The West Island Way – 1/3

(Stage 1) – Kilchattan Bay Circular

In May 2019 I set off to attempt my first long-distance hike. The immediate thought would be to plan for the West Highland Way but I wanted to build-up to that and it was a good idea that I done so. My choice then was to complete the West Island Way located on the Isle of Bute.

To get to the Isle of Bute you must take a ferry trip from Weymss Bay on the west coast of Scotland which costs around £6.50 on foot or £29.70 with a vehicle, return. The great looking Victorian ferry terminal is joined directly onto the Weymss Bay railway station, which may be an option to start your journey. I drove personally and had an issue with parking at Weymss Bay myself but that will become clearer later on.

Weymss Bay Victorian Railway Station
The view back up the walkway from the ferry terminal

The start of the West Island Way is located at the small town of Kilchattan Bay which is just south of Rothesay. If you have taken a vehicle you can drive here in around fifteen minutes from the ferry or a bus will cost around £3.10 for an adult. If you do drive and park your own vehicle in Kilchattan Bay then a bus from the finish point in Port Bannatyne will cost around £5.50 to get back to it.

The walk starts from a well laid path with the Firth of Clyde directly to your left. This portion of the walk is a loop known as the Kilchattan Bay Circular as you start and finish in almost the same position after a five mile circuit. A lot of people choose just to do this portion of the trail alone.

Starting Point

As you continue around the path you are greeted with yet more views of the Firth of Clyde as well as the prominent Hawk’s Nib. This is a large red stone formation which has been created by the diagonally pointing rocks being eroded by the sea and I have read that an archaeological dig close to here uncovered a ‘midden‘. This shows humans had been inhabiting the island hundreds of years ago which simply astounds me still.

The Hawk’s Nib
Sid blazing the trail

As you pass the Hawk’s Nib the path leads up and over a small ridge where the views open towards Rubh’an Euan lighthouse and the Isle of Arran to the south. Sadly for me the lighthouse was surrounded by a ring of fencing which made it completely un-photogenic but hopefully that means there is some restoration or protection work happening.

Rubh’an Euan Lighthouse

There is a great spot close to the lighthouse which is open, flat and soft enough to pitch a couple of small tents. A few minutes further around the walk is also a great spot within the picturesque Glencallum Bay.

Glencallum Bay

Once you climb out of Glencallum Bay this is when you get the best views of Arran as you are at the southern most point of the walk. Despite being on Arran a good number of times I had never seen it from this perspective and the glens looked every bit as epic as they do when you are in them.

The view to Arran

The walk then continues around the south of the island before you dip into a glen for a short distance until you climb to the quaint ruins of Saint Blane’s Church. The ruins are the type of place that amaze me when I walk around them. I’m always in amazement that people built such places hundreds of years ago and they are still standing today. I doubt that most of today’s modern buildings will survive as long.

St. Blane’s Church
Sid wandering around the 700 year old headstones

The weather showed a little bit like turning when I sat down in the grounds of St. Blane’s to have lunch but it passed quickly and wasn’t too heavy. After a quick bit of exploration I set off to complete the rest of the Kilchattan Bay Circular leg which mainly consisted of walking through wide open farmer’s fields. It is on this portion that you hit the highest and steepest part of the entire route which sits at a whopping… wait for it… 157 metres high! This is probably why so many people enjoy this walk when that is the highest you will ever have to climb.

On the high-point, looking to Arran

After I scaled this part it was a few moments of taking in the views back across to Arran before descending into the tree line behind the homes of Kilchattan Bay. A nice finish awaits in this tree line for the big kid in all of you by way of a super tree swing. I don’t know who made it but it is by far the best tree swing I have been on in around twenty five years.

All in all, the Kilchattan Bay Circular is a great start to the West Island Way and a portion that I will return to at some point in the future for a wild camp and to enjoy the views.

I will have the remainder of the walk posted very soon but until then let me know if you have ever walked the West Island Way, ever heard of the walk or plan to walk it sometime soon.

Happy hiking!

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