Victorian Toilets, Rothesay

Rothesay's Victorian toilets

The gentlemen’s toilets in Rothesay are a veritable palace of public convenience. Described by Lucinda Lambton, architectural historian and well known cludgie connoisseur as “jewels in the sanitarian’s crown”, they are one of the finest examples of late Victorian lavatories left in the UK.

In 1899 when the toilets were built, Rothesay on the Isle of Bute was a bustling seaside resort. Hordes of visitors would come “doon the watter” (the water being the Firth of Clyde) from Glasgow. The pier, now dominated by CalMac ferries, was jammed with paddle steamers and holidaymakers eager to spend a penny. So it was only fitting that Rothesay’s WCs should welcome them in style.

Situated close to the ferry terminal, the toilet building is fairly anonymous. The tile-clad exterior is nothing to write home about, but inside it’s a different story. There’s an explosion of colour and decoration, and the fittings – oh my! No wonder Lucinda Lambton called them “the most beautiful in the world”.

Fourteen fantastic porcelain urinals stand erect along one wall, with another six in a circular centrepiece. Made from white Fireclay pottery and topped with imitation green St Anne’s marble, ‘THE “ADAMANT”’ is stamped onto each along with the Twyford’s crest. Although the Victorians were rather prim, there’s nothing discreet about them. They are out and proud.

All in all, they are an architectural triumph. The original glass-sided cisterns feed the water supply through shiny copper pipes, providing a gentle soundtrack while you tinkle. The glass roof lets in lots of natural light, making a pee a pleasure. For those wishing to bide a wee there are cubicles where the lavvy pans, as they are known in these parts, have commodious wooden seats. The bowl is marked “THE DELUGE”, which inspires great confidence in its abilities.

Rothesay's Victorian toilets

When they were commissioned by the Rothesay Harbour Trust there was one thing missing - facilities for ladies. In the 1990s the renovation led by Strathclyde Building Preservation Trust added ladies’ toilets, baby changing facilities, a disabled toilet and shower rooms by converting storage areas inside the original building. They are unremarkable in comparison but perfectly comfortable and clean.

The toilets and the attendants have won many awards. There are so many “Loo of the Year” plaques that they’ve run out of room to display them. Visitors are more than welcome, and come in droves. Even Prince Charles, who holds the title Duke of Rothesay, has nipped in to admire a throne of a different kind. Ladies are free to have a wee keek at the gents provided they are not in use at the time.

Rothesay Victorian Toilets photos

More of Anne's Rothesay Victorian Toilets photos

How to get there

The toilets are beside the ferry terminal in Rothesay. To get to Rothesay take the ferry from Wemyss Bay. Journey time is 35 minutes. Trains from Glasgow Central link up with the crossings.

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Truly great toilets! I would be very happy to use these urinals knowing that it's still functional and good order after a hundred years. The only other ones I know of that is still open is an Edwardian walk down toilets next to the maritime museum in Greenwich which is largely original.

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