From 1875 residents approached the Marquess of Bute concerning the erecting of a steamer pier; by 1880 the Marquess was agreeable to the erection of a pier which was to be financed by the formation of a joint stock company, the Kilchattan Bay Pier Company Ltd. which was incorporated  with a capital of £3000 in £5 shares. The original cost of constructing the pier was £1593.

Progress on building the Pier was rapid, after the formation of the Company in May 1880. The Pier was opened with much ceremony on 14 July 1880. The  Pier was located a quarter of a mile southeast of old stone pier. It was neat and unobtrusive; the gangway was of solid stonework for approximately 56 feet. Seaward of this an open wooden piled gangway of approximately 52 feet lead to the pierhead. On each side of entrance were single storey red sandstone buildings, that to northwest housed the Pier Masters office and a store and to southeast a refreshment room, two waiting rooms. Later a crane, a shed and a steamer signal tower were added at the pierhead.

Opening of the Steamer Pier - 14 July 1880 [ref 1]

Initially the Pier was operated for the company by John Cumming but from 1st March 1881 until its closure in 1955 the pier was leased  for sums ranging from  £1550 (1892-1893) to £231 (1925-1954) to 11 different Pier Masters, the best remember being Robert Kelso (1897-1914)  and Mr Malcolm Kelso (1925-1954). The final Pier Master was Mr Hugh Thomas (1955). The operation of the pier was a financial success, during its entire life the Company only failed to pay a dividend in 1918, 1947, 1950 to 1952 and 1954.

In its early years Kilchattan’s most important callers were the steamers of Messers Keith & Campbell and those of Captain William Buchanan, which traded between Glasgow, Greenock and the Isle of Arran. A close second were the Wemyss Bay steamers of Messrs Gillies & Campbell. When Fairlie pier was opened by the Glasgow and Southern Railway in 1882 Hill & Co steamers also started calling . It was a major blow when the Arran connection was severed in 1894. Circular tours offered by Caledonian Steam Packet Company and others were popular, tourists were transported by steamer from the mainland to Kilchattan and then by coach to Rothesay and thence back to the mainland.  Services contracted gradually before the First World War and  dramatically during the Second World War but Kilchattan Bay was serviced by steamers from Weymss Bay and Farlie until 1939.


In addition to passenger steamers regular calls were made originally by cargo boats of Messrs Hill & Co , thereafter by cargo boats of Clyde Cargo Steamers Ltd and latterly by the cargo boats of Clyde and Campbeltown Shipping Co Ltd. Besides these regular cargo boats probably every Clyde Puffer was at Kilchattan at one time or another. During the Second World War much of Kingarth’s potato crop was shipped via Rothesay and at the end of 1949 the regular cargo boat service was completely withdrawn.

In 1949 the pier was in a reasonably good state of repair, considering its age, but it deteriorated quickly thereafter on account of lack of funds for its maintenance. The Pier Company's 1950 AGM was told that the Company had reached a 'crisis in its history'. At the end of Sept 1955 the last steamer pulled away from Kilchattan Pier and the pier was closed. Even in that last year the pier saw a variety of steamers call, The Talisman, 113 times, the Maid of Skelmorlie, 90 times, The Maid of Cumbrae, 11 times, the Caledonia twice, and the Jupiter, the Waverley and the Arran, the first of the car ferries , once . In addition there were calls by ten puffers.

Subsequently the pier was taken over by the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, ‘for the use of the state’. In 1959 the Pier Company sold the pier buildings for domestic use and was wound up, still solvent. The only state use of any significance to which the Pier was put was on 11 August 1958 when Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh used it to board the Royal Barge at the conclusion of their visit to Bute. In 1976 the wooden pier structure was demolished.   

Kilchattan Steamer Pier, Duchess of Montrose and Marchioness of Lorne sprucing up on a summer Sunday between 1902 and 1914. [ref 1]

Kilchattan Bay Steamer Pier in around 1905


I gratefully acknowledge information and photographs from:-

Ref 1

Ian Maclagan (1997)  The Piers and Ferries of Bute. (Buteshire Natural History Society)

Ref 2

Tom Cromack (2007) Ploughing Matches, Ayrshires and Clydesdales - A History of Bute Agricultural Society. ( Bute Agricultural Society)

Ref 3

Kingarth and Kilchattan Bay Improvements Committee.




Clyde Turbine Steamer Marchioness of Graham at Kilchattan Bay Pier