Dusty Scottish Island gets a hipster makeover
Fresh blood has also poured in, especially from Syria, with the high-profile arrival of refugees in recent years. I tasted the fruits of the labor of the new residents at Helmi. On an island without Greggs – and some prized mainstreet names – it’s not a heavy baker, but a real pastry shop that would pass the rally in Paris. There’s also a Syrian take-out, barber, and Syrian chef in charge at The Bonnie Clyde restaurant. Under the paintings of the city’s Victorian heyday, he added some Middle Eastern flavors alongside the Rothesay Bay scampi caught by the waitress’ husband.
Bute’s bountiful green shoots come to be recognized this fall with confirmation of their successful funding from BID (Business Improvement District), which will see local businesses helped brighten up their facades and the generally beautified island. There is also hope that work will soon resume on the Pavilion, an art deco palace being reborn as a cultural, musical and artistic space. Another sleeping giant is the Glenburn Hotel on the waterfront, a Victorian grand dame awaiting new owners.
I strolled through Simply Buteiful, where handcrafted souvenirs and striking works of art have replaced the old tourist state. I picked up a Warhol-esque cushion depicting the Waverley paddle steamer. Heading back to the pier, Spirit of Bute’s Keith took off his cap as I heard a familiar rhythmic pounding. There he was, the PS Waverley, the last ocean paddle steamer in the world. After a major overhaul, she is back to transport the day trippers to “fill up the water”, weaving together Bute’s past and present. It is also part of the future of Bute, an island no longer dusty, but full of new life: Brighton with a glorious and invigorating Glasgow accent.
How to do
Travel with Scotrail (scotrail.co.uk, return from £ 4.25) from Glasgow Central to the large and old Victorian pier at Wemyss Bay, in conjunction with CalMac (calmac.fr, £ 6.70 return) ferries to Rothesay on Bute. Seaside Scalpsy Camping Pods (airbnb.fr) from £ 145 per night for two people. More information visitbute.com.