Having visited The Isle of Bute on several occasions previously on charter boats and long distance rail day trips, there was never enough time to visit both the town of Rothesay and Mount Stuart house. However on this occasion as I was based in Ayrshire, the opportunity presented itself to do both, using the regular ferry service from the mainland.
The Bute family have lived on the island for many centuries and descended from the kings of Scotland. You may remember from the previous post (Rothesay) how the ancient family lived at the Castle in town but due to successive raids from invaders, they chose the peace of The Old Mansion House across the street.
This change proved unsuccessful to one of the successive residents and the more roomy grounds of Mount Stuart was chosen as the new permanent home.
The Original Mount Stuart was built in 1716 and has allowed four generations of the Bute family to live here before an accidental fire destroyed the central part of the house in 1877.
The rebuilding programme of the Gothic revivalist structure by the third Marquis of Bute began in 1880 using his family inheritance from South Wales coal money. Work continued for many years and remained incomplete at the time of his death in 1900. Finance of buildings like this in the twentieth century took a hit as the world moved on in many ways but the 6th Marquis of Bute began a programme to complete the building in the 1980's.
Unfortunately he wasn't able to enjoy the finished product as he passed away before completion. It is believed that the house was the first home in the world to have a heated indoor swimming pool and the first in Scotland to have central heating, electric lights, passenger lift and a telephone. Due to the enormity of the task, a temporary railway had to be constructed from Kerrycroy village to the house to transport all the necessary building materials.
On a personal note, some of the internal decor was the most amazing I had ever seen. The standout features were the Gothic church and the main marble hall reaching to the sky or rather 80 ft over several levels. The tower window including studded diamonds reflected light and various colours onto the walls beneath.
The marble hall was constructed from a variety of Sicilian and Italian marble along with Granite and Sandstone, drawing its inspiration from History, Astrology, Art and Mythology It was a little unfortunate that photography was prohibited but I have copied a link here to give you a flavour as Google image stills don't do it justice.
Whilst the house itself is stunning, so too is much of the 300 acres of grounds in which it sits.
There are many walk ways and avenues throughout the grounds that connect the key features of the site. The Augusta Column in one of the avenues was built in honour Augusta Dowager Princess of Wales in 1772 by The 3rd Earl.
There are three gardens of note namely the Rock Garden, The Wee (small) Garden and The Kitchen Garden, each exhibiting their own unique features.
The Rock Garden behind the house could also be classed as a water garden due to the stream running through it creating a series of ponds.
The designer of the 2 acre Rock Garden, Thomas Mawson, also created a dramatic "Stations of the Cross" garden walk, part of which featured a statue of Christ as a centre piece, which was later removed to the family chapel by the shore.
The Pavilion in The Kitchen Garden was bought by the 6th Marquess of Bute following its exhibition at the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival and then moved to Mount Stuart. It contains plants from around the world.
The 5 acre Kitchen Garden is unique in its design having only one wall, the other three having been replaced by shelter providing trees. Until very recently it was a traditional Kitchen garden providing fruit and vegetables, but now it is mainly used for decorative purposes with hedges that are used to divide it into further sections.
It was time to return home and back to the 21st century of the exit via the newly built visitor centre. This in itself provided a spectacular photographic moment although not quite a Gothic Revivalist structure externally that you could be thinking of ....