Saturday, 2 November 2013

Shorter walks for shorter autumn days

Bute has most definitely put it's autumn coat on.  The colours around the island have changed from lush greens and sky blues to browns and russets.  The sky has taken on an orange tinged glow most evenings and the autumn showers have produced the most spectacular rainbows over Rothesay Bay.
The replacement winter ferry has arrived as the summer tourists have departed and the Waverley paddle steamer and it's passengers have been bade farewell from Rothesay pier for the last time this year.
Due to work commitments in Glasgow, ongoing renovations in our new home, blustery wet weather and longer nights, I've had less time than I would like to continue my explorations of the island.
Instead of my daily walking and wandering for hours, I have been reduced to paying short visits to places new.  However, this has been no bad thing as it is allowing me to gather a list of spots perfect for short stops for others with limited time.
Rather than writing my post about one attraction, this week I've decided to feature three places well worth a visit that only require a little time (although you can spend much longer if time is on your side).

Kingarth Standing Stones

Surprisingly easy to reach, literally right next to the signposted car park (not far from The Kingarth Hotel) there are three standing stones, thought to be from the Early Bronze Age, about 1500BC. There were originally seven stones in the circle which were still there in the late eighteenth century. If you have the place to yourself there is certainly a strangely, quiet atmosphere around the stones and they are well worth visiting.
A closer look at the furthest away stone reveals graffiti carvings, another is being held upright by a metal bar and another split by the frost, as with many stone circles it's original purpose can only be guessed at..
The tree plantation next to the stones has lots of other worldly fungi sprouting up from the spongy, damp, dark earth and as you head further into the wood with the trees towering above, you may feel dwarfed into a place where enchanted fairytales could come alive.
If you have more time you can take a 30 min walk further along the road to the Largizean Stones (there is a board with a map at the car park).  They are in a nearby field, although due to my limited time I haven't actually managed to visit them myself yet!

Loch Quien Bird Hide

If you travel to Scalpsie Bay, a small detour on foot will take you to the bird hide overlooking Loch Quien. Loch Quien is a freshwater loch where local anglers can be seen fishing for trout and home to a large variety of birds.
There is a map at the car park of Scalpsie Bay and a signpost but basically you enter the field across the road from the small cottage previously used as a listening post.
A short walk along the burn, then through the gate and you arrive at the carefully camouflaged hide.  This is a great place for watching wildlife, there are feeding Ospreys among many other feathered characters and you may even be lucky enough to see an elusive otter.
On the day I visited it was particularly wild outside, with strong, cold winds and heavy rain, not ideal for wildlife watching.  However from the shelter of one of the windows I came eye to beady yellow eye with a graceful grey heron, sitting at the water's edge, literally a couple of feet away.
Sadly I couldn't take a photo as it would only have scared it off so instead I sat quietly enjoying the view.  In fact with such bad weather I couldn't take many photos in general, so I have made a note to return on a calmer day.
Again this is a place you could easily sit for hours and watch the flappings and splashings, but even a short stay is worthwhile as it is a beautifully peaceful spot in it's own right (especially when it's wet outside!).

Mount Stuart Reservoir

For the most beautiful watery reflections, architecture by the renowned Robert Rowand Anderson and at certain times of year, an abundance of dragonflies, a stop at the Mount Stuart reservoir is recommended.  To get there look out for the war memorial on your right hand side and a signpost for Moor Road as you head south from Mount Stuart (approx 4 min drive).  There is a car park behind the memorial then walk through the gate and follow the country track for approx 5 minutes.  There is a locked gate on your right hand side and you will see the reservoir beyond.
The round brick red buildings were designed by Robert Rowand Anderson, Scotland's leading architect at the end of the nineteenth century, when he was rebuilding Mount Stuart in the early 1880s.  The deep still water of the reservoir acts as a glassy mirror, reflecting perfectly the beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Again, if you have more time you can continue down the track past moors and farmland towards Loch Ascog, although before leaving make sure you take time to visit the memorial erected in remembrance to the local men lost during the Great War.

As the autumn turns to winter I look forward to brewing some hot tea and sitting by the window reading guides, browsing maps and researching more about this lovely island and continuing to share it's better known beauties and lesser known secrets.

To keep up to date with my daily explorations remember you can follow me on twitter at Buteiful Bute.

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