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Bute Forest

Bute Forest welcomes you!

Are you ready for an awesome outdoor adventure?

A lovely short walk taking in oak woodland and spruce, passing the Painted Rock Trail and work area and with a short diversion, taking you to the stunning viewpoint at the WW2 bunker.

The Balnakailly Woodland is the most northern part of the forest and takes you to the most northern part of the island.

The Balnakailly loop, a partnership between Bute Forest and the Discover Bute Landscape Partnership Scheme takes you through both parts of the woodland and can be completed in part or in full.

In full it is approximately 4 miles. If walking the loop anti-clockwise then start at the Rhubodach – Colintraive ferry crossing and head north through the gate, across the field and take the stile into the woodland.

You’ll find a whole variety of wild flowers, ferns, mosses, lichens, fungi and animals depending on the time of year that you visit. The path takes you through the oak woodland which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, until you drop down over a small wall and though the line of spruce.

A short walk through the spruce takes you to the Balnakailly settlement, the remains of a farmhouse and a peaceful, sheltered area. You can then continue the loop along the forest track (easier walking and much less boggy!) until you reach the turning circle. A diversion here straight to the right of the signpost will take you across uneven ground to the WW2 bunker, where there are truly stunning views across the Kyles of Bute. Head back to the forest track and continue along, taking in the odd clear view through the trees across the water.. We are lucky to have 160 hectares of community-owned forest at the north end of the Isle of Bute, near to the Colintraive-Rhubodach ferry terminal which provides a wilderness to explore just a 10 minute drive from Rothesay.

Bute Forest is split into two main areas connected by the West Island Way: Moss Wood, an area of native broadleaf woodland where we host the majority of our community events and Balnakailly Wood an ancient woodland including an area of protected special scientific interest.

Both areas have marked short distance trails and if you take the longer Balnakailly Loop walk up to the WWII decoy village bunker you can also admire the spectacular view over the Burnt Isles below.

Spending time in nature is hugely beneficial and our woodland boasts a range of plants, animals, insects, fungi and protected bird species such as the wood warbler. We even have some very shy red squirrels! We also have wonderful stretches of unspoilt coastline to explore. Bute Forest has fascinating archaeological sites including the remains of charcoal burning platforms and abandoned and ruined farmsteads which reflect the forest’s rich past. There’s plenty to do and see for all the family, including the ever-popular Moss Wood Poetry Trail. Or perhaps you’d like to see how many of our woodland friends you can find in the new for 2023 ‘Birds of Bute’ Trail?

We’ve also recently installed several new geocaches and hold regular events throughout the year for the local community including wildflower wanders, fungi forays and guided walks.

If you want to truly immerse yourself in our beautiful woodland, you can book one of our fantastic off-grid huts for a unique forest eco-getaway!

We also offer mountain bikes if you would rather explore on wheels and we will soon be able to offer an e-bike to mountain bike transfer option from Rothesay or Port Bannatyne for a car-free experience! Come and explore the wilds of Bute Forest, you’ll be glad that you did!


All year