Absolute Bute: the Scottish island that could just have it all

October 3, 2016

The UK press claimed the refugees who settled on this island in the Firth of Clyde hated it, but novelist Sophie Cooke finds it full of great food, walks, beaches – and more than a few contented Syrians

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Once the beach resort of choice for fashionable Glaswegians, the Isle of Bute lies in the Firth of Clyde, a short distance from Scotland’s biggest city. This year, it became more famous as the place refugees from Syria said they wanted to leave. Focusing on a run-down economy familiar to many British seaside resorts, the UK press painted Bute as a place with no future.

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But Bute turned the corner years ago, and many of the Syrian refugees have talked about their love for the island. When we visited this summer, the seafront squares in Rothesay, the port town, had just been renovated. The art deco Pavilion will reopen next summer, after a £3m makeover, as an international arts venue. Old Victorian shops have been turned into stylish boutiques and upcycled furniture emporiums. There’s a vegetarian cafe (Musicker) that sells guitars and books, and a bookshop that sells coffee (Print Point, West Princes Street), as well as old-style pubs and ice-cream makers.

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