|Distance (km)||Ascent (metres)||Number of days|
|48 (or 52)||690||2 - 4|
|Start: Kilchattan Bay||Finish: Port Bannatyne|
Route type and direction
Linear, with circuits at both start and finish.
Recommended direction is to start in the south (Kilchattan Bay) and finish in the north (Port Bannatyne): that way, you enjoy fine scenery from the outset, and you end with the gentle downhill walk through farmland to Port Bannatyne.
The West Island Way explores the Isle of Bute – a rugged and fascinating island that lies about 40 miles/65 km west of Glasgow. The Way crosses a variety of landscapes, including rocky headland, seashore and sandy beach, moorland, farmland and forest, all providing a continually changing picture of Bute. The route divides naturally into four stages, with Port Bannatyne at its middle. It is easily walked over two full days (or four half-days). Many visitors combine it with a holiday on Bute to visit Rothesay, with its Victorian legacy and splendid Castle, and Mount Stuart (the exceptional stately home of the Marquess of Bute ). There is an option to take a more scenic (but 2 miles/3 km longer) route to Rhubodach via the ruins of Balnakailly village. Bute Highland Games take place in August, and the island has many uncrowded, sandy beaches.
- wildlife viewings, perhaps including basking shark offshore at the south end, osprey or red deer
- route is mostly off-road but well waymarked, so navigation is easy
- the medieval chapel of St Blane
- abandoned townships in Glen More, in the north end
- trackbed of the old tramway that once carried crowds of holidaymakers
- Balnakailly village, with its nearby control bunker for a World War 2 decoy village, and woodland walk
- in the rugged south of the island, some sections are strenuous, with rough terrain in places
- the high moorland section has paths that can be indistinct and boggy in places (but there is a low-level alternative)
The route is well waymarked and generally suitable for inexperienced walkers, although some sections are strenuous and the terrain can be rough in places. The main challenge is the high moorland section between Rhubodach to Port Bannatyne, although boardwalk bridges and plenty of waymarkers help to minimise problems. The low-level alternative route involves 5 miles of tarmac and grass verges (but traffic is light). In most conditions, the extra effort of the high moorland walk is well rewarded with magnificent views in all directions, but in bad weather walkers, especially if inexperienced, should consider the low-level alternative.
For listings and a map, consult Visit Bute. Generally, there is plenty of choice, particularly in Rothesay and Port Bannatyne; overnighting there works well for those who complete the route over two days.
No specific baggage transfer services, but local taxis are available.
For more detail, visit this page. In outline, from Glasgow Central there are frequent trains to Wemyss Bay. From there, take a 35-minute Calmac ferry crossing to Rothesay: sailings are at least hourly year-round, more frequent in summer. If arriving by car from the north of Bute, there is a shorter crossing from Colintraive to Rhubodach (5 minutes, year-round). A regular bus service connects the Way’s start (Kilchattan Bay) with its finish (Port Bannatyne).