DAY OUT TO CAMPBELTOWN and KINTYRE
is something about the rugged scenery of Western
Scotland, broken up as it is by many islands, lochs,
estuaries and overlooked by mist shrouded hills. There
is always the sound of the sea, a sense of mystery, a
taste of danger when storm winds blow. There is a
literal warmth because of the effect of the Gulf
Stream that passes by the its coast, but there is too,
the warmth of its hospitality.
Romantic wanderings of a fevered mind ? Not really. My
Scottish roots go way back to 1600 or so when my
ancestors went to Ulster, but I still feel at home on
my occasional trips to Scotland, and the further I get
from the big cities the happier I am. One of
the pleasures of sightseeing in Scotland is that the
roads are empty compared to the madness around the big
cities south of the border. If you should take detours
along some of the minor roads it is common to find
sheep grazing by the side of the road, and in Spring
for lambs and baby rabbits to hop out of the way
(hopefully) as you approach. In other parts the
warning sign “beware deer” really means what it says.
There is a different pace about life here.
it makes for a long day it was a real pleasure to
spend time travelling from the Falls of Laura, just
outside Oban, down the length of the western shore of
Kintyre to Campbeltown and back along its east coast.
This is a mini tour of Western Scotland as
heading south we pass through the districts of Lorne,
Argyll, Knapdale and Kintyre. – all names that ring
with history. It is possible to take short detours
along coast roads and savour the stillness and
relevant emptiness of the fertile coastal plain while
offshore can be seen the islands in the Firth of Lorne
– including Shuna, Scarba, Lunga and the Garvellachs.
Beyond them is Mull and Iona where 48 Scottish Kings,
4 Irish Kings and 8 Norwegian Kings lie buried, the
last being Duncan, slain by Macbeth in 1040. It was
from Iona that Saint Columba went out in his
conversion of the Picts to Christianity in the sixth
most dangerous spot in the sea around Scotland is said
to be the whirlpool of Corryvreckan which lies north
of Jura near the Argyll coast. Corryvreckan is a
Gaelic word meaning “the whirlpool of Breacan” who was
a chief of the Picts who drowned there. Even in good
weather the sea boils and it is dangerous to sail near
at any time. In bad weather the water swirls violently
and appears as if being sucked into a pit. The
whirlpool is apparently caused by the meeting of
several tides, but Gaelic legend has it that beneath
it lies the home of a sea beast.
beginning of Kintyre is the small town of Tarbert from
swing out past the end of West Loch Tarbert and the
yachts that lie there, to begin the run down the coast
of Kintyre. Here we catch sight of the Isles of Jura
and Islay with Colonsay hidden from view beyond them ,
and inshore the small island of Gigha. We stopped near
Ronachan on the coastal road to take in the view of
the islands, in the foreground the edge of Gigha,
Islay in the left background and Jura in the right
The light in Scotland can produce quite brilliant
sunsets because of the moisture in the air, other
times it can be incredibly clear. With the
foreshortening effect of the camera it hardly seems to
be about 16 miles to the big islands in the
know when you have arrived in Campbeltown by sight
of the harbour , a fine cross nearby which was brought
from Iona in the 12th century, and sight of the small
island of Davaar guarding the entrance. In a cave on
the island, illuminated by a shaft of light through a
hole in the rock, there is a scene of the Crucifixion
painted by Archibald MacKinnon a native artist, in
1887. I have yet to visit Southend, about 9 miles
south of Campbeltown where it is said that St Columba
first set foot in Scotland and that there are fine
views of the Mull of Kintyre, the Ayrshire coast and
even Ireland. All these views are, however.
conditional upon there not being a sea mist that can
close in very quickly indeed and which has been
responsible for many misadventures and even deaths
over the years.
Campbeltown was first called Kilkerran, until the
Campbells renamed it, and the home of the
Fergusons of Kilkerran, who descended from Fergus, son
of Fergus, in the time of Robert the Bruce in the
fourteenth century. The clan were the keepers of the
cross of St Ciaran. The Rev Norman McLeod , minister
of Glasgow Barony Parish, Dean of the Chapel Royal and
friend of Queen Victoria was born in Campbeltown.
Robert Burns’ Highland Mary lived in the town for some
particular interest is that the Orr family have been
in the area since about 1640 and the sheltered harbour
of Campbeltown may well have been the departure point
for my ancestors who crossed the sea to County Down.
When I think of the tiny little boats they had in
those days, and the rolling waves off shore, there is
a touch of pride and gratitude in their achievements
just getting to their destination.
return trip up the eastern side of Kintyre can be seen
the Isles of Arran and Bute before turning along the
shore of Loch Fyne to Lochgilphead and inland once
more. Stopping points include Saddell, about nine
miles north of Campbeltown where there is the remains
of a monastery built by Somerled, the first Lord of
the Isles and founder of Clan Donald. It is Somerled’s
emblem of the lymphad, the galley with sails furled
and oars in action, that appears on the coat of arms
of the Campbells through marriages to the Stewarts of
It is a
long day and dusk is likely to be settling as you get
to Lochgilphead, but if time affords the ancient
castle of Kilmory and its gardens are close by, and
there are scenic routes through the hills if you want
to go around Loch Fyne past Inveraray and on to Loch
Lomond. Perhaps save these joys for another day which
might include a tour round Loch Awe. Otherwise
on to our hotel and perhaps a dinner of fresh salmon
followed by a juicy Angus steak, a glass or three of a
good claret and perhaps a wee dram to seal the night.
Yes, coming to Scotland can become a habit in my book.
Why not try it yourself?
Campbell of Glen Orchy – a tale.