Mull of Kintyre

Autumn is probably one of the best times of year to take a road trip in Scotland.  Often overlooked, the rugged Argyll coast is at its finest and the roads are quieter.

The beautiful peninsula of Kintyre is the perfect base to enjoy stunning scenery and explore some of Argyll’s islands.   The area is a haven for birds and Kintyre is a bird watching paradise. Whether you take shelter from the elements at the Machrihanish Bird Observatory or wander the Kintyre Way across the hills, there is plenty to see.  There’s even a chance you will see the much loved and rare, Golden Eagle.

This part of the world is packed with great things to see and do, from whisky distilleries to world-class golf courses. Walk the Kintyre Way, visit ruined castles, catch some waves on the surfing beach of Westport and feast on seafood. 

The best way, we find, to reach Mull of Kintyre is to take 2 ferries.  Hop on the Calmac ferry from Ardrossan over to Arran, then from there over to Claonaig. (Make sure you check the timetables as they change between summer and winter!)  When you arrive in Claonaig, you can head straight for Tarbert or if you fancy taking the long way round, you’ll be rewarded with great views back towards Arran.

We prefer to head straight down from Claonaig towards Carradale.  There’s a great site, located on one of the best beaches on the Peninsula with  panoramic views over the sea and surrounding countryside.   Spending time there is good for the soul.  From Carradale, you’ll discover there are a plethora of beaches to stop and enjoy a picnic or just a good dose of fresh air.  Beinn an Tuirc Distillery – at Torrisdale Estate just south of Carradale, makes the outstanding Kintyre gin so make sure you stock up while you’re a local.

Driving down the stretch of coast to Campbeltown is a feast for the eyes, not least due to the view of The Doirlinn – a spit that connects Island Davaar to the mainland.   It’s good to stop and stock up in Campbeltown and have a wander round this busy wee town. 

From Campbeltown we pressed on down towards Southend and its beaches which are great for snorkelling and swimming.  But we’re drawn to Keil Caves.  When you reach Southend, head to the west of St Columba’s Chapel and you’ll discover St Columba’s Footprints, while nearby is St Columba’s Well. Two hundred yards to the west are the Keil Caves. A parking area has been provided on the landward side of the road, a short distance to the west of Keil Point.  If you walk back to a gate in a wall, signs point you in one direction to the caves and in the other, a well-laid set of stone steps onto the outcrop, carry the footprints. 

Leaving behind the caves, we headed to the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse. You can’t drive to the lighthouse so be prepared to park and walk down.  It’s a quiet spot and can feel eerie in the mist and rain but it’s worth it.  Some 12 miles away from the lighthouse you can see coast of Northern Ireland – mist dependent.  It almost feels like you’re at the edge of the world.

On leaving this southerly tip we wound our way round to Machrihanish. We didn’t take our golf clubs but we did stop for a look at Machrihanish Golf Club which boasts spectacular sea views.  Despite its rural location, this is a popular course, attracting golfers from across the globe, who travel to experience the best opening hole in Scottish golf.  Make sure to pack your clubs if golf is your thing.

From Machrihanish, we took the A83 all the way up to Tarbert – about 30miles.  The route runs alongside some spectacular beaches and it’s tempting to stop for a wander every few miles. But we kept going up to Tarbert and its stunning harbour.   The west coast offers such an abundance of fantastic produce.  Fresh shellfish is landed daily in Tarbert, and the Tarbert prawns (langoustines) are not to be missed!

Delicious ingredients can be purchased from the local fishmongers, butcher, deli or The Larder. So, whether you choose to dine in or eat out, you will not be disappointed. There’s a wide range of eateries, from hotels and restaurants to cafes.  Particular favourites of ours include the Corner House Pub and the Starfish Seafood restaurant – both are excellent establishments.

While you’re in Tarbert make the time to climb up to Tarbert Castle.  It’s a waymarked walk which climbs high to the south of Tarbert and visits the crumbling remains of the medieval castle and enjoys excellent views. From Tarbert you can take the ferry to Portavadie or carry on up to Oban.  Unfortunately for us, our trip was coming to an end, so we took the ferry back over and from there headed back to Haggis HQ. 

But we’ll be heading back that way and over to Mull next time.  Keep your eyes peeled for our next trip update!