A Paddle to the Cumbraes and Bute

Paddling in this area in sunshine must be amazing but despite a lack of this, a few of us enjoyed a weekend trip taking in Cumbrae, Little Cumbrae and Bute’s southern tip.

Geese at the northern end of Cumbrae

A warrier in the woods? On Cumbrae's east coast.

From Largs marina, we headed across to Cumbrae’s northern end and rounded the island following the west coast down to a small bay where we had lunch and chatted about the crossing to Bute ahead of us. We took a direct route over to the beacon clearly visible at the southern end of Bute though this involved some ferrying to account for the tidal flow carrying us of course as we crossed.

Beacon at southern end of Bute

Once at Bute, the first bay we passed looked fine but the map promised better some way round the coast so we continued on, somewhat surprised at the sense of remoteness and ruggedness along the southern coast of Bute. All the while Arran remained stubbornly hidden in the mist to the south somewhere.

The sandy end of the beach we called home for the evening

We chanced upon a small, hidden harbour which can be seen on the map but is not obvious at first glance without knowing it is there, and after pausing for a while, we continued on to a sandy bay which was our intended camp site for the night.  However, slightly disappointingly, this proved to be a bit of quagmire with dozens of cattle in residence. Another bay just round the corned proved to be suitable and though a bit boulder-strewn, we were soon landed and tents were up shortly afterwards.

Bay at the southern end of Bute

Thankfully rain held off and just a very light drizzle fell later on through the hours we spent chatting, cooking and eating round our fire before bed time. Some time through the night it did actually rain but this was over and done with by breakfast and we packed up and stayed dry for the rest of a brightening day.

Lighhouse buildings of Little Cumbrae with the original Lighthouse on the hill above

Low cloud on Bute

The landing beneath Little Cumbrae's lighthouse

Leaving Bute with occasional glimpses of Arran’s peaks to the south, we re-traced our way back to the beacon and this time headed directly east to the lighthouse landing on Little Cumbrae which was a particular target for the weekend.

Bute's southern and more rugged end

A glimpse of Arran's peaks


Some paddlers were already here and others were in the water making the crossing to Bute, a popular spot! We landed and chatted before carrying the boats high enough above the rising tide to allow us time to explore the buildings of the abandoned lighthouse above. Here we explored for a good hour at least, taking in just about every open building we could, including the old generating station and lighthouse tower itself. It seems that there has been a recent effort to renovate some of the rooms and buildings but this seems to have stalled and sadly the weather is getting in through doors and windows, hopefully something will happen to preserve the buildings before long.


In need of a fresh coat of paint

View from the lighhouse tower across to Arran

A glimpse of Bute through a vent in the lighhouse tower

Paddling anti-clockwise round the island, we kept eyes peeled for otters and porpoises as seen by the other paddlers but saw none ourselves. Another site of interest, the castle on Little Cumbrae’s east side, looked an impressive tower but access seemed blocked to the inside so we never stopped for a closer look unfortunately and carried on our way northwards back first to Cumbrae then over to Largs, arriving just as a front was coming in and clearer skies with it. Unpacking the boats and changing in the breezy, cooler air was made more bearable by views of a nice sunset.

Castle by Little Cumbrae

Between the two Cumbraes with Arran rising behind Little Cumbrae

View north to Inverkip (power station) and Arrochar Alps


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