Camera ready for the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Summit at Mount Stuart, it found another job to do this Wednesday [13th March] – recording moments in and beyond Rothesay on a chill but beautiful day.
The spectacularly lovely Victorian lavatories on Rothesay harbour were closed at 8.00am. Pity. But the CalMac ferry, Argyle. coming in to Rothesay from Wemyss Bay in Ayrshire, had a few surprises in store. This one was pure James Bond.
The lovely old harbour still has some charm and water is almost always seductive.
However, the heart of the town facing the ferry, as folk come off it, is in a bad way – neglected, gap-toothed, flaking and flaky, empty shops.
If you cannot or will not maintain a town centre property, should you be made to sell it? Before any chance of a purchaser is lost?
The civic impact of this mess is wholly destructive. Why would anyone come to Rothesay for Rothesay’s sake?
If you come in for the day on the ferry from Wemyss Bay, you won’t walk far and the first part of the town you’ll walk is the front. There’s no immediately obvious alternative in these long Victorian seaside towns anyway.
What would you find on Rothesay’s current waterfront that would offer you comfort, ease, pleasure? How long could you seriously spend there? What would you do? And if the weather turned nasty?
Would you come back?
Council owned property is a bit better but only marginally. The lovely art deco Rothesay Pavilion looks tired and clapped out, suffering from public sector pragmatism as well as a degree of neglect.
You can still see the earlier confidence and ambition of this town in its essential structures. But if you looked at the reality of the ground floor shop fronts, things are different and less than they seem.
But how can you believe in a place that property owners allow to look like this?
There are nooks and side alleys that would have had their attraction and still might – but today they just look sleazy.
Hidden behind the desolate wreck of this once grand promenading square now tarted up with fairy lights in front of the dereliction, is the massy force of Rothesay Castle, built to do business of a very particular and obvious kind.
It’s scale and strength are magnificent, its grassy banks and moat well maintained, their sculpture impeccable.
On the edge of the town, toward Mount Stuart, on the shore, there is evidence of recent strong tides at the side of a lovely stone round house.
High on the hillside is the imposing Glenburn Hotel, once impossibly in-your-face in self-importance, now hosting bus tours.
Just where the narrowing main road swings right, away from the water and towards Mount Stuart’s gates there is the out-of-time curiosity of Kerrycroy village with its surprisingly long stone pier extending out into the Firth of Clyde. This little crescent of seven dwellings was built by the wife of the 2nd Marquess of Bute in the style of an English village.
The pier had to be as long as it is to see the end of it capable of letting boats come alongside at low tide.
It was used around 70 years after Kerrycroy was built – to ferry in the stone for the building of the 3rd Marquess of Bute’s neo-gothic mansion of surprises at Mount Stuart, where the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Summit was held on Wednesday.
The Bute shoreline is endlessly intriguing, even below the road there are rock structures to marvel at – one series looked like beached mammals.
One, at the water’s edge, washed over by the wavelets, looked like a skate washed ashore, suffering rawly from radiation burn. You’d have sworn corrupted blood was leaching into the water from it.
On the other side of Rothesay, Port Bannatyne points jauntily over to the entrance to Loch Striven, with the Cowal hills behind.
The truth of Rothesay is that you could live there enjoyably because you’d have the whole of the lovely island within your reach and the sanctuary of your home. You’d know where the good places are for coffee, comfort and shopping in the odd foray.
But who would visit Rothesay for the day, on foot, from the ferry? Such a visitor has no sanctuary, nowhere to take refuge – and is unlikely to find any.
We went for a cup of coffee where a visitor might go – made it a takeaway after we went inside, bought a cake – which tasted of a blend of dampness and fairy liquid.
We’d tried another equally obvious place much earlier in the day – hadn’t been renovated for longer than one could imagine; reasonably good coffee; very pleasant and helpful Polish member of staff. It was a real challenge to get access to the ladies’ loo through an impossibly tight doors arrangement. If you were in there and a fire broke out you’d have no chance. and no one would get in to get you out. The handle on the inner door is on the far right inside inside the outer one.
Everyone today has expectations of a great deal more than this town can currently offer and no one is prepared to settle for much less. Why should they?