Kilchattan Loop, Bute

West Island Way stone

I want you to keep this to yourself because I’ve found an absolutely superb walk and I don’t want hordes of riff-raff coming along and spoiling it.  Luckily, because no-one reads this blog 1 it shouldn’t spread.  It is the loop of the West Island Way at the south end of Bute starting at the village of Kilchattan.  This is a 48km walk along the length of Bute and has been in place since 2000, but I’d only stumbled on by chance recently.  We’ve decided to do it in three stages, and today we’d head to south as I’ve always wanted to check out Kilchattan having seen it so often from the mainland. 

The weather was gorgeous and we were looking forward to the ferry.  We arrived in Wemyss Bay just in time to see the ferry depart. However, that turned out to be a blessing because we now had 45 minutes to waste and so headed for the railway station.  Why hadn’t I heard about this place?  It was simply superb – a wrought iron palace restored a decade or so ago and with no-one around I could indulge myself taking “Kev photos”.  Imagine how great it must have been for someone at the start of the 20th century heading for Rothesay for their holidays and arriving here for the ferry.  It was pretty cool today – it must be the jewel in the Calmac crown.  Perhaps it was because I was now in a holiday mood and the sun was shining, but people seemed more pleasant: even the crew on the Isle of Bute smiled and said hello 2.

Tractor on Kilchattan Bay

Kilchattan Bay

Soon we were in Rothesay and caught the connecting bus to Kilchattan 3.  The bus was full of people heading to Mount Stuart 4 and Jazz gave them all a cheery sniff as they got off 5.   Kilchattan has a lovely bay and someone had thoughtfully placed a colourful tractor beside it – well, that’s just a Kev magnet and a short detour got the necessary photos while Jazz sniffed the beach.

Arran from Dunstrone

View south from St Blane's

St Blane's Church

Then it was off to the West Island Way itself.  We were doing the short loop (8km officially, but we had a few “short cuts” to check out standing stones, avoiding two planes landing, etc, so call it 10km).  Our path starts through some lovely woodland and emerges at the air strip on the west coast with Arran dominating the view.  The coast here to the south is full of geological oddities that clearly would make great defensive spots and the area has been occupied since pre-history.  We pottered about the various hill forts and bays heading for St Blane's Church and the site of an ancient monastery and pilgrimage.  The ruined church is in a lovely location looking south and has a number of interesting gravestones, including the famous “hogsback grave”.

Little Cumbrae from Glencallum Bay

Hawk's Nib

Arran from near Glencallum Bay

After a lunch stop we continued along the Plan Road passed Loch na Leighe to the south coast.  If anything, the views just got better with now the Cumbraes vying with Arran for scenic appeal.  The path goes round Glencallum Bay and Hawk's Nib back to Kilchattan.  This section was a bit rocky but the scenery was very impressive and apart from the Danish navy playing in the Clyde, we had the place to ourselves.

HMS Illustrious

This was a stunning introduction to walking on Bute and a great taster for doing the rest of the West Island Way.  It gets one of my coveted 5 star ratings.  We had more fun on the ferry back when we tried to ram HMS Illustrious – I was quite surprised at how small she looked, given that she is one of the biggest ships we have left in the Royal Navy. 6


  1. Apart from discerning people such as yourself, obviously.
  2. Maybe they always do: this is the first time Jazz and I have given them our custom.  Good way to get repeat business.  I hope Calmac HR are listening when it comes to annual appraisal time.
  3. It is one of the good things about small islands – the public transport system is actually integrated.
  4. And now on my to-do list.
  5. And trying out her “Sorry, no food stuffs allowed in there – you need to leave it with me.”
  6. I’m pretty sure the Isle of Bute ferry could have taken her if only we had a couple of Merlin helicopters…
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