Kyles of Bute

Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute at sunset

The Kyles of Bute are beautiful narrow sea straits stretching from Tighnabruaich round the northern end of the Isle of Bute, famous for its principal town of Rothesay, Kilchattan Bay, Scalpsie Bay and Mount Stuart House. The Kyles are designated a National Scenic Area.


The narrowest point of the Kyles of Bute is just 300 metres across, between Rhubodach on the Isle of Bute, and Colintraive on the mainland. Caledonian MacBrayne operate a ferry service across this strait, which takes only 5 minutes. Rhubodach, deriving from the Gaelic ‘Rubha a’ Bodach’ (old man’s point / promontory), lies on an estate owned by actor and film director Lord (Richard) Attenborough. Colintraive itself also derives from Gaelic, ‘Caol an t-Snaimh’ (swimming strait / narrows).


Experienced sailors will find the Kyles of Bute an absolute pleasure. These are quiet straits and part of Argyll’s Secret Coast. Loch Riddon and Loch Ruel, at the northern end of the Kyles, are particularly beautiful, especially in summer when the flowers are in full bloom. Further round is Loch Striven, which is attractive when it is not being used by Dutch company Maersk for cold lay-up of ships in times of shipping recession! We do not like this use of Loch Striven and would urge corporate social responsibility here: keep the environmentally sensitive Kyles of Bute quiet and beautiful.


The Kyles of Bute themselves may be said to be divided into two halves: the West Kyles and the East Kyles. The West Kyles begin at Tighnabruaich, where they meet the Sound of Bute, and run up towards Loch Ruel, Loch Riddon and the northern end of the Isle of Bute, where you can also find the Burnt Islands and Eilean Dubh. The East Kyles begin at the entrance to Loch Riddon and run all the way round, past Port Bannatyne, to Rothesay Bay on the Isle of Bute. This is a beautiful route on which to take the Paddle Steamer Waverley – the route from Rothesay to Tighnabruaich is really a fantastic day out.


Please take care if you are a sailor or venturing out into these waters – you need to know what you’re doing as tidal and coastal conditions may be different from what you are used to!

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