celebrate the festive season!

Please call (01700) 503877 for further information

Event details are correct at time of print, however all events are subject to change and/or cancellation at short notice – please call Mount Stuart on 01700 503877 to confirm, or email:

via Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, Scotland (Events page).

28/11/2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Archaeological Landscape of Bute – RCAHMS Publication

Received from RCAHMS:

Lying among the sea lochs of southern Argyll, near the centre of the ancient waterways that once connected Scotland to Ireland and beyond, the Isle of Bute is a treasure trove of thousands of years of archaeological remains. With earliest occupation by hunter gatherers estimated at around 9,000 BC, the island’s remarkable landscapes feature a wealth of monuments ranging from standing stones, chambered tombs and forts, to monasteries, castles and industrial cotton mills.

Drawing on the results of a groundbreaking survey carried out by RCAHMS in partnership with members of the local community, authors Alex Hale and George Geddes take readers on a fascinating journey through the diverse layers of Bute’s past. With detailed maps, plans and photographs providing the most comprehensive ever guide to the island’s sites of interest, The Archaeological Landscape of Bute offers an unparalleled insight into one of Scotland’s richest historical environments.

“Embodies the classic virtues of the Royal Commission’s work: beautifully produced and illustrated with stunning aerial photographs, new site plans, and material from many other sources, clearly and succinctly written . . . a gem of a book” Archaeology Scotland

The Archaeological Landscape of Bute was published in 2010 following two years fieldwork by RCAHMS and DBLPS. Although the print run has sold out, the book has now been turned into a free download available on this page.

The downloadable PDF has been enhanced so that readers can search for details of each site mentioned in the book. Click on any of the site numbers and you will be taken to the RCAHMS Canmore database for more details.

via The Archaeological Landscape of Bute – RCAHMS Publications – RCAHMS.

The download referred to can be obtained here:

The Archaeological Landscape of Bute – pdf

Mention of landscape demands a pic, but while I was looking through the galleries Zak has built up over the years it became obvious there was no ‘typical’ view, and that the scenic variation is one of the real attraction of the island.

With that in mind, the appearance of a rainbow in this view made it something of a preferred choice…

Rainbow on Bute

Rainbow on Bute © Zak

The correct name escapes me (oops), but if I’m thinking of the right spot, then there a picnic area with tables and benches just to the right of the area shown.

For more of the same, try:

Bute is Beautiful Photo Gallery by Zak at

28/09/2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

Second Baird of Bute commemorative event for 2011

After the success of last year’s centenary event: The first Scottish powered flight « Secret Scotland, when the first powered flight in Scotland was commemorated and the airstrip near Kingarth on the Isle of Bute was named Baird Airstrip in honour of Andrew Baird (on the 60th anniversary of his death), the celebrations are to make a return this year.

Scheduled to begin on the morning of Saturday, September 24, 2011, light aircraft will arrive at Baird Airstrip until 10:30 am, and will be on display to the public from 11:00 am onwards. Parking, refreshments, entertainment, and toilets will be available, and the pilots will be on hand to discuss their aircraft, most (if not all) of which will have been home-built.

In the afternoon, activity will move to Ettrick Bay where, at approximately 1:30 pm, a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter will carry out a simulated rescue from the waters of the bay, to be followed (at approximately 2:00 pm) by a fly past of the aircraft seen earlier at the airstrip.

At 2:45 pm, a short ceremony will be held marking the 60th anniversary of Andrew Baird’s death on September 9, 1951, with a wreath being laid on the monument which was erected last year.

Baird airstrip

Baird airstrip opening  (from 2010) – Courtesy of Zak

There will also be a kite flying competition, with some two hundred children from the island’s schools being invited to participate again this year.

Mount Stuart provides a further venue for activities from 2:00 pm onwards, including family games on an aviation theme, and displays by the Bute Astronomical Society, and a ceilidh in the evening.

Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, Scotland

From 2:30 pm, the University of Edinburgh Hot Air Balloon Club will be offering flights about the island.

At 4:15 pm, there will be a thirty minute aerobatic display by Scottish pilot Jim McTaggart (I assume in his Starduster Too stunt aircraft).

The Baird of Bute Society will also be hard at work during the day, hoping to recruit new members to the society.

Home – Baird of Bute Society

Finally, if the Saturday should be a washout, events are to be rescheduled for Sunday, September 25, other than the ceilidh, which will still take place at Mount Stuart on the Saturday evening,


Welcome return for ‘Baird of Bute’ celebrations – Community – The Buteman

I used to have a web site link with details of the airfield, but it seems to have died and not been replaced in recent years, but I did note the following a while ago (so check for yourself, as this is not claimed to be current information for flight purposes):

The airfield is a grass strip about 480 metres long. 09/27 runs slightly uphill if using 09.

There is a local frequency of 135.475 call sign Bute Traffic.

Care is advised when landing on 27 – a gap is reported in the trees, but the road may still have hidden traffic, and if the strip is wet, braking action is reported to be poor downhill.

PPR is from the Bute Estate Office on 01700 502627 or


By all accounts, the day was favoured with good attendance – some 18 aircraft were reported at the field – and the promised events were able to go ahead as planned, since the weather stayed fair on the day. Even the post-hurricane winds and rain we ‘enjoyed’ during the week went away, so the hot air balloon was ably to fly at Mount Stuart.

Click on the montage below to see a full gallery of the day’s events on Bute:

Baird of Bute II

Baird of Bute 2011 gallery – courtesy of Zak

16/09/2011 Posted by | Aviation, Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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