Bute is known for its Victorian architecture, beautiful beaches and glorious gardens. It’s also home to some wonderful woodlands. Bute Forest, found at the north end of the island, is a fabulous place to explore on foot or by bike. Discover ancient sites, wildlife galore and some truly stunning views across the Kyles of Bute as you wander through this fantastic forest.
Bute Forest, also known as Rhubodach Forest, is a magical mix of ancient woodland, commercial forest, moorland and coastline. It's owned by the community. You can roam free in the woodland, but there are also several excellent way-marked trails. One of the best ways to experience all that this forest has to offer is to follow the Balnakailly Loop. This lovely short walk, approximately 4-miles long, takes you to the most northern part of the island through oak woodland and spruce. The walk starts at the CalMac Rhubodach ferry terminal. which links Bute to Colintraive on Argyll’s Secret Coast.
Begin the walk by heading up the track at the north end of the tarmac. You soon enter an oak woodland which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Look out for an incredible variety of flora and fauna, including fungi, red and roe deer and protected birds. After a short section through plantation spruce forest you’ll reach the Balnakailly settlement, which is the remains of a farmhouse thought to have been abandoned in the 1860s.There’s the option for a short diversion to a WW2 bunker, which was one of several used to control decoy lights designed to fool German bombers into thinking the area was a valuable airfield. It’s well worth the extra effort to as there’s a stunning viewpoint with views across the Kyles of Bute.
Kids will love the Painted Rock Trail, which is a route through the forest marked by rocks painted by local children. You’ll encounter Bruce the Magic Spruce, Robert the Spruce and the Pigtail Bridge. There’s a picnic bench at the end of the trail which is a great spot to rest your weary feet or enjoy a picnic. Access to the Painted Rock Trail is via the southern entrance to the left of Rhubodach Cottage.
Or how about taking part in a bio cache challenge? Head out into the forest to find interesting plants and animals. You can share your observations with your friends, earn points, and see which species others have discovered in your area. All you need is an Ordnance Survey Map. There are two bio cache challenges in Bute Forest - one in the Balnakailly Loop and one in Shalunt Wood. Other fun things to do in the forest include finding deer tracks, foraging for fungi, bark rubbing and bug collecting.
And if Bute Forest has given you a taste for trekking on this wonderful island, then why not try the West Island Way, which runs the length of the island? This fabulous route, one of Scotland’s Great Trails, is a very do-able 23 - 30 miles, depending on how you tackle it. You might also like visit the beautiful beaches of Bute, including Ettrick Bay with its golden sands and fabulous cafe.
Bute is considered to be one of the most accessible islands off the west coast of Scotland. It’s just 50 minutes away from Glasgow by road or rail, followed by a 35-minute CalMac ferry crossing from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay. Another CalMac ferry runs from Colintraive in Argyll to Rhubodach at the north end of Bute, taking less than five minutes.