“Do you mind if I take some photos in the toilets?”
It’s a question that would normally have someone speed dialling the local police force. But the bored looking guy in his cubicle barely blinked an eye.
“Naw,” he replied, waving me through.
I paid my 30 pence and entered an unusual pissoir that now doubles as a sort of working museum.
The Victorian Toilets are one of the first things you’ll see after stepping off the ferry at Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Years ago, when I was growing up on the island, I was completely oblivious of their elegant uniqueness.
There were a lot of public toilets in Rothesay in those days. When I think of them it conjures up visions of icy, unfriendly tiles and a reek of that particular aroma found in bloke’s loos throughout the land, ‘eau de homme’.
Then, the Victorian Toilets were only a convenient convenience. Now, despite not actually feeling the urge, I was happy to pay my money anyway. Momentarily I considered asking if I left a deposit could I come back later, but good sense prevailed.
‘Here I sit broken hearted…’ jumped into my head as I walked through the beautifully tiled entrance to a Rothesay landmark. The interior still felt chilly – no surprise on a dreich January day – but thankfully the aroma was much fresher than in the old public loos of my memories; the sea air providing the salty fragrance.
Built at the end of the 19th century, the toilets are a rarity and a reminder that Rothesay was once a favourite destination with well to do Victorians.
Ceramic tiled walls, mock marble sinks and urinals boldly printed with the legend The ‘Adamant’, which makes them sound like some sort of Victorian superhero, hark back to a time when quality and craftsmanship were king. Even the cisterns are made of mock marble as well as having unusual glass panelled sides.
The mosaic tiles carpeting the floor include Rothesay’s coat of arms. I’ve since heard, and am gutted I missed it, that the toilet bowls are printed with the word ‘deluge’ which is just ‘pure dead brilliant’ as they say.
There was a weird familiarity to the toilets. I vaguely remembered them from days of yore but the minute detail was fuzzy, blurred by the fact that no doubt I’d have been distracted on entering and, attractive though the surroundings are, there was no need to hang about after the job was done.
This time I lingered, clicking away happily at a delightful quirk on a Scottish island where curiosities are as common as the shells on the seashore.
I’ve read that the toilets are under threat. It would be a crime if this wonderful monument was ever lost. If you visit Bute be sure to stop off and spend a penny; in fact spend thirty of them, you’ll never pee in a more historically picturesque spot.
(Note: women are welcome in the historic gents section, the peeing part isn’t obligatory)
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+