Mount Stuart, The Castle, The Forest

Mount Stuart is an amazing gothic stately home - the result of one man’s vision. John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute was a cultured man, interested in art, astrology and mythology. When the original Mount Stuart was burnt to the ground in 1877, he set about creating this extravagant masterpiece with his architect Sir Robert Rowand Anderson. Home to the Stuarts of Bute, descendants of the Royal House of Stuart, this magnificent house sits proudly on the Isle of Bute – ancient stronghold of Scottish kings.

The flamboyant house and its 300 acres of gardens reflect the artistic, religious and astrological interests of the 3rd Marquess of Bute. It is a shining example of the grand domestic architecture that came out of Britain’s 19th Century Gothic Revival. It stands, cathedral-like, as a monument to an obsession with the medieval past.

As the greatest architectural patron of his day, Bute poured his passion and imagination into the imposing marble hall, breathtaking chapel, pioneering swimming pool and ornate reception rooms you see today.

Rothesay Castle is an unusual circular castle with links to Robert the Bruce. It dates back to the early 13th century where it was built as a fortification against the Norwegians. It went on to become a royal residence before falling into disrepair in the 17th century. Following on from the 2nd Marquess, the 3rd Marquess of Bute continued a series of restorations with his long-time architect, William Burges. The castle now stands proud in the centre of town and is open for visits all year round in the care of Historic Scotland. Highlights include the great hall and the moat where you can admire the outer stone curtain wall.

Rhubodach Forest is an area of ancient woodland, commercial forest, moorland and coast. In July 2010 Bute Community Land Company (a charitable company owned by the residents of the island) purchased 161 hectares of forest and acquired rights over a further 535 hectares for footpaths, cycle paths and hydro schemes. There is a way marked natural path to follow that brings you to Balnakailly Settlement, a site that is being investigated by archaeologists. Other discoveries you might make as you wander through the forest, include standing stones and a WWII bunker. There are spectacular views of the Kyles of Bute and Cowal as you emerge from the trees. New for this year are mountain bike trails through the forest which are graded from blue to black. This give some stunning views of the surrounding landscape.