Ever fancied a go at ascending Alpe D'Huez or steaming up the switchbacks of the Stelvio? Well the Serpentine Climb on the Isle of Bute is 730m long and has an average grade of 10.6%. And with 13 hairpin bends, your going to get a fair idea of what those famous climbs are like long before you commit to a PCR Test and start worrying if you are going to have to quarantine on your return!
The Isle of Bute is quite easy to get to without a car. You can get a train from Glasgow Central to Weymss Bay and then catch the ferry from Weymss Bay to Rothesay.
Now with that type of incline I needed all the help I could get, so I started my attempt at the climb with a charge from Rothesay Castle. I also needed not to meet any oncoming traffic - no closed roads / frantic flag waving marshals to assist on this ascent! The first few ramps generate a nice rhythm which gives way to a rough surface on the upper switchbacks of the "Initial Wall". I'll be honest - at this point I was starting to question why I was doing this. But we all feel that way when climbing right?!?!
At Hairpin 8 the road becomes enclosed by high walls and parked cars. The surface actually begins to get worse. Its at this point that I found myself peddling squares and breathing like a hamster running on a wheel. Thankfully a few hairpins further up the road and the gradient lessens and you can try and recover for the last pitch up past the caravan park.
Its at this point the road levels off and you can either turn right and head back down into town past the gold course or turn left and head up towards Canada Hill. Canada Hill gives you views over Rothesay town, Kyles of Bute, Loch Striven, Toward Point and across the Clyde to Cumbrae and Ayrshire.
This lengthens the climb to 1.5Km, but its well worth it for the views. From the top of Canada Hill you can descend via Eastlands Road to Mount Stuart Road and head westwards back to Rothesay Pier.
Aside from any lung busting attempt on The Serpentine, Bute has a lot of great cycling to offer. Mount Stuart held a cycle cross event as recently as 2019 and there's a great Bike Packing camp close to the ancient fort of Dunagoil.
There's also a 40Km Road loop that you can do that will see you take in the beaches of Scalpsie Bay, Ettrick Bay and Kerrycroy.
If you decide to stay on the Island to explore more then:
https://www.theboathouse-bute.co.uk/ offers great accommodation close to town.
Harry Haws is close to both the pier and the start of the climb
https://www.harryhawsbute.co.uk/ for some food and a pint
For souvenirs and a wee snifter the Spirit of Bute
https://www.facebook.com/SOBRothesay/ fairly hits the mark!