Sunday, 7 February 2016

Rothesay, Isle of Bute.


Rothesay is the main town on the Isle of Bute located to the west of the Firth Clyde. It is easily accessible by regular ferries from Wemyss Bay on the south west coast of Scotland.

Seafront  GJC_017403

Railway Poster  GJC_017662_edited-1 (1)

The town of Rothesay itself sits on a north facing bay sheltered by low hills, it has been visited by an eclectic mix of people groups down through the centuries.

Fishing Boat  GJC_017410

Historically the employment of the town centred around the large cotton mills during the late 18th century, but their final demise came in the 1880s as a result of continuing external competition from the mainland. Conversely at the same time, the herring fishing industry was beginning to thrive.

Car Ferry waiting bays   GJC_017532

The close proximity of Bute to the seafaring route from Ireland to Scotland provided a gateway for the early Christian missionaries in the 6th century.  St Blanes church and other historic sites are testament to that fact found in the southern half of the island.
By the 8th century, the invaders were Vikings from Norway who weren't so peaceful or amenable and   kept returning at various times over a 500 year period.
An early simple fort was built by Magnus Barford in 1098 but his stay was short lived due to its destruction by the locals.

Castle Moat  GJC_017476

Later in the 13th century a stone circular castle and moat was built by The Stewart family which eventually became a royal residence.

Rothesay Castle  GJC_017475

The castle saw more Norse battle action, firstly in 1230 and then later in 1263, but despite initially losing the castle in the battles it was later reclaimed after the demise of King Hakon. The invader finally admitted defeat in the nearby Battle of Largs (1263).

Moat  GJC_017473

The English temporarily took control of Rothesay Castle from 1297 - 1311 during the wars of Independence until Robert The Bruce finally took it back into Scottish hands.

Castle Gatehouse  GJC_017479

Steps were taken to repair and improve the defences with four towers being added in the 16th century followed by a gatehouse and despite skirmishes with the English (Cromwell's Army 1659) and The Duke of Argyll in 1685, it was never tested again in battle.

Old Mansion House  GJC_017471_edited-1 (1)

Around this time, the Stewart family moved into the more comfortable Old Mansion House across the street. This building is currently being renovated as an educational facility looking at the history of the island.
The second Earl of Bute decided to move the family home again to the out of town and more opulent Mount Stuart in the east of the island leaving the castle derelict for many years.
The Crichton Stewarts restored the castle during the 19th century before being handed over for preservation, overseen and cared for by the organisation Historic Scotland.

Victoria Hotel  GJC_017505

Like many other resorts in the 19th century, it became a fashionable destination for those seeking to escape the progressive industrialisation for a weeks holiday, assisted by improved transport arrangements.

Fountain  GJC_017508

Many believed that Hydrotherapy could provide healing properties for body ailments ...

Greenery  GJC_017515

... and Rothesay was keen to replicate the success and marketing of other Spa towns in the UK as a fashionable holiday destination.

Statue  GJC_017516

Alexander Bannantyne Stewart was a merchant from Glasgow who had an interest in fine arts, sailing and horticulture. Due to his earlier family connections with Rothesay and his later influence as convener of County of Bute, he gave many benefits to the local people including a swimming pool.

Winter Gardens  GJC_017529_edited-1 (1)

The Winter Gardens were built as a result of the thriving music and entertainment business of the resort which had outgrown the bandstand built about 50 years previously. The attraction opened in 1924 at a cost of £7,000 with parts being shipped from Glasgow.

Lamps  GJC_017531

The venue served as a magnet for show business names of the day, many of whom went on to become famous.

Winter Gardens window  GJC_017504

Things remained much the same until the 1960's when the cheap European package holiday became more accessible resulting in a decline of the resort.
The Winter Gardens closed and threats of demolition became real in 1982, remaining derelict for some considerable time.

Winter Gardens interior  GJC_017527

The building was revamped as an exhibition and tourist information centre in 2000.

Rothesay Bay  GJC_017456

Whilst Rothesay is synonymous with maritime history, interestingly enough during World War II, many navy personnel were given training on submarines in the bay.

Harbour and Pier  GJC_017463

In addition to the newly styled Winter Gardens, the authorities in the town have shown much tenacity in recouping the tourism business by various measures including the upgrade of the pier.

Victorian Pier  GJC_017548

From the archives ... Shipbuilding on The River Clyde provided the constructed Paddle steamers that transported workers for their holidays from Glasgow "Doon The Watter".
Note the hotel transfers 19th century style !!

Hopefully with the amount of shipping transport in those days they didn't have to wait too long ....

Victorian Toilets  GJC_017495

Victorian Bricks  GJC_017496

And finally there were thankfully no earthquakes today ....

Fault line  GJC_017510

Monday, 25 January 2016

Ferries to Rothesay


As a young teenager, I was taken for five summer holidays by my parents to a location on The Firth of Clyde.

Rear deck view  GJC_017573

It influenced my love of boats, the west coast of Scotland and inspired my sense of adventure to travel further north in later years.

MV Jupiter   GJC_IMG_6284

One of the sights that became very familiar to me during those times were the classic shapes of three Caledonian MacBrayne ferries travelling between Gourock, Dunoon and Rothesay. These boats represented an advancement in travel back in the mid 1970's with significant improvement to travel and turnaround times. For that reason, the MV Jupiter, Juno and Saturn were known as The Clyde Streakers and because of their longevity by Calmac standards had something of a cult following. Generally the Jupiter and Juno worked the Gourock to Dunoon route with the Saturn covering the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route. The former two would cover additional relief duties during the summer until the introduction of The MV Bute and MV Argyle. Unfortunately, a series of political measures that included the cost to maintain Dunoon Pier meant that all three were retired from service by 2011. The Jupiter and Juno were scrapped in Denmark and Rosneath (Gare Loch) while the Saturn was given a new lease of life named as MV Orcadia with Pentland Ferries off the North coast of Scotland.

MV Bute   GJC_017458

The MV Bute and MV Argyle were built in Gdansk, Poland at a cost of £8.5 million and £9 million respectively.

Sunshine on board  GJC_017569


These vessels were specifically ordered to run on the Wemyss Bay to Rothesay route.

Empty Seats  GJC_017572

MV Bute commenced service in August 2005 about a month after arriving in The Firth of Clyde.

Nearing Rothesay  GJC_017487

The MV Argyle was launched in September 2006 and later commenced service in May 2007 as a result of modifications carried out based on the experiences with MV Bute.

Bridge seats  GJC_017373


Technical data of both ferries ...
  • 2612 tonnes
  • 72 m length x 15.3 m width
  • speed 14 knots
  • 450 passengers
  • 60 cars capacity
Seats shadows  GJC_017381


Seat Shadows


Clyde Ferry Wash  GJC_017383

It was interesting to note that due to the design of the propellers on both ferries it was harder to dock at piers and caused delays in the first season of service. It was ironic that the predecessors and more manoeuvrable MV Juno and Saturn were brought back to maintain the service in 2007, during modifications to Rothesay Pier.
However the MV Argyle had modifications to the vehicle ramp as a result of lessons learnt from the MV Bute.

Lounge  GJC_017391

Other differences between the two sister ferries include a second lift from the car deck and a larger passenger lounge on the later ship.

Arriving at Wemyss Bay  GJC_017567


Arriving and departing from Wemyss Bay



Window view  GJC_017553

 Rothesay Bay from a lounge window.



Passing Ships  GJC_017556

Passing ships



Kiosk  GJC_017393

 On board shop

And finally, an ambulance hopefully not in an emergency during the 35 minute crossing time ...

Emergency Ambulance  GJC_017376
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