Looking across to the snow capped alpine mountains seen from the back seat of a motorcycle

Home Travel StoriesBute And Kintyre 2019

Boating To Bute

Ride Date 13 May 2019

By Ren Withnell

It were a bit nippy last night but being a brave hero I survived. Sharon, she of central heating on all the time, she who is always cold, she who shivers in anything less than 21 degrees, that Sharon, she slept just fine and was toasty warm all night. I am such a wimp.

Looking out over the sea to Arron on a bright morning with blue skies
Arran doesn't look cold from the Ayrshire coastline.

Today has positive and negative potentials. Positive because we only have a short 45 mile ride to the ferry then a barely 2 mile ride after the ferry. We can chill, take our time, relax and just let the day wash over us. On the other hand I am not absolutely 100% definitely certain the campsite just outside Rothesay will have any space for our tent. This could mean a frantic search for an alternative campsite of which I can't find any nearby, not online at least.

Meh. We can always wild camp. That's what I'm telling myself but the reality is that I wouldn't know where to start.

Sharon is chilled about this. She worries not of such matters because we can always get a B&B or hotel if needs be. Considering she's as poor as a church mouse she's very flippant with the pennies you know. I guess she's right, credit cards are evil and must be abused.

With that calming thought in my head I reluctantly agree to take a walk down to the shoreline with her. She'll spend ages just looking at a flower then ponder a while at the contents of a rock pool then want to frame the perfect picture of a butterfly on a blade of grass. I believe this is payback for my patronising drawn out explanations of the internal combustion engine and the merits of knowing how to use a map.

Sharon stands on a rugged stone and sand beach looking out to see on a totally calm morning
"It's so pweeeeedy!"
A white winged with yellow tips butterfly on the green grass
Oh look. A Butterfly. Yeah. Great. I'm such a heathen.

Yes the beach is very pretty and very quiet with not a soul other than ourselves. The water is very cold as I paddle. It is peaceful. You're going to needs Sharon's artistic temperament to really understand I suppose. Me? I'm just curious how the field behind the beach is cultivated when there seems to be no vehicular access down the steep bluffs.

Ren is paddling in the cold but totally calm waters at Bracken bay
Sharon has found an idiot in the ocean.

Aha! There is a track, hidden between the bracken and the gorse and the long grass. I've rather spoilt Sharon's suggestions of aliens, magic and Chinook helicopters. 

We return to our vehicles and depart. Fuel at Sainsbury's, check. Re-adjust Sharon's luggage, again, then again, then again, check. Ride northbound, check. Admire the angular mountains on The Isle Of Arron when we're just north of Ardrossan, check. Stop for pictures and talk to a biker from near where I live, check. Adjust Sharon's luggage again and again, check. Arrive at Wemyss Bay for the ferry, check. All is good and normal but that's good and I like normal.

2 motorcycles overladen with camping kit and the Isle of Arron in the misty distance
Things are going as expected so far. 

The ferry costs just over £18 for 2 bikes and 2 peoples. We join the queue and there's half an hour before the next ferry. Sharon heads off to find the loo and grab a choccy bar each. She's gone a while.

In fact the ferry is coming into view. I'm slightly concerned. In fact the ferry is getting quite close. I'm mildly flapping. I don't mind missing the ferry and waiting for the next one it's more that we are parked at the front of a line, blocking the other cars. The ferry is now docked. I'm sweating. Sharon arrives in the nick of time and we board successfully. Apparently the petrol station is not 2 minutes walk away.

The ferry out between the mainland and Isle of Bute. Not large, not small, a medium sized ferry
The, errr, the ferry is coming?
The ferry is port with the bow door open and offloading traffic
Yeah, err, they're offloading... where are you Sharon?

The crossing takes about a half hour. This means the bikes are strapped down and we are required to go upstairs to the lounges. We eat our choccy bars and I study the maps, trying to ensure I don't get lost in Rothesay when we land. This proves useful as I find The Roseland Holiday Park without issues. 

They have space! Phew. I needn't have worried as there's only 3 tents here including ours. The site is primarily a static caravan holiday park with a handful of tourers and pods. The tent area is not exactly ideal being on quite a slope but at least the water, washing and toilet blocks are close by. It's all a little rough-n-ready and yet it is fine, we have what we require, we're good.

Sharon is messing with the tent at the campsite on The Isle Of Bute
Thanks Sharon, now put kettle on will ya.

The site is almost atop of a hill. The road we chose to climb the hill though steep was easy to ride. There is another option to get here - Serpentine Road. I chose the other lane because as you might have guessed by the name the Serpentine Road is, well, challenging? 

The serpentine road wiggles along the map
Wiggly! Thanks OpenStreetMap :)
Looking down the hill we see the road wind even zig-zag it's way down to the town below
Wiggly! It is just as serpentine as the name suggests.

We walk down the Serpentine. Yeah, yes I'm glad with our luggage on the bikes we chose to take the much easier route. The surface is OK, the switchbacks at least offer some chance of seeing if anything is coming the other way and the couple of blind corners aren't too tight. This said it is still quite something to see. After a little shopping in the town walking back up soon sees us gasping for air. 

Sharon stands on one of the sharp switchbacks to show us just how steep it really is
Hopefully you get the idea of what this road is like.

There's probably a bar on site, I'm sure there is. By the time we have dined on pasta, sauce and hot dogs (lovely) and had another brew then had some chill time and a surf online it is bedtime, we won't need the bar tonight. 

I get to thinking as I warm the sleeping bag. We've barely covered 50 miles today and I've enjoyed myself. Why? Am I not supposed to enjoy a 300 mile trek across the wilderness? What I think I should enjoy and what I enjoy are two different things. 

Of course I want to think of myself as the wild one who covers thousands of endless miles and who can survive off road kill and a tin of beans. In truth if the apocalypse came and Aldi closed I don't think I'd last a week. I much prefer a day's ride to be about exploring, looking around and seeing the sights. 

Tomorrow we'll stay here on The Isle Of Bute. Tomorrow we'll leave the tent here and stay another night. Tomorrow we'll explore and look around this 15 mile long and 5 mile wide island. All things being equal tomorrow ought to be a good day. Still, it's already getting a bit nippy again. 


We're looking for motorcycling products to test and review. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Bute And Kintyre - But Why? Ren is trying to justify why he's not taking Sharon abroad to exotic places. He blames Brexit but we all know the real reason is because he's mean and miserly.
Getting Mentally And Physically Ready Before Sharon leaves for Scotland she's both excited and yet pensive? She's normally a chilled out traveller so what is different this time?
Ayr For The Third time Familiar roads to familiar places, theoretically, if Sharon can work out which way is up.
Air Head To Ayr Sharon is having one of those days. Still, she's keeping positive and her motorcycle upright.
Boating To Bute An easy and leisurely ride up the coast of Ayrshire and an evening on the Isle of Bute.
The Beauty of Bute Is Bute a Beaut? It's a most peculiar day to find out though. There's no rain and a big yellow thing in the sky.
The Long Way To Machrihanish Using ferries to get from Bute to Machrihanish ought to be a most pleasant and easy ride. So how do Sharon and Ren manage to turn it into an epic exploit?
Exploring The Mull Of Kintyre A little look around The Mull Of Kintyre on two wheels and a short walk that Ren makes a big thing of.
Of Batteries and Glendaruel A bit of an issue this morning. Can Ren pull himself out the poop or will Sharon simply tear him limb from limb? Serves him right for being an idiot.

Reader's Comments

CS Sagem said :-
The ferry you caught was Wemyss Bay? Did you have to book that in advance or did you just turn up? How were the deck hands with strapping down the bikes? Is there food on board? I am considering using that ferry later this year.
30/5/2019 5:02:37 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
You just turn up for the boat, deck hands are really helpful and it doesn't cost too much. You can go off on another ferry in the North. I think there are snacks on board but you aren't on long.
Upt'North.

30/5/2019 6:16:04 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Great read, Ed and his better arf, brings back nice memories from a couple of years back.
Head up, or down on the slope?
Upt'North.
30/5/2019 6:23:22 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yeah, about right regarding the ferry Upt'North. We just arrived, paid and waited. It is worth noting though we are rather "out of season". Particularly with the Mallaig to Armadale ferry that is worth booking otherwise you could have a long wait. If you are travelling at a busy time it may be at least worth a phone call to see if booking is advisable.

The deck hands were just fine with the bikes, although they only lightly strapped the bikes as on that day the water was mill pond flat.

As Upt'North said there's snacks and hot drinks on board but in the half hour crossing you're unlikely to starve. The prices were, well, only slightly expensive, I was expecting they'd be top dollar.

As for the wiggly road, we walked it, I considered riding it then I considered that while I'm an experienced motorcyclist I'm also a big wimp. No, I did not ride it in either direction as the other road is close by. I apologise for my lack of heroism.
30/5/2019 7:48:59 PM UTC

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