I think that this is the most beautiful station in Scotland, perhaps it could even be the most beautiful railway station in the world. There are some buildings that stop you in your tracks. Wemyss Bay is one of them. It is not a station to rush through. Allow plenty of time to slowly take it all in.
Wemyss Bay is on the Firth of Clyde, in West Scotland. It is about 50 minutes by train from Glasgow and if you are heading to the Isle of Bute this is where you come to catch the ferry.
The station was built in 1903. The architect was James Miller who had designed about 70 Scottish stations, including Glasgow Central. There was a fascinating array of materials used in its construction, including local sandstone, white pine from the Baltic and Quebec red pine, chosen for its robustness in situations where rot was likely.
The outside of the building has gables and timber framing and looks more Tudor England than West Coast Scotland. It also features a sixty-foot clock tower that is a landmark for the area and can be spotted from miles away. The outside does not prepare you for what it is like inside.
Inside it feels more like a Victorian botanical garden palm house than a station. This is because the roof is a massive glass canopy and the concourse is decked out with colourful flower displays. On a summer's day the light floods through the canopy and it gets you in the mood for your holidays.
The roof is sweeping and curving. The round ticket office is like the base of a fountain with glass and iron erupting from its roof and shooting out in all directions.
Another striking feature of the building is the curving wooden decked promenade to the ferry. It is a regal walkway that makes you feel like you are a king or queen. And yet, Wemyss Bay station was never meant for royalty or aristocracy. It was built to service Glasgow's working class when they took their annual holiday "Doon the Watter". They would crowd into the station to board the ferries across to the Isle of Bute and the seaside town of Rothesay.
The era of flights and cheap package holidays abroad resulted in a downturn in the station's usage, although in recent years it has undergone major refurbishments to keep it looking fabulous. This ensures that it is still a magical experience to arrive here by train to start your island adventure.
Wemyss Bay station has always been famous for the wonderful flower displays on its concourse. Railway companies used to look after station gardens, but this is no longer a responsibility, so for several years the station was flowerless. Thanks to a group called 'The Friends of Wemyss Bay Station' the flowers were brought back and are here to stay.
The railway company, Scotrail, has an 'Adopt a Station' programme where funding is provided to local community groups who are interested in looking after the appearance of the station.
'The Friends' also operate a second hand bookshop in the former First Class Waiting Rooms. This shop also has a gallery of photos of the station in the old days.
There is a bar and a cafe inside the station. I have not been to the bar, but the cafe has tables on the concourse, so the ideal place to enjoy the architecture with a coffee. I really recommend doing this, rather than rushing straight for your ferry or train. Why not arrive early so that you can take your time exploring this wonderful station? It is one of Scotland's finest buildings.
I used Wemyss Bay station on my cycling trip to the Isle of Bute. Read my travel feature about this cycling trip
I also used the station when cycling to the Isle of Islay. Read my travel feature about this cycling trip
Wemyss Bay is number one on my list of Top 10 Favourite Train Stations in Scotland.
Wemyss Bay station is on the front cover of Simon Jenkins' beautiful book Britain's 100 Best Railway Stations. The author has written a glowing entry about this station and the book features several of Scotland's finest stations. You can buy the book from Amazon by clicking on this image:
Are you looking for that perfect Scottish castle ruin? A place that you can have all to yourself? A place that has magnificent scenery? Morton Castle could be just what you are looking for. And you don't have to travel for miles and miles to get there-it is just a few hours from Glasgow.
Morton Castle is so remote and challenging to find that you will easily feel that you are deep in the Scottish Highlands, but you may be surprised to learn that it is in the south of Scotland, in Dumfries and Galloway.
To get there take a train from Glasgow to Sanquhar. In just 1 hour and 20 minutes you are deposited in this tranquil town surrounded by fine countryside.
Find out more about Sanquhar in my travel feature on the area.
You can use this map to get to Morton Castle from Sanquhar.
This map also includes directions to Drumlanrig Castle which is on the way and worth visiting. From Sanquhar it is 14.5 miles to Morton castle, a bit less if you choose not to visit Drumlanrig. The route is on single-track lanes that are little troubled by vehicular traffic. It is glorious cycling with forest, fields and impressive panoramas of lush, green hills. There is a great variety of scenery within a relatively short distance, making this one of the best short cycle routes that I have found in Scotland.
The final few miles requires the crossing of two A-roads, but at the time of my visit there was no traffic and it was easy to cycle across to the other side.
There is a distinct lack of signage to the castle, so you may feel that you are lost or you have travelled too far. But just keep going and you will find it.
The last stretch of the road is lined with trees, so there is no clue to the magnificence of the landscape that the castle sits in. This means that it takes you by surprise. One minute you are on a straight road, quiet and unmemorable. The next minute you find yourself deposited somewhere with a loch and hills. Is it the Scottish Highlands?
That's the funny thing. The Scotland of the imagination is a place where travel north, to the Highlands, seems the only way to discover glorious scenery and fairy tale castles. The south of the country is somewhat undiscovered, but Morton Castle goes to show that you can find the Scotland of your dreams in this area.
This castle has no visitor centre, cafe or shop. In fact, there is very little to see, but that keeps it free of crowds and probably means you will have it all to yourself.
You can go inside the ruin and have a wander, but it is just a shell with no interior walls or roof.
Little is know about the castle's history. It was probably built around 1300, but nobody knows for sure. There is also no certainty about who built the castle, but it came into the hands of the Douglas family until it fell into ruin in the eighteenth century.
The castle sits on a triangle of land, jutting over Loch Morton with the sweep of the Lowther Hills on the horizon. This setting is breathtaking and the reason that this castle is so special and worth seeking out.
This is the kind of place to bring a picnic and spend a day enjoying the peace and quiet. It is so easy to get here from central Scotland that you could easily do this as a day trip and that makes it a perfect escape from city life.
Spend longer in the area and visit Drumlanrig Castle or cycle to Scotland's highest village at Wanlockhead.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.