A Pee and a Pic in Bute’s Victorian Toilets

“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.

Old Sign, Victorian Toilets, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland

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’.

Sinks, Victorian Toilets, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland

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.

Victorian Toilets, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland

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.

Urinal, Victorian Toilets, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland

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.

Rothesay coat of arms, Victorian Toilets, Rothesay, Isle of Bute, Scotland

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+




4 Comments

  1. Gaudíesque toilets on the Isle of Bute – you DO get around don´t you? They are stunning and I wouldn´t mind betting, unique. It would be such a crime to demolish something so beautiful…..I hope it never happens! I´ve never been to Bute, but I wonder why so many individual pissoirs were needed on such a small island – seems a bit OTT. Guess that sums up Victorian architecture………..

    • Bute is one of those places that has been forgotten over time Colleen. Many people know Arran but mention Bute and you get a blank stare. For years I had to describe it as the place where Lena Zavaroni came from before people would say ‘ah, yes,’ without actually knowing where it was.

      I’ve seen pics of Victorian times when steamships were queueing up to dock at the pier and the promenade was packed with smartly dressed visitors (hence the need for lots of loos). But in the last few decades it’s fallen out of travel fashion, which is a real shame as it is beautiful and full of history and surprises… of which there will be more written later 🙂

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