Friday, December 25, 2009

Isle of Bute: Rothesay Winter Gardens

When I began this blog I thought the Winter Gardens was the name given to the formal gardens alongside the Esplanade in Rothesay. I've now found out that it's actually the Grade A listed building in my photos below. Built in 1924, many famous music hall entertainers performed here. Redeveloped in the 1990s, it's now called The Discovery Centre, housing the tourist information office and shop, a 90-seat theatre/cinema, and restaurant.

The surrounding gardens are very attractive and well looked after.

The statue of Alexander Bannatyne Stewart (1836-1880), Convenor of Bute. He gave thousands of pounds of his own money to charities on the island and cultivated flowers at his house, Ascog Hall, growing superb varieties of orchids.

The statue is in a bit of a mess but there's not much that can be done to stop seagulls from standing on his head!

This one was drinking water from a hole on the putting green - I just missed a better photo when his whole head disappeared down the hole!

The Rothesay coat of arms on a post near the Winter Gardens

Friday, December 18, 2009

Isle of Bute: Ettrick Bay

Another beautiful bay, perhaps the most beautiful on Bute, 3 miles west of Rothesay on the opposite coastline.

A stranded kite

Below is the Ettrick Bay Tearoom which had actually just closed when we arrived, to our disappointment, it being quite late in the day. However, the owner, Alex Gibson, who was inside baking amazingly large lemon meringue pies, actually opened up to allow us some welcome coffee and cakes, which we appreciated very much. There is a photo of him on the tearoom website here. (Next time we are on Bute we will come here for lunch because the food is renowned and Alex is an experienced and excellent cook. The menu was very enticing!)

Geoffrey enjoying his coffee. This was just before our smiles vanished as I lost my car keys and we were sure I'd locked them in the boot of the car. It was very kind of Alex to help us search for them - they were found eventually after I went back and forth between the car and the cafe several times. What a carry on!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Isle of Bute: Kilchattan Bay

We had a short but delightful visit to this deserted bay, just two and a half miles from the southernmost part of the island. My photos were taken at the very end of the narrow coast road, near the bus turning area and the shingle beach.

View across the water

The colours of the rocks and pebbles are beautiful, particularly the red sandstone (I brought back a small piece!) There was a lot of different insect life close to the shore.

A Rosy Rustic Moth (Hydraecia micacea)

I was actually holding the ragwort stem quite close to the flower head, to stop it waving about in the breeze, but the moth didn't seem to mind!

Small Copper Butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas)

Very pretty butterfly but harder to photograph than the moth. As always, I could have done with extra time to take more photos!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Isle of Bute: Blackpark Stone Circle

Incredibly atmospheric and well worth a visit (we loved discovering them!), these three standing stones are all that remain of the original seven. They are surrounded by forestry plantation and composed mainly of quartz which explains their glittery appearance when seen at close quarters. One of the stones has been split by frost.

They aren't difficult to find: not far from the village of Kingarth, drive south along the A844, soon turning left onto a B road which runs down the centre of the peninsula. Continue along here until you see a signpost on the left pointing towards a forest track (it's possible to park here at the side of the road). The stones are found a short distance along here on the right on the edge of the Blackpark Plantation (hence the name of the stones).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dunoon: Sandbank and Holy Loch

Ardnadam is part of Sandbank and has the longest pier around the Firth of Clyde (200 ft/60m long), not shown to its best advantage in my photo above, unfortunately (click to see larger). Built in 1858, it was used as a steamer pier. Prior to the First World War, there was actually a regular daily service of 15-20 pleasure steamers which called at Ardnadam Pier for the benefit of locals and tourists! During World War Two the loch was used by the Royal Navy for exercises and a submarine base. From 1961 (amid great controversy) it was used by the US Navy for various vessels and as home to the Polaris nuclear submarines until it was decommissioned in 1992. (At the bottom there are links to web pages where more detailed information can be found)

Along the shore road is Lazaretto Point and the beautiful 35 ft high circular memorial to the dead of both world wars. It was designed by architects from Greenock and the work carried out by a Dunoon builder. The opening ceremony took place in 1922. The memorial includes a later plaque which commemorates the six submarines which left from the Holy Loch which, like its men on board, never returned.

The view at Lazaretto Point across Ardnadam Bay and the Holy Loch is really superb. The point takes its name from the quarantine station built in 1807 during the Napoleonic wars.

There was once a ferry which ran from here across the Holy Loch to Kilmun on the opposite bank. Unfortunately, it was discontinued in the 1970s

Geoffrey enjoying some welcome sunshine!

An interesting fact about this bench is that the wood was taken from the mast of the racing ship, Valkyrie 2, which sank in 1894 (killing a member of the crew) after a collision with another yacht. Later, she was recovered and broken up, the mast being used for many years as a flagpole at the Royal Marine Hotel. It was later removed for safety reasons and turned into benches around the memorial tower!

View across the water from the bench towards Kilmun and Strone on the opposite bank

Below: Near the tower, almost on the shore, are three metal benches in a row which commemorate three young people from the area who tragically died in a boating accident in 2005. The benches bear symbols of their combined interests including music and sailing.

My photos show only two of the benches; the third has musical notes set into the back

Below: Some hoverflies alighting on wild flowers beside the shore

A short video showing the Holy Loch from Lazaretto Point

I'm greatly indebted to a local resident, Robert Diamond, who, when he realised my interest, actually insisted on giving me three brand new books on the area, though we had only just met! I recommend all three:

Sandbank, Life and Times by Ann Galliard
Sandbank, War and Peace by Ann Galliard
Sandbank "Our Village", produced by Sandbank Community Council

I ought to add that, although I have included this blog for convenience under the heading of 'Dunoon' - as it is less than three miles away - Sandbank has always been very much a separate village in its own right.

There's more information about the Holy Loch on the Wikipedia page here and a page about the US Navy in the area here