Day Three - Isle of Bute & Mount Stuart  

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We drove from Stirling to Glasgow to the port of Wemyss (weems) on the west coast in about two hours, arriving just in time for the noon CalMac ferry to Rothesay, on the Isle of Bute, a 35-minute trip across the Firth of Clyde. 

CalMac is short for Caledonian-MacBrayne, the company that operates ferries throughout the Inner & Outer Hebrides Islands. 

look for Wemyss & Isle of Bute at upper left

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.

port of Weymss Firth of Clyde Scottish Highlands
  Toward Point lighthouse in the distance coming into  Rothesay, see note below
docked & about to off-load

note - in this photo the attractive mountains seen behind Rothesay are on the Isle of Arran, to the west of the Isle of Bute. 

Once landed on Bute we had a humorous adventure finding Ardyne Guest House, our one-night B&B stay. Once checked in, we drove a few miles south to see Mount Stuart, a popular destination. 

MOUNT STUART

Rebuilt after a fire in the late 1870s, by the 3rd Marquess of Bute, Mount Stuart is "a flamboyant example of 19th century Gothic Revival architecture".   (Wikipedia) 

Historically, the Bute family were Stuarts, direct descendants of King Robert Bruce. As was often the case back then, relatives of powerful rulers were given huge land holdings to manage, over time hopefully becoming a source of moderate wealth. 

The branch of Stuarts who became the Earls of Bute (or later the Marquesses of Bute) struck gold in the form of coal mines on the land they were given, or inherited through marriage, and they developed their mining interests to become the sole source of coal for the entire Country of Wales. By 1860, the Butes were the wealthiest family in Great Britain.   

Bute Family History - Once at home, after reading the 50-page official brochure, in January 2020, I found that Bute family history includes a few interesting characters, so at the bottom of this page is a more extensive chronology.

The quick take is that immense wealth came into the hands of a few amazing & influential persons among the many Bute family members who lived here in the 1700s & 1800s.  In the bigger picture, two of note are the 1st Earl of Bute & the 3rd Marquess of Bute, who were responsible (respectively) for constructing the first (1716) and the second (1890) Mount Stuart homes.       

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.

Mount Stuart visitor center perennial grasses old house & new house  
tours begin here our docent the Docent here was great in the dining room  
  Marble Hall is 80 feet high rare Italian and Sicilian marble  & alabaster the tallest private home ceiling in the UK Marble Hall's celestial ceiling
  looking east to the mainland marble staircase  
the ceiling above Arts & Crafts style heraldic ceiling in the Drawing room one of the bedrooms
  more marble naturalistic elements family room ceiling  
Christian symbols Zodiac window showing  Sagittarius a bedroom for royalty frieze in bedroom
  ceiling of the horoscope room, see note chapel lantern Marble Chapel  
the cafe Mount Stuart R & L

 

walk back to visitor center
  walled garden   the herb Borage

 

 
  antique rose again        

ROTHESAY

That evening we enjoyed dinner in the center of Rothesay, at the Victoria Hotel. The 2nd floor dining room gave us a terrific sunset view, looking north across the Firth of Clyde, towards the legendary Scottish Highlands (note the palm trees in the foreground). 

Inner Hebrides Islands north to the Highlands

Speaking of legendary, the sticky-toffee dessert here took on legendary proportions as our trip progressed, as it could not be bested, the wives on the trip being the primary judges. 

This is a square block of moist dark cake, made with molasses & dates, served in a bowl surrounded by a pool of warm sauce made from caramelized brown sugar, and a lot of butter & whipping cream. Warmed-up cake & sauce tend to be served with vanilla bean ice cream. 

The amazing thing here was that the moat of burnt caramel sauce which surrounded the castle-like cake was maybe an inch deep. I tried a sample & the flavors complimented each other perfectly !    

sticky toffee pudding (web photo) 

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BUTE FAMILY HISTORY - all info below is from the official Mount Stuart brochure.  (please feel free to skip this section if you don't like history)

1315 - Walter Steward married the daughter of Robert the Bruce, their son becoming King James IV of Scotland. This 'branch" of the Stuart family tree took on the place-name of Bute, once they were given land on the Isle of Bute and were appointed hereditary keepers of Rothesay Castle. 

Off that family of Stuarts went to live in the Castle for the next 360 years, and the small town of Rothesay grew up around them, in a beautiful and somewhat sheltered  waterside setting.  

Rothesay Castle was demolished, during England's Civil War, by Oliver Cromwell in 1685.  In 1703, James Stuart, 3rd Baronet, was made 1st Earl of Bute, by the next King, a royal promotion, and by 1716 he had constructed the original Mount Stuart.        

John Stuart (1713 - 1792), the 3rd Earl of Bute, was a remarkable statesman who somehow became the friend, confidante, and, personal advisor to English King George III.  He also served as the first Scottish Prime Minister of Great Britain, from 1762-63, but was unpopular. 

The 3rd Earl of Bute was an outstanding collector of European art, especially Dutch paintings, and later, Italian Renaissance & Baroque paintings. 

The Docent told us that the collection he handed down is so vast that it has never been fully audited.  In 2016, for instance, research staff discovered a Wm. Shakespeare First Folio, from 1623, not that rare as there are still about 250 FFs around today. 

John Stuart (1744-1814) the 4th Earl of Bute was given the title of 1st Marquess of Bute in 1796, another royal promotion. Bute's wife Charlotte Windsor was heiress to a huge land estate in South Wales, and, just like that, the family's properties & wealth increased. 

John Crichton-Stuart (1793-1848), the 2nd Marquess of Bute was a brilliant person who expanded the family fortune by developing South Wales, in particular by turning the town of Cardiff into the largest coal receiving docks in the world.  He seems to have developed a talent for large scale construction projects, and his son of the same name followed in his footsteps.

The 3rd Marquess of Bute - In the 1860s, when John Crichton-Stuart (1842-1900) was in his 20s, he became by far the wealthiest person in Great Britain. He was a complex man, a Scholar, historian, theologian, and was called "the best unprofessional architect of his generation." 

He became skilled in overseeing construction projects at historic buildings. In south Wales, he & master Architect Wm. Burgess began their careers renovating the "ethereal and wondrous" Cardiff Castle, originally an 11th Century Norman tower. In the process, they also excavated & then rebuilt a number of 3rd Century Roman structures on the Castle grounds, in the original style. The interiors at Cardiff Castle are said to be "the most magnificent ever achieved by Gothic Revival style." Not a bad start!       

As a philanthropist/builder, over time he restored many historic buildings in Scotland. Among his 60 projects were the modernization of Falkland Palace (one of only five Royal Palaces), the gift of Bute Hall to Glasgow University, and, the archaeological excavations at Whithorn, "the cradle of Scottish Christianity," at St. Andrews, important to Catholics.     

Mount Stuart was partially destroyed in a fire in December 1877, although most of the artworks were rescued by the brave staff. The 3rd Marquess of Bute is responsible for Mount Stuart's Gothic exterior & sumptuous interiors, acting as general contractor, and builder, personally supervising a group of craftsmen & artists with whom he had worked for 20 years. 

This is why the quality of materials used & seamless workmanship at Mount Stuart is so impressive. Master craftsmen built this home, a "state of the art" bit of architectural expression, for instance, using 32 different kinds of Italian marble.     

The brochure states that the 3rd Marquess of Bute had an interest in esoteric science and was the source of all architectural references to Astrology & Astronomy, yet he was a devout Catholic & towards the latter part of his life served a few terms as Rector of St. Andrew's University, on the east coast of Scotland.  He was a Catholic outlier in an otherwise Protestant family tree, a complex man, as stated.

My guess after visiting is that the 3rd Marquess of Bute wanted Mount Stuart, at every possible level, to be perceived as a work of art, and I think he succeeded. I had certainly never seen anything like it before.

When the 3rd Marquess of Bute died in 1900, it heralded the end of an era, Mount Stuart being in an unfinished state, as it remains today. 

In 1989, the Mount Stuart Trust was established & in the present time continues to develop & care for the house & estate. Tourists are a constant influx of funds to the Trust. 

poster on the CalMac ferry

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