Mount Stuart: A Top visitor attraction in Argyll and the Isles

Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute is one of the brightest stars in Scotland’s galaxy of world-class visitor attractions. From the heavenly 19th-century mansion to the 300 acres of gloriously maintained grounds and gardens to the award-winning visitor centre, it’s the highlight of any visit to Bute and a ‘must see’ attraction in Argyll.

The House

Mount Stuart was built by a man who was, at the time, considered to be one of the richest in the world. And when money is no object – as it wasn’t to the 3rd Marquess of Bute - imagination and technology are the only limiting factors. It features magnificent design and craftsmanship, much of it inspired by astrology, art and mythology. As you explore you’ll discover the majestic marble hall, an awe-inspiring white marble chapel, sumptuous accommodation, a luxurious library and utterly opulent reception rooms. Mount Stuart is a house of innovations. It was the first home in the world to have a heated indoor swimming pool, and the first in Scotland to be purpose built with electric light, central heating, a telephone system and a Victorian passenger lift. Most of these are, quite remarkably, still in use today. Make sure you seek out the swimming pool. You’ll have to navigate a steep spiral staircase, but it’s well worth the effort.

The house is said to contain more marble than any other building in the British Isles. Described as the jewel in Mount Stuart’s crown, the Marble Chapel took no less than 102 years to complete. It is reputed to have been inspired by the La Seo Cathedral in Saragossa, Spain and was commissioned by the 3rd Marquess in 1896. Lined with brilliant white Carrara marble shot through with veins of grey, turned pink by shafts of sunlight pouring through the ruby coloured glass of the Clerestory, its beauty is said to be unrivalled in Scotland. The marble theme continues in the celebrated Marble Hall, built using rare Italian and Sicilian marble and alabaster. With its themes of astrology and astronomy, you could stare for hours in wonder at the artistry and imagination which went into the creation of this dramatic 80ft high space. The vaulted ceiling features characters from Greek mythology and stars set in their constellations. The stained glass windows are both playful and artistic, depicting the signs of the zodiac, some interacting with each other.

The gardens

Make sure you leave plenty of time to explore Mount Stuart’s gardens and grounds. You’ll find woodland glades, shoreline wilderness and meticulous formal lawns and gardens, all set against the backdrop of the Firth of Clyde. The grounds are as fascinating and historic as the house itself and they reflect a love of botany and gardening that has abided through generations of the Bute family and which continues to this day. The Kitchen Garden, for example, was redesigned in the 1990s by the 6th Marquess. It features a circular glasshouse from the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival.

Where to eat

The Visitor Centre has a coffee shop where you can grab sandwiches, snacks and fresh coffee. The restaurant upstairs offers small plates, afternoon teas and Sunday lunches all featuring locally sourced, seasonal produce. For a real taste of the west coast try the seafood platter with Ritchies of Rothesay smoked salmon, potted Tarbert crab, McArthur’s langoustines and Loch Fyne oyster served with Mount Stuart garden salad. The Courtyard Tea Room, housed in what was the coal sculleries, serves up cakes and sandwiches. If you prefer to picnic in the grounds, just ask for a cool bag.

A visit to Mount Stuart, with all its wonder, magic and mystery, truly is written in the stars.

Find out more about things to see and do on Bute.