Rothesay's Victorian Toilets
Rothesay's Victorian Toilets

You don't generally think of a public toilet as a tourist attraction, but then, Rothesay's Victorian Toilets are no ordinary public convenience! These restored 19th-century gentlemens' toilets are a testament to Victorian design, utilising marble furnishings, copper piping, exquisite tilework, and a mosaic floor.

The Victorian Toilets are a reminder of the heady days when Rothesay was a popular destination for day-trippers from Glasgow, who came on regular paddle steamers from the mainland to enjoy an outing by the sea.

Marble and tile sinks
Marble and tile sinks


The toilets were built in 1899 by the Rothesay Harbour Trust at a cost of £530. Only the cisterns in the toilet cubicles are not original; every other part of the fittings is exactly as supplied by the Twyford Company of Glasgow.

Only the gentlemens' toilets are of Victorian date; the female toilets were added in 1994 by converting storage rooms and are ordinary public toilets. Female visitors will want to have the attendant knock on the door before taking a look inside!

Marble surround urinals
Marble surround urinals

Why were there originally only male toilets?

The answer begins in 1853, when a law was passed banning the sale of alcohol in Scotland on Sundays. However, paddle steamers were exempt from this ban. The result ought to have been predictable; Scots intent on a drink took to 'steaming', which became popular slang for getting drunk.

Men drank heavily on board the steamers, yet there were few toilets on board. The result was long queues and a pressing need for toilets onshore. Presumably, women didn't drink so heavily on board ship, for no provision was made for them ashore!

Polished copper pipes
Polished copper pipes

The toilets are the most impressive public conveniences in Britain, and are B-listed for their heritage value. Three glass-lined cisterns at ceiling level feed 20 urinals made of a mix of marble and ceramic tiles.

The centrepiece is a six-sided urinal with black marble frames, supporting a large potted plant on top.

The Victorian Toilets were rescued from years of neglect and restored in 1994 at a cost of just under £300,000. It is now operated by a charity on behalf of the Argyll and Bute Council.

Be aware -- the Victorian Toilets are not a museum exhibit, but fully functioning public toilets!

The Victorian Toilets sign
The Victorian Toilets sign

Getting There

The Victorian Toilets are in a late-Victorian building just off Victoria Street, a stone's throw west of the ferry terminal. The toilets are usually open every day.

I must say, I felt a little peculiar taking photos of the men's loo! I was definitely hoping no one would wander in while I was photographing the fittings (no one did).

About Rothesay's Victorian Toilets
Address: The Pier, Victoria Street, Rothesay, Bute, Argyll and Bute, Scotland, PA20 0AH
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: Near the pier, off Victoria Street
Location map
OS: NS087647
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


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

Rothesay Castle - 0.2 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Rothesay, St Mary's Chapel - 0.7 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Craigberoch Standing Stone - 1.1 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

Ardencraig Gardens - 1.1 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Ascog Hall Garden and Fernery - 1.6 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Bute Museum - 1.8 miles (Museum) Heritage Rating

St Colmac's Church - 2.6 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

St Colmac Cottages Stone Circle - 2.9 miles (Prehistoric Site) Heritage Rating

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