The old pier, Port Bannatyne
The old pier, Port Bannatyne

Port Bannatyne is a small village on the east coast of the Isle of Bute, about 3km (2 miles) north of Rothesay. It stands on the southern shore of Kames Bay and is known for its busy marina.


Port Bannatyne was a planned community, begun in 1801 by Lord Bannatyne of Kames Castle, the ancient stronghold that stands inland of the beach at Kames Bay. Lord Bannatyne intended his new village, which he called Kamesburgh, to rival Rothesay in importance and as a destination for tourists.

By the mid-Victorian period, there was regular steamship service to Port Bannatyne, making the village popular with holidaymakers from Glasgow.

The Port Inn on Shore Road
The Port Inn on Shore Road

Some of the visitors came to stay at the Kyles Hydropathic Hotel, begun in 1855 as a private home and transformed into a luxury spa hotel in 1879.

Before then, in 1860, the wealthy Marquess of Bute bought the estate and renamed the village Port Bannatyne after the long association of the Bannatyne family with the region.

Under the Marquess' ownership, Port Bannatyne became a busy centre for boat building. That small 19th-century boatyard has now grown into a popular marina offering berths for over 100 vessels.

The village focus was a stone pier on the south shore of Kames Bay, used by fishing boats and pleasure craft.

Lobster pots on the dock
Lobster pots on the dock

HMS Varbel

During World War Two, the Kames Hydro Hotel (the Kyles Hydropathic Hotel) was used by the Admiralty as its local headquarters building, overseeing midget submarine (x-craft) exercises. The submarines ran exercises in Kames Bay and in Loch Striven, to the north.

For the duration of the Admiralty's occupation, the hotel was renamed HMS Varbel. It was from here that the daring operation that sank the German battleship Tirpitz in 1944 was planned. Sadly, nothing now remains of the Hydro beyond gatepost piers and piles of rubble.

Above the village is the Port Bannatyne golf course, built in 1912. This unusual course has just 13 holes and you can often see wild deer grazing around the grounds.

The redundant church of St Ninian's
The redundant church of St Ninian's

Along the seafront are the village shop and post office, the Port Inn, the Anchor Tavern, and the Port Royal Hotel, known as one of the top seafood restaurants in Scotland.

On Shore Road is St Ninian's Church, also known as North Bute Parish Church, built in 1886 in Victorian Gothic style with a four-stage west tower. The church is now redundant and has been sold into private ownership.

Kames Castle
Kames Castle

Kames Castle

It has impossible to miss the striking outline of the 16th-century tower house known as Kames Castle as you pass through Port Bannatyne and head up the A844 towards Ettrick Bay. The castle stands in large grounds that include an 18th-century walled garden. The estate here dates back to at least the 14th century, when the land was granted to the Bannatyne family by King Rober Bruce.

The castle is privately owned and is not generally open to the public, but several stone cottages on the estate are let as holiday cottages.

Boats pulled up on the foreshore
Boats pulled up on the foreshore

West Island Way

The long-distance footpath known as the West Island Way runs along the edge of Port Bannatyne before making a large loop around the northern end of Bute, making for an enjoyable circular walk.

Port Bannatyne is a lovely village, quieter and less busy than Rothesay, its larger neighbour to the south. There are lobster pots drawn up on the quay, and fishing boats bob at anchor, making the village one of the most picturesque places on Bute.

Getting There

Port Bannatyne is on the A844, 2 miles north of Rothesay. There was easy parking along the waterfront when we visited.

About Port Bannatyne, Bute
Address: A844, Port Bannatyne, Bute, Argyll and Bute, Scotland
Attraction Type: Village
Location: On the A844, 3km north of Rothesay. Plentiful parking along Shore Road.
Location map
OS: NS080671
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

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Ardencraig Gardens - 2.1 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

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Craigberoch Standing Stone - 2.2 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

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