Now it’s no secret that I have spent the past weekend visiting the Isle of Bute. At least it is no secret if you have read any of my weekly round up posts as I have stated quite clearly, last week and this, that I was going. The reason for my visit – aside from it being a truly beautiful and friendly island that I would heartily recommend anyone visit – put quite simply, was Bute Noir.
Now this is the second year on the bounce that Mandie and I have made the three-trains-and-a-boat journey over to Rothesay for this festival, and I can already confirm that plans are afoot to return next year. Why? Well, hopefully, if you will indulge me a little, this post will give you a flavour of what we have loved so much about this small but mighty festival.
Our journey started much as any other day. A crack of a sparrows fart get up for a 07:20 train to Manchester. From there it was onward to Glasgow for a connecting train to Wemyss Bay. We arrived just between ferries so it gave us a little time to appreciate this beautiful station and also sample a nice cooling iced latte at the coffee shop. I love that this place has a book shop too. It’s like we were meant to be here!
The ferry crossing from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay was absolutely stunning – beautiful weather meaning excellent views.
Because we decided to travel a day early, we got to experience some of the wonder of Bute with one of our usual walks on the Thursday night. Starting out from our hotel we did a short 45 minute jaunt over toward Ardbeg and the Rockabilly Diner. The views along the front were stunning and the dinner superb, if a little filling. Loved the way in which the diner was laid out, and the music that was playing was right up my street too. Proper Rock ‘n’ Roll.
After dinner we continued our walk along the coast to Port Bannatyne Marina and then took a leisurely walk back to the hotel via Co-Op for some well needed refreshments. All of which meant over twenty thousand steps walked in spite of spending over half of the day travelling. I hope you can see that it was absolutely worth it.
After a yummy breakfast at our hotel – The Bayview, definitely recommended – we decided to head into town to catch the first bus out to Ettrick Bay. It was absolutely stunning. Although we got there as the tide was coming in, we were still able to appreciate the views, the jellyfish and crab on the beach and, more importantly, the cake at the cafe. Only 15 minutes from town by bus, it is definitely worth taking the trip out there if you get the chance, and highlights the wonder of this island. With a good pair of boots, or maybe a little assistance from public transport, everything is within easy reach even if you haven’t brought a car, and there are some fabulous walking routes for the daring and energetic amongst us.
Back into town next and, making the most of the sunshine, it was a tour of Rothesay Castle. A lovely insight into the history of this ruined fortress that stands proud at the centre of town. Loved it. I even climbed the walls and I really don’t do walls.
All of this and the event hasn’t even start yet! A quick cup of coffee in town, a trip to the Electric Bakery for an Empire Biscuit and then it was a chance to call into Print Point, Rothesay’s legendary bookshop and one of the main champions of the event, for a quick browse. Well it would have been rude not to!
Because we hadn’t done much walking, after a quick chance to freshen up and change at our hotel, we decided to take the scenic route back to town via the woodland walk which takes you around the back of the houses along the front.
Beautifully shady and with some stunning views, it added a good few steps to our day. Just as well as the next few hours were spent on our backsides – Bute Noir had begun.
First up was Watching the Detectives at the Bute Museum – a panel featuring Douglas Lindsay (The Art of Dying), Ed James (Kill the Messenger), Caro Ramsay (Mosaic) and Craig Robertson (The Photographer), who introduced us all to their latest books and their central characters, all, not surprisingly, Detectives (or in Craig’s case a Detective and a character who is Detective adjacent). Following this it was the panel 50 Shades of Black where Lisa Gray (Thin Air) interviewed Thomas Enger (Inborn), Mick Herron (Joe Country) and Luca Veste (The Bone Keeper). Both great panels and a brilliant way to kick off the festival.
After this we hot footed it next door to the Library where Douglas Skelton (Thunder Bay) gave a booked based grilling to Lin Anderson (Time for the Dead), and Stuart MacBride (All That’s Dead). I have to be honest – I loved Lin’s latest book, which is set on the Isle of Skye, and one of the highlights of my whole weekends is that I am now being followed on Twitter by Blaze. If you want to know why that is so awesome, go buy the book 😉 The final panel of the night was Lin Anderson interviewing Ian Rankin (In A House of Lies) who got to meet his island twin, Ian Rankin the plumber.
After the panels were concluded it was off to the Black Bull for Noir At the Bar. This included several readings from the authors, but I’m pretty crap so didn’t take many pictures. I did manage to sneak in one of Ed James as he read the now infamous sex scene from Mark Billingham’s latest novel, Their Little Secret. I say infamous as you really had to be there. Mr James read it in what can only be described as a very interesting London accent, that kind of reminded me of Nick Frost from the Cornetto trilogy movies. Highlights were also in hearing readings from Noelle Holten’s Dead Inside and Sharon Bairden (Chapter in my Life) reading the opening to her currently unpublished (but I’m sure that will change ) manuscript Sins of the Father. Watch this space!
Saturday was a much slower start for us – i.e. less walking. We did stop for cake at Helmi’s though and mighty lush is was too.
First panel of the day was Caro Ramsay interviewing Alex Gray (The Stalker) and Ruth Ware (The Turn of the Key) on the Classically Criminal panel. Because we hadn’t done much walking (and because we’d had a lot of cake, and in my case a rather large milkshake) we took a little break from the festivities to walk out to Loch Ascog via Serpentine Road, Rothesay’s answer to Lombard Street. Nice walk, very hot, lovely views and coos.
Back to town and the next panel at the Library, Anne Cleeves (The Long Call) interviewed by Alex Gray. So hard to believe that the Vera TV series only came into being because of a holiday, a charity shop and dinner with Doctor Who. This was followed by The All-Star Game, Mark Billingham, Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride and Ann Cleeves talking all things bookish and not.
Back to the Bute Museum next for a touch of Nordic Noir, with Lilja Sigurdardottir (Cage) and Thomas Enger being interviewed by Alexandra Sokoloff (Shadow Moon). It’s fair to say I love these guys and their books, but every time Thomas Enger talks about the story behind his central character, Henning Juul, you can hear a pin drop and feel the emotion in the room. Gah!
If you want to inject a little – how shall I put it – humour and chaos into proceedings, then match Chris Brookmyre (Fallen Angel) on a panel with Mark Billingham. It’s entertaining, a tad rude, and you do need a somewhat open mind, but by god it’s also funny. It was certainly as billed, less literary, and totally Uncensored. I never, ever thought I would be sat in a library, watching all around me singing the chorus of a song that has the liberal use of the c-bomb throughout, but hey. That’s the magic of Crime Festivals for you 😉
The final session of the day was the A Question of Court quiz, followed by musical entertainment from half of The Fun Lovin’ Crime Writers. We got a full rendition of Luca Veste’s version of the Britney classic, Baby, One More Time, as well as a group sing along with Caro Ramsay and Douglas Skelton. What an end to a brilliant day.
Sunday was another late start and we made the most of a change in the weather to catch up on some reading. By the time we were due to head to the first panel the skies had cleared and another great day ensued. First to Print Point, home of great coffee and lush cake, for a panel with the two Doug’s, Skelton and Lindsay, interviewed by Sharon Bairden. This was followed by Gloriously Gothic, Oscar de Muriel (The Darker Arts) and Ambrose Parry (The Art of Dying) in conversation with Colin Sinclair. The latter took place in the Theatre, the same venue to Alex Gray and Ruth Ware and it is a cracking place for a talk.
Back to the library (and in case you are wondering there is no more than five minutes walk between all four venues so no need to fear venue hopping) where Craig Sisterson interviewed Liz Nugent (Lying In Wait) and Denise Mina (Conviction). Two great writers in an honest and entertaining discussion. A return to the Museum for the penultimate panel, Do As I Say, (Not As I Do), where Myra Duffy (The Brandane Collection) and Douglas Skelton talked new authors, Noelle Holten, Lisa Gray and Allan Martin (The Peat Dead), through the ins and outs of writing.
The very final event of the day was Room 101 with Luca Veste, Mick Herron, Caro Ramsay and Ed James. Whilst we may not be sorry to see the back of Goodreads, you must all accept that you will never receive a delivery again as the team consigned ‘People who don’t indicate on roundabouts‘ to Room 101, meaning the end to all delivery drivers, as well as BMW owners and Audi drivers (so it’s not all bad …)
Sad to see the end of such a brilliant festival. We had an absolute blast. The early finish did mean we were able to go and grab a last night bag of chips (no one show this post to our diet group leader for God’s sake …) on the way home, as well as take a few bye bye shots of the town and bay.
Can you believe we packed all of that in? We were only really there for three And a bit days!!!
Monday morning, with a heavy heart (and a bag full of Mackies crisps – yum) we caught the ferry back to Wemyss Bay and the start of the long journey home.
A massive thank you to Craig Robertson, Karen, Anne and Patricia and everyone who made the festival so special. It is one of the friendliest festivals you could ever hope to attend and being so small, one of the most intimate and entertaining too.
We are already making plans for next year which takes place from the 31st July – 2nd August. You can find out more by keeping an eye on the Bute Noir Website or by visiting the Facebook Page. With every panel including a free drink, often cake or a biscuit too, and ticket prices that are ridiculously good value, what are you waiting for?