One of Scotland's Great Walks -- The newest long-distance walk in Scotland, the Kintyre Way opened in 2006. It stretches for 142km (89 miles), beginning at Tarbert in the north end of the peninsula and rambling all the way to the village of Southend in the south. Hikers traverse the walk in anywhere from 4 to 7 days. Some of the miles are difficult, although nothing to challenge the serious hiker, but miles and miles are filled with gentle rambles along panoramic scenery and rugged coastline, passing much wildlife, especially coastal birds. Pick up a map of the trail at any local tourist office or visit www.kintyreway.com.
A sheltered harbor protects the fishing port and yachting center of Tarbert, located on a narrow neck of land at the northern tip of the Kintyre. It's between West Loch Tarbert and the head of herring-filled Loch Fyne and has been called the "world's prettiest fishing port."
Tarbert means "drawboat" in Norse and referred to a place where Vikings dragged their boats across land on rollers from one sea to another. In 1093, King Malcolm of Scotland and King Magnus Barelegs of Norway agreed the Western Isles were to belong to Norway and the mainland to Scotland. An island was defined as anything a Viking ship could sail around, so Magnus proclaimed Kintyre an island by having his dragon ship dragged across the 1.6km (1 mile) of dry land from West Loch Tarbert on the Atlantic to East Loch Tarbert on Loch Fyne. After the Vikings gave way, Kintyre came under the control of the MacDonald lordship of the Isles.
Exploring the Area -- The castle at Tarbert dates from the 13th century and was later extended by Robert the Bruce. The castle ruins, Bruce Castle, are on a hillock above the village on the south side of the bay. The oldest part still standing is a keep from the 13th century.
One of the major attractions of the peninsula is the remains of Skipness Castle and Chapel, at Skipness, along B8001, 16km (10 miles) south of Tarbert, opening onto Loch Fyne. The hamlet was once a Norse village. The ruins of the ancient chapel and castle look out onto the Sounds of Kilbrannan and Bute. In its heyday, it could control shipping along Loch Fyne. A five-story tower remains.
Campbeltown is a fishing port and resort at the southern tip of the Kintyre Peninsula, 283km (176 miles) northwest of Edinburgh and 217km (135 miles) northwest of Glasgow. Popularly known as the "wee toon," Campbeltown has long been linked with fishing and has a shingle beach.
The tourist office is at MacKinnon House, The Pier (tel. 01586/552-056; www.visitscottishheartlands.com). It's open from late June to mid-September, Monday to Saturday 9am to 6:30pm and Sunday 11am to 5pm; mid-September to late October, Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm and Sunday 11am to 4pm; late October to March, Monday to Friday 10am to 4pm; April, Monday to Saturday 9am to 5:30pm; and May to late June, Monday to Saturday 9am to 5:30pm and Sunday noon to 5pm.
Exploring the Area -- On the quayside, in the heart of town, is the 14th-century Campbeltown Cross. This Celtic cross is the finest piece of carving from the Middle Ages left in Kintyre.
One of the area's most famous golf courses, the Machrilhanish Golf Club, lies nearby (tel. 01586/810-277; www.machgolf.com). It's a 6,225-yard, par-70 course. The daily greens fees are £50 per round or £80 per day; on Saturday, the fees are £60 per round or £90 per day. No club rentals are available; trolleys cost £6.
Escape to the Isle That Time Forgot -- Davaar Island, in Campbeltown Loch, is accessible at low tide to those willing to cross the Dhorlin, a 1km (2/3-mile) run of shingle-paved causeway; boat trips are also possible (ask at the tourist office). Once on the island, you can visit a crucifixion cave painting, the work of local Archibald MacKinnon, painted in 1887. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to walk around this tidal island, with its natural rock gardens.
Southend & the Mull of Kintyre
Some 16km (10 miles) south of Campbeltown, the village of Southend stands across from the Mull of Kintyre, and Monday through Saturday three buses a day run here from Campbeltown. It has sandy beaches, a golf course, and views across the sea to the Island of Sanda and to Ireland. Legend has it that footprints on a rock near the ruin of an old chapel mark the spot where St. Columba first set foot on Scottish soil. Other historians suggest that the footprints mark the spot where ancient kings were crowned.
About 18km (11 miles) from Campbeltown is the Mull of Kintyre. Starting at Southend, you can take a narrow road until you reach the "gap," from which you can walk down to the lighthouse, a distance of 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) before you reach the final point. Expect westerly gales as you go along. This is one of the wildest and most remote parts of the peninsula, and it's this desolation that appeals to visitors. The Mull of Kintyre is only 21km (13 miles) from Ireland. When local resident Paul McCartney made it the subject of a song, hundreds of fans flocked to the area.
A Journey to Blood Rock -- Dunaverty Rock is a jagged hill marking the extreme southern tip of the Kintyre Peninsula. Located 15km (9 1/3 miles) south of Campbeltown and called "Blood Rock" by the locals, it was once the site of a MacDonald stronghold known as Dunaverty Castle, although nothing remains of it today. In 1647, it was the scene of a great massacre, in which some 300 citizens lost their lives. You can reach it by a local bus (marked SOUTH END) traveling from Campbeltown south about six times a day. Nearby, you'll find a series of isolated, unsupervised beaches and the 18-hole Dunaverty Golf Course (tel. 01586/830-677; www.dunavertygolfclub.com). To play costs £28 for a day ticket.