The lockdown restrictions eased here in Scotland just in time for me to join with a small number of my family to celebrate (socially distanced of course) my mum’s 80th birthday, and to take a short break on the Isle of Bute. Like most people, I’ve barely been over the door in the last year and a bit. I can see the Isle of Bute from my window, but going there last week felt like a trip to a far-flung island.

My writing life has been a bit hectic since the start of the year. The Earl Who Sees Her Beauty, the first in my Victorian duet, was one of those occasionally very testing books to write (you can read more about my struggle with it here). I was so late finishing it that I rolled straight into a Christmas novella, the initial version of which was not Christmassy enough, so I was still working on the revisions when I headed off to Bute. Fortunately, I had space and peace to work in the mornings, and the revisions were signed off while I was away, so I got to celebrate too (a bottle of bubbly with Mum and Baby Sis on a very windy beach).

My family have a long history of going ‘doon the watter’ on holiday to the main town of Rothesay, and we’ve had a holiday home in various forms ever since I was wee. In recent years though, the island has reinvented itself and is no longer merely a classic seaside resort. Bute now offers some fabulous walking, including the West Island Way, a wide variety of outdoor sports, and of course the now renowned Mount Stuart house and estate. It’s a small island – only about 25 kilometres (14 miles) to cycle round – but its situation on the Firth of Clyde, tucked in amongst the Isles of Aran and Cumbrae, and slap bang in the middle of the Highland Fault Line provide some spectacular scenery and views.

The walking is gentle. There are very few hills and plenty of waymarked paths well-equipped with seats and picnic tables. The circular route over the top of Canada Hill with views down to Rothesay and over to Loch Striven and Toward, on my side of the Clyde, is one of my favourites. You can descend into the town by the road which takes you to the pier at Craigmore (sadly there’s no café there any more)  and then along the coast into Rothesay. Going this way, you pass the Victorian Fernery which I blogged about here, and which features in The Earl Who Sees Her Beauty. From Rothesay, you can head back up to Canada Hill via the Serpentine or you can walk around the Castle and up past the golf course.

Alternatively, instead of heading into Rothesay, you can turn the other way at Craigmore, and head back up to Canada Hill to complete the circuit via the road past Loch Ascog.

If you want to extend the walk, you can carry on to Kerrycroy, the model English village at the main gates of Mount Stuart, and if you want to walk even further, head past the visitor’s gate and Mount Stuart and onto the Old Moor Road. That’s one of the things I love about the walking on the island – there are infinite variations, and you’re never really too far from the starting point.

You can’t visit Bute though, without going to the seaside. Ettrick Bay was my beach of choice this time, and I walked a circuit here, starting at one end of the beach, circling inland past some standing stones (there are several on the island) and then back to the other end of the beach, where there’s a café. You can paddle here well out without the water going over your knees, and it’s not that much colder in May than it is in July, so I ventured in.

Loch Fad is a well-stocked trout fishing loch (and the trout are yummy), and another favourite walk of mine. Sadly this time, I had to double back because the beasties were out in force, and I’m one of those people that they love – in fact I reckon if there was a gourmet guide for midgies, I’d get a Michelin Star. There are lots of picnic spots round the loch though, with plenty of chairs, so on a brighter day it’s a lovely place.

The weather was bright but windy and very cold for my little staycation. I came home weather-beaten and happy. There’s something about an island that really makes you disconnect from the world, and when you’re lucky enough to connect again with family you’ve not seen for a long time, it makes for a perfect holiday.

I’m ready to launch into work again, with an on-line read that will be available free in the autumn, a taster for my Victorian duet. More on that when I know more myself!

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4 Comments

  1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your lovely pictures. I am jealous of your being so close to the water, and having so many walking routes! Did walking past the fernery give you nightmares about writing the book? LOL.

    Congrats on getting signoff #2 during your vacation! I noticed that the Christmas Regency anthology has been listed on the website in the Coming Soon section (and I duly added it to my wishlist, haha). HQN/M&B is giving us a bumper crop of Christmas goodies this year! Definitely looking forward to it 😄

    1. The fernery was closed, but I peered through the gates, and actually what I was thinking was that the gardens were such a brilliant location I’d like to use them again. That book already seems like months ago because I had to jump so quickly into the Christmas story, which I am currently proof reading – and at the rate time is flying past right now I’ll be getting my author copies tomorrow! Seriously though, I think Harlequin/M&B do Christmas really well, and it’s a time of year where a lot of people buy romance who don’t normally, so as an author it’s always a privileged publications slot to have. I do hope you enjoy the story when you get it. In the meantime, I’m now into an on-line read with a photographer heroine…

  2. This is so lovely to read – both in terms of your descriptions, but also in terms of your family reunions. Champagne on the beach? how can you beat that.

    George and I were away last week at Arduaine. Mixed weather of course. Pouring with rain on the drive across, so that many of the more majestic mountains were hidden in mist and pouring rain. The view from our holiday rental looked down to the sea and across to Scarba, Luing, Jura and Colonsay and the view changed by the hour! We walked around Arduaine Gardens in warm sunshine, drove down to Keills Chapel past Tayvallich along Loch Sween in pouring rain and ate our picnic in the car gazing out to sea!

    Another day, we drove over the ‘Bridge over the Atlantic’ and drove down the Isle of Seil to Easdale. That day it was warm enough to put our chairs up and eat our picnic looking across to Jura etc. Such a beautiful place and no midges! So fabulous to have managed to get away – our first break since October last year.

    I’m glad you had such a great break! Just reading your trilogy – ‘Penniless Brides of Convenience’ – fabulous!

    1. You weren’t too far away from me then. That sounds like an absolutely lovely trip despite the weather. I’ve never been to Easdale but it’s on my list for my next trip to Oban, and the landscape there is so utterly fabulous – maybe even more atmospheric with the rain. I had to make another quick trip to Bute this weekend, and tried to video the journey. It was pouring, and I’ve never edited a video before, but if it works I’ll post the link on the blog.

      Hope you continue to enjoy my Penniless Brides.

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