As an island, the Isle of Bute is heavily dependant on its two ferry services, both for meeting its day to day needs and to bring the visitors on whom its economy so much depends. For current timetable and fare information, and for bookings, visit the website of the ferry operator, CalMac.
The Isle of Bute's main ferry service links Rothesay with Wemyss Bay, providing a connection to train services to Glasgow. This is supplemented by the second service, linking Rhubodach in northern Bute with Colintraive on the Cowal peninsula.
The Wemyss Bay service takes some 35 minutes and lands you in the heart of Rothesay itself. The service is in a state of transition. Until 2004 it was in the hands of a generation of ships dating back to the mid 1970s, Streaker Class ships such as Jupiter, Juno and Saturn. In 2005 a new vessel, the MV Bute, came onto the route, usually alongside the Juno.
The Bute can carry 60 cars compared with the 40 car capacity of the earlier ships and it represents a significant improvement, both in terms of capacity and the quality of the accommodation on offer.
At the end of 2006 a sister ship of the Bute, the MV Argyle, replaced the Juno on this route and now serves alongside the Bute. A new link span which opened at Rothesay in 2007 completed the modernisation of the service. Until then it had been necessary for vehicles to be loaded or unloaded via ramps on the rear or side of the ship, meaning that the service was not "drive through".
The Rhubodach to Colintraive service crosses the Kyles of Bute at their narrowest point, taking just five minutes to complete the trip. Since 1999 the service has been operated by the MV Loch Dunvegan, perhaps remembered by many as one of the ferries displaced from the Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin crossing on the completion of the Skye Bridge in 1995.