A weekend on the West Coast of Scotland: The West Coast Waters of Bute, Cowal and Loch Lomond


For me there has always been a big draw to the west coast of Scotland with its many islands, often untouched seaside and beautiful lochs. My very first holiday in Scotland over 16 years ago included a visit to the Isle of Skye and the Outer Hebrides.

I still regard both places highly amongst the must visit destinations when planning a holiday in Scotland and it’s somewhere I will continue to visit for many years to come. I guess it must have partly been to do with my ‘christening’ swim at Bosta Beach on the Isle of Harris, which is a small and remote beach at the Western shores of the island, beautiful spot. Albeit we should probably call the swim more of a dip, followed by a big slurp of whisky to heat up!

As part of Visit Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters 2020 #YCW2020, our family had been invited to take part in the West Coast Waters campaign. This is to help promote this wonderful part of the country and highlight some of the lesser visited regions and various activities. We had a lovely long weekend planned at the end of September


We set off from Edinburgh and headed west on the Friday to start our latest west coast waters adventure. Our journey started at the CalMac Ferry Port in Wemyss Bay, this small port is easily reached from Glasgow and less than a couple of hours drive from Edinburgh. Once aboard we would travel onto the Isle of Bute, which is also know as the most accessible island on the west coast of Scotland and later onto Loch Fyne.

pink flowers ferry open body of water

CalMac Ferry seen from the Winter Garden in Rothesay #westcoastwaters

For me the ferry journey is always when the holiday and adventure starts, the moment you set foot on board the ferry and the feeling of relaxation kicks in!

Having travelled with CalMac Ferries for a while now, I’ve always found that on board the (bigger) CalMac ferries, to have a great selection of hot cooked foods to get your holiday off to an amazing start. I am always one to head out on deck the moment we get onto the ferry. The feeling of taking in the fresh sea air and seeing the ferry leave Port is truly some something special. After a quick and comfortable crossing, we stopped off at the Winter Garden in Rothesay, which is the biggest town on the Isle of Bute. This garden really has some of the most spectacular scenic views towards the mainland across Loch Striven and here you will find the Discovery Visitor Centre and Theatre. Within it there is a small museum displaying the rich history of what the island was once like as a holiday destination and you can enjoy a free film ‘Forever Island’.

garden old building Scotland

Winter Garden Discovery Visitor Centre Rothesay #westcoastwaters

After a while hanging out in the garden and visitor centre, we set off from Rothesay and our first stop on the Isle of Bute was to the grand and beautiful Mount Stuart House and Gardens. We arrived and were welcomed by Margaret who is one of their lovely tour guides and she took to their Café for a bite of lunch.

platter of fresh food cutlery

Lunch platter at the Mount Stuart #westcoastwaters

We met with Campbell their head chef who had prepared a wonderful selection of their finest local products from land and sea. He talked us through how they work with many local suppliers to create their scrumptious and seasonal menus, of which we were getting a taster.

marble hall stained glass windows

Mount Stuart Marble Hall #westcoastwaters

During your visit you will see some of the finest architectural details, much of which is formed around the beautiful marble features. The 3rd Marquess of Bute had this impressive house designed with features well ahead of its time in late 19th century with the plans for electricity, central heating and even advanced shower features. The house also included a private swimming pool and several beautiful chapels, one with mirrored flooring. To my delight and surprise, you can hire the house exclusively for private events, next time!

red room antique furniture

Mount Stuart Drawing Room #westcoastwaters

A visit to Mount Stuart works perfectly as part of an onward journey along the west coast or as a day trip from the mainland. To plan your visit to Mount Stuart check this Visiting Mount Stuart
After Mount Stuart we continued our journey north towards Rhubodach where we would sail back to the mainland to Colintraive. The drive from the south of the island to Rhubodach was pretty spectacular, taking in some of the amazing coastline around the Isle of Bute. The ferry sails every 30 minutes and takes all of three minutes to cross back to the mainland.

rainbow ferry landscape

Rhubodach Calmac Ferry #westcoastwaters

CalMac Rhubodach Ferry
When we arrived well rested and… Oh no that was another sailing! We made our way from Colintraive towards Portavadie and stopped off at Kyles View near Tighnabruaich. From here you look down a narrow sea channel that separates the northern end of the Isle of Bute from the Scottish mainland. Well worth a stop, not necessarily for a snap, you could just fill your appetite with stunning Scottish scenery.

open water sea channel trees

Kyle’s View towards the Isle of Bute #westcoastwaters

After a short drive we then arrived at Portavadie Marina where we would be spending the night. This would be in a luxurious two bed cottage with a marina views, ample space and well kitted out, ideal for families. In the evening we enjoyed a lovely meal in one of their onsite restaurants, the Lodge, which is set back slightly from the Marina.

marina reflections in water

Portavadie Marina Reflections #westcoastwaters

After breakfast in the Marina Restaurant and before we headed off north along Loch Fyne on our adventures, we made the most of their new Spa and Leisure Facility. What a treat and this was something I had long been wanting to try out. Not only is there an outdoor heated infinity pool, may be the largest in Scotland and an indoor pool, but they also had a perfect kids pool at only 0.35mdeep. This meant our son and daughter could play there (supervised of course) and did not have to worry about it being too deep, but with ample of space to play and swim around. Here you will also find Spa treatment rooms and a good sized gym, we will have to try those out next time though!

open body of water golden sunset

Portavadie Marina Infinity Pool #westcoastwaters photo credit Portavadie

From Portavadie you can continue your island hopping journey onwards to Tarbet and beyond with CalMac Ferries or as we did drive north along Loch Fyne and beyond.
We enjoyed another stunning drive north to Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, which is a costal garden located on banks of Loch Fyne. There we went in search for a Grufallo and fairies amongst some of the tallest and oldest trees in Scotland. A wonderful way to spend a few hours as a family. This is also a great place for kids to start learning more about the outdoors and explore the many different species of plants.

Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens Gruffalo Trail
There’s no café on sight, but the Tree Shop Café and Loch Fyne Restaurant is only a short drive away. Next up we made our way through the scenic Ardkinglas Glen, passing the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint. We have over the years driven through the Glen and what a setting too, we’ll worth a stop to soak up some of those glorious views!
We arrived at the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond where we hopped onto the Cruise Loch Lomond for an hours cruise around the loch. I have been before, but it’s something I always enjoy, especially sitting on the top deck and just taking in the breathingly beautiful views across the Loch. This cruise I would say is suitable to all ages and something that would be enjoyed by everyone, despite me personally having grown up around, on and in the water in Denmark, I feel its one of the best ways to explore it.

When we reached land we then headed for our accommodation for the night, which was at Lodge on Loch Lomond, literally as the name says! With a private balcony overlooking the loch, another beauty of a view! A comfortable room, with private sauna and also on site leisure facilities.


After a good night sleep and a delicious dinner the night before, we headed down for breakfast at the Lodge on Loch Lomond Restaurant and what a special view across the Loch with the sun rising in the horizon. We enjoyed a good selection from their buffet breakfast which set us up for the day.

When we finished breakfast we got ready and headed for the Sea Life Centre Loch Lomond a short drive away in Balloch. This was a wonderful experience, we had earlier in the year taken our kids to Tobermory Aquarium and also another one in Denmark, but this was by far the best and biggest overall experience.

sign baby pram little girl in pink

Our visit to Sea Life Loch Lomond #westcoastwaters

I’d recommend you make an effort to see the Otters getting fed, these fellas were so playful and just an absolute joy to watch. Also make sure you check out the top floor viewing platform and café the floor below, some of the best views over Loch Lomond.

Otter in water

Otter feeding time at Sea Life Loch Lomond #westcoastwaters

little orange fish tank of water

The little Nemo fish at Sea Life Loch Lomond #westcoastwaters

To finish off the weekends water activities we got the opportunity to canoe on Loch Lomond with Loch Lomond Leisure. Canoeing something I liked to make part of a holiday in Scotland and its a great way to explore the places you are staying and a little further afield, but at a slower pace than cycling or driving anywhere. On this occasion I went out for about an hour with our daughter, who had been canoeing before, but never for this length of time. She took this canoe trip really seriously and tried so hard to row herself without my help. With her at 3 years old its a great age to start learning, but also this is their minimum age requirement for this activity.

orange lifewest girl in pink open body of water

My daughter having a go at canoeing on Loch Lomond #westcoastwaters

We spotted loads of birds, paddled past the Majestic Maide of the Loch and even saw a seaplane land by Cameron House, which we both got really excited about! At Loch Lomond Leisure they offer various water based activities including paddle boats, speedboat hire and much more. To book your next water based activity on Loch Lomond, I’d recommend you check out their website https://lochlomond-scotland.com/

building flowers grey skies

The Boat House Cameron House Loch Lomond #westcoastwaters

After our canoeing trip, it was time for lunch. A couple of years ago we had enjoyed a stay at the beautiful Cameron House Hotel and had dinner at the Boat House, so we were delighted to return there for lunch. This iconic restaurant sits on the banks of Loch Lomond only a short drive from Balloch or could be walked. As we arrived the restaurant had a busy atmosphere with families and groups enjoying Sunday lunch. We got a lovely window seat overlooking the marina at one side and the loch at the other. We ended up going for a full three course meal, which we had not expected, but it was difficult to say no to their delicious food. What a way to finish our weekend!

bowl of mussels cutlery

Beautiful large portion of Mussels at the Boat House Loch Lomond #westcoastwaters

I hope I have inspired you to make your way back to the west or if you have never yet been, that you go and you too will fall in love! You will be sure to enjoy it’s many islands, beaches and villages you find around our lochs and seaside.

As we say in Scotland ‘Haste Ye Back’

“Return Soon”

sign boats harbour blue skies

Harbour Rothesay #westcoastwaters

A big thanks to all the people who we met throughout our trip and for the various partners and organisations involved who helped make our weekend a special one. We’ll be back!

‘For further information on booking your trip to Loch Lomond, Trossachs and Clyde Sea Lochs visit http://www.lovelochlomond.com’

The West Coast Waters 2020 Campaign is a partnership initiative and has received funding from the Visit Scotland Growth Fund – more information at


Make sure you follow along on the hashtags on various social platforms:
#westcoastwaters #immerseyoursenses #YCW2020 @WCWScotland

Sponsored Campaign – Any opinions expressed in this blog and on my social media channels are my personal opinions.

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