Forest, moors and coast of the Kintyre peninsular
|87 miles (141 km) - excellent waymarking
|6 out of 10 - 9,500 ft (2,900 meters) of ascent over 7 days, some very long
OS Landranger Maps : 62 (North Kintyre & Tarbert), 68 (South Kintyre & Campbeltown). OS Explorer Maps : 357 (Kintyre North), 356 (Kintyre South)
The Kintyre Way in a new Long Distance Path which opened in 2006. It runs for 87 miles beginning at the North of the Kintyre peninsula, crossing from West coast to East or back five times, and ending at the South-East tip not far from the Mull of Kintyre. The interior of Kintyre is largely forestry with no settlements or facilities – definitely no lunch time pubs.
Six SWC walkers set out on the Kintyre Way ( http://www.kintyreway.com/ ) in the first week of October. Unfortunately one had to drop out through injury, but the other five completed the walk. The route runs for 87 miles beginning at the North of the Kintyre peninsula, crossing from West coast to East or back five times, and ending at the South-East tip not far from the Mull of Kintyre. The interior of Kintyre is largely forestry with no settlements or facilities – definitely no lunch time pubs.
We set out by train from Euston (it is possible to buy single tickets for as little as £12 if booked well in advance) then caught a coach from Glasgow (single tickets start at £5-£6). We broke the journey at Inveraray on Loch Fyne and stayed at the youth hostel there. It took 7½ hours from Euston in total, including a coach breakdown.
Day 1 : Tarbert to Claonaig
From Inveraray it was a further hour and a quarter the next morning to Tarbert, where the walk begins. Tarbert is on a narrow neck of land bounded by West Loch Tarbert and East Loch Tarbert (both sea lochs). Allegedly Viking King Magnus Barelegs carried his longship through the town to prove that Kintyre was an island, as he had authority over all the Scottish islands. The attractive town would have repaid a closer look but we were on a tight schedule. The Way followed a clear uphill track past the ruins of Tarbert Castle and two picnic tables. The track abruptly ended at the top of the climb and the going was wetter underfoot on the descent. We made good progress to the small seaside village of Skipness and followed the B road which runs along the East coast to Claonaig. There is no accommodation in either village so we caught a ferry to Lochranza on Arran.
Lochranza has a youth hostel which is closed for refurbishment, so we stayed in a lovely pub a mile down the road at Catacol. I embarrassed myself by alluding to Arran sweaters, then remembered seeing some on the Aran Islands off the coast of Galway only last year!
Day 2 : Claonaig to Tayinloan
In the morning we caught the ferry back to Claonaig. The way undulated past several small lochs, crossing back across the peninsular to the village of Clachan. The route is still being improved and the path on the descent was intermittent with some slippery sections. We stayed in a good B&B in Clachan, which also has a convenience store and a very expensive hotel/restaurant.
The next section to Tayinloan was less satisfactory as it was largely along shingle and pebble beaches or along the main A road which follows the West coast, but there were fine views of the mountains of Jura. We stayed in another excellent B&B and there was a shop in the village, but currently no pub. An alternative would have been to catch the ferry to the small island of Gigha and stay there.
Day 3 : Tayinloan to Carradale
A longer day followed, back across the peninsular to Carradale, largely on forest tracks. We stopped at the top of the climb beneath the wind turbines at Deucheran, which were, well, windy! Later we marvelled at the power of the lumberjacking machines (probably not the correct title) which fell the trees. The route crosses the B road at Brackley, which is too small even to be described as a hamlet, but we still found a local to befriend. There is a final steep climb with fabulous views ahead of the mountains of Arran before the descent to West Carradale. Carradale is a more substantial place (big enough for us to get lost) with a choice of pubs. The route avoids East Carradale, which is the seaside part.
Day 4 : Carradale to Campbeltown
Our longest day took us to the regional centre of Campbeltown, which has pubs, banks and a Tesco! We were warned about the first section through Waterfoot which involved some boulder hopping on the beach – it was our slowest mile, but the best part of the day. After that it was mainly roads to the 12th century Saddell Abbey, which was well worth a look, then forest roads to the reservoir Lussa Loch, where we found a convenient picnic table. The descent to Campbeltown was the worst part of the walk, for an hour and a half we followed a minor road which is used by huge lorries serving a quarry entrance. Some of the party were showing signs of stress, while the others had progressed to pre-senile dementia, but we made it.
Day 5 : Campbeltown to Machrihanish
The next day was a very short one back across the peninsular to Machrihanish, entirely on a B road (there are plans to create a path along an old railway line), but we knew that our good luck was about to run out as heavy rain was heading our way. We stayed in two wooden self-catering wigwams on a camp site while it rained outside all afternoon and evening and a pond started to appear between the wigwams. Apparently Machrihanish has a sandy beach and renowned golf course, but going outside was not an option. The campsite had a small library which ranged from the earlier romantic works of Catherine Cookson to the later romantic works of Catherine Cookson. It was a long evening.
Day 6 : Machrihanish to Southend
We didn’t see much of Machrihanish in the morning either as we left at first light (7am) for a long hard day. It began with several miles of exhilarating cliff top walking. We made good progress, though in places the path was very wet from the day before, and on the last off road section we were up to our knees for a few steps. There followed a long stretch on minor roads, but on reaching the South coast we were rewarded with the sight of dozens of seals. Apparently it is also possible to see Rathlin Island and the coast of Ireland (I decided to get new glasses). We left the road for a circuit of Dunaverty Head, and the walk ended on a B road near Southend.
It was too late to return to London that evening so we caught a taxi to Campbeltown followed by a coach and stayed the final night at the Loch Lomond Youth Hostel on the West shore of the loch. This is a wonderful old building (Robert the Bruce’s hunting lodge) and only three minutes walk from the coach stop (still quite an adventure in total darkness). In the morning we walked a short distance along Loch Lomond to Balloch for a train connection to Glasgow and back to civilisation.
Overall it was a memorable week with spectacular views and excellent hospitality. Accommodation ranged from £25 to £35 a night for shared rooms (per person) and the price seemed if anything to be inversely related to the quality. The walking was best on the first two days and the last day. In between there was too much walking on forest roads and public roads, but there are ongoing improvements. A lot of money has been invested in creating new paths and the marking on the ground was impeccable (though it did differ from the map route in places).
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