The town of Rothesay is the principal town on the Isle of Bute, in the council area of Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It can be reached by ferry from Wemyss Bay which offers an onward rail link to Glasgow. At the centre of the town is Rothesay Castle, a ruined castle which dates back to the 13th century, and which is unique in Scotland for its circular plan. Rothesay lies along the coast of the Firth of Clyde.
The ferry journey from Rothesay pier to the mainland port of Wemyss Bay takes about 45 minutes.
Rothesay Old Parish Registers cover the years 1691 to 1854 for baptisms and marriages. There are no records for deaths or burials. The burial register for Rothesay did not start until 1882.
Rothesay was the county town of the former county of Bute, which included the islands of Great Cumbrae, Little Cumbrae and Arran. The former county buildings, now partially closed down, overlook the castle.
During the Victorian era, Rothesay developed as a popular tourist destination. It became hugely popular with Glaswegians going "doon the watter" (lit: down the water, where the 'water' in question is the Firth of Clyde), and its wooden pier was once much busier with steamer traffic than it is today. Rothesay was also the location of one of Scotland's many hydropathic establishments during the 19th century boom years of the Hydropathy movement. The town also had an electric tramway - the Rothesay and Ettrick Bay Light Railway - which stretched across the island to one of its largest beaches. However, this closed in the mid 1930s. The centre of activities was the Winter Gardens building (built 1923) which played host to some of the best known music hall entertainers of the day.
The bauhaus-inspired pavilion of 1938, stands-out on the seafront.
From the 1960s onwards, with the advent of cheap foreign package holidays, Rothesay's heyday was largely over. The Winter Gardens closed and lay derelict for many years. However in the 1990s, it was redeveloped and is now a tourist information and exhibition centre.
Duke of Rothesay
The heir to the British throne is known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland. This practice was begun by Robert III, who regularly resided at Rothesay Castle, and first granted the title to his son David in 1398. The title was given to the heir of the Scottish throne until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Unlike the equivalent English title of Duke of Cornwall, there is no land attached in the form of a Duchy. The main landowner on the island is the Marquess of Bute, whose principal seat, Mount Stuart, is located a few miles to the south.