Activity suggestions to help you explore Kintyre!
Golf in Kintyre
Kintyre boasts terrific scenery and one of the best pastimes to appreciate that is through Golfing. With no less than six golf courses to choose from and five on the peninsula itself, you’ll have enough to keep you busy!
Thirty minutes from Gowanlea Heights in Campbeltown:
Carradale Golf Course
… with stunning panoramas across the Kilbrannan Sound to Arran, Ailsa Craig and on a good day to Ayrshire, their nine-hole golf course has something for every ability – and presents enough of a challenge for even the most experienced players.
Tel: 01583 431 393
Approximately 15 minutes from Gowanlea Heights in Campbeltown:
Machrihanish Golf Course
A historic golf course fully recovered from a recent fire and offers both an 18 hole and a nine-hole course. The 18 hole championship course has an exceptional first hole, and they offer amazing views of the Isles of Jura, Islay and Gigha.
The 18-hole journey features no less than six greens and five tees at the ocean’s edge. More details can be found here:
Website: The Village At Machrihanish Dunes
Machrihanish, Argyll | Scotland PA28 6PT
Phone: Outside U.K. +44 1586 810000 | Within U.K. 0800 151 3701 | E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dunaverty Golf Course
The course is an excellent par 66 18 hole with exceptional views of Sanda Island, Ailsa Craig, Ayrshire and even Northern Ireland! It’s situated near Southend which itself has a glorious beach, and there are loads of things to occupy any non-golfers.
Approximately 50 minutes from Gowanlea Heights in Campbeltown:
Tarbert Golf Course
This is a nine-hole golf course you may have passed on your way down the A83 to Carradale or Campbeltown! This nine-hole course, established on this site in 1924, is attractively situated on the shores of West Loch, Tarbert.
About an hour + from Gowanlea Heights in Campbeltown:
Isle of Gigha
Gigha’s lovely little 9-hole golf course offers you the most beautiful panoramic views of the island and mainland. Get the ferry over to Gigha which will take about 20 minutes from Tayinloan, no booking required. Tayinloan is approximately 40 minutes’ drive from Gowanlea Heights in Campbeltown.
Isle of Gigha Heritage Trust: 01583 505390
The contact form on site.
Ferry information: https://www.calmac.co.uk/article/2129/Gigha
Whisky & Gin Distilleries, and a brewery or two!
The whisky distilleries listed first are all in Campbeltown only a few minutes from Gowanlea Heights, Campbeltown. All of them offer tours and tastings at various times so we’d urge you to contact them first before setting out. Lastly, we include the Isle of Arran distillery and brewery which requires ferry travel.
Here are OUR experiences of them:
Mitchells Glengyle Distillery
Producing Kilkerran single malt.
Recently re-opened and with a fantastic history, tours are available twice a day Monday to Saturday and if you ask, they might be able to help with a group on a Sunday. We visited, see the article!
Mitchell’s Glengyle Ltd.
9 Bolgam Street
Tel: 01586 551710
Sharing the same office as Mitchell’s and a lot of history together (but separate!) Springbank was established in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still. Offering multiple tours and tasting options including a four hour guided walk through Campbeltown, you’re certain to find an option to suit your timings and budget. We visited, see the article!
Springbank Distillers Ltd
9 Bolgam Street
Tel: 01586 552009
Glen Scotia Distillery
Glen Scotia is perhaps the most corporate of the distilleries being owned by the Loch Lomond Group, they offer a wide range of interesting tours and tastings for a variety of fees. We visited, see the article!
Glen Scotia Distillery
12 High Street
Tel: 01586 552 288
Beinn an Tuirc Distillery
Produces Kintyre Gin
…and occupies a former piggery building located on Torrisdale Castle Estate in Kintyre, Scotland. Tours are offered that last around an hour.
Torrisdale Castle is about 25/30 minutes’ drive from Gowanlea in Campbeltown.
Tel: 01583 431 528
Okay, not a distillery at all but a brewery that produces one of my personal favourite ales, Jarl! You’ll pass it on the way here if you go via Loch Fyne and the Rest and Be Thankful, and if you missed it go on the way back home.
Tel: 01499 600120
FERRY TRAVEL REQUIRED
To get there from Kintyre you can take the car across on the Claonaig Lochranza ferry service run by Calmac ferries.
Isle of Arran Distillery
The award-winning Isle of Arran distillery is not to be missed just a short drive from the Lochranza ferry point. They offer tours, tastings and intriguing chocolate pairings!
Isle of Arran Distillers Ltd,
The Isle of Arran,
Tel: 01770 830264
Isle of Arran Brewery
Brewing a selection of craft beers for over a decade the visitor centre was recently built to satisfy demand! Worth a visit to walk through the brewing process, maybe get a bottle or two of Blonde, yum!
Isle of Arran Brewery
Isle of Arran
Tel: 01770 302353
Kintyre has a marvellous history with settlements before the early AD at least.
The Ballochroy Stones are a fantastic megalithic monument with various theories around their use. The most common theory being that of marking the Solstices.
A solitary menhir is at Avinagillan just off the B8024 road.
Machrie Moor Stones
And for a fab day trip to the Isle of Arran, you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Machrie Moor Stone Circles. Seven of them!
Moving closer to the present ever so slightly, two Duns (hill fort sites) are worth a visit.
Kildonan Dun near Saddell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saddell#Kildonan_Dun and Dun Skeig https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dun_Skeig
We’ll come back to Saddell later in the timeline.
As we’re now understanding, Kintyre was home to many people, and for a time it was part of the Scoti Kingdom of Dalriada (Dál Riata). Kintyre has been occupied by the Irish, the Picts, the Scoti, the Vikings and, well, now everyone is welcome.
The relatively stable and progressive Kingdom of Dalriada formed the societal platform that made the adoption of Celtic Christianity much more possible, and two central figures are credited with using this.
Ninian and Columba.
Ninian was probably the first, and the Isle of Sanda has an early 5th Century Chapel said to have been built by him. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninian Sanda is privately owned now, and it’s unlikely anyone will be able to visit except for the birds enjoying the sanctuary there.
Columba, 521 – 597, was an Irish abbot mainly credited with spreading Christianity in what is today Scotland (named after the Scoti). In 563, he travelled to Scotland with twelve companions and first landed on the Kintyre Peninsula, near Southend.
Near Southend and next to a glorious beach, there are four historic sites, three have links to St Columba. Within easy walking distance of each other are Keil Caves, used since prehistoric times and inhabited at the beginning of the 20th Century! There’s a holy well said to have been established by St Columba, a medieval chapel, and two fascinating footprints carved into a rock. One (furthest from the sea) is said to be Columba’s’, although likely to have been carved by a religious zealot. The other footprint nearest the sea was cut as part of the traditions of ancient times. Leaders used them to plant their foot when being anointed. When you visit, you can take in the atmosphere as you imagine the ceremony and the people involved. https://www.britainexpress.com/scotland/Strathclyde/churches/st-columbas-chapel.htm
Columba moved farther north up the west coast of Scotland, and the island of Iona was given to him by his friend Conall mac Comgaill King of Dál Riata. It was here where Columba founded an abbey which became central to the region for centuries and was credited with much of the arts, stone craft and culture of the area.
The rest, as they say, is history. Check this out! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columba
War, huh, what is it good for?
War inevitably occurs, and the Kintyre region didn’t escape conflict. Once the Vikings invaded the Kingdom of Dalriada, it was ultimately destroyed. In its place, the area became named Argyle (now Argyll) which means Gaelic Coast and this was ruled locally by a chap called Godred Crovan. Remember this name!
On to the Battle of the Kings!
Basically, in 1093 the King of Norway, Magnus, had had enough of being Mr Nice Guy and decided he was going to let Malcolm, the King of Scotland, have a bloody nose and take his lands! To stop unnecessary bloodshed, Malcolm promised Magnus he could have the western islands but couldn’t have the mainland. Except he worded it rather carelessly and said something like, “If thouest can sail around land and your rudder is deployed you may have that land west of Scotland”. He should have just said you can have the western islands, but no, he had to be smart.
Tarbert Boat Dragging, aye!
In response, and after studying the inadequate wording, Magnus had his boat dragged over the isthmus at Tarbert (while he was in it) and gained Kintyre as part of his Kingdom. After all, he’d now “sailed” around it so it must have been an island, right? This event is celebrated every summer in Tarbert so watch out for the epic merry boat dragging, called portage, that belies the horror and bloodshed of the wars that followed as a result of this decision.
When King Malcolm was later killed in battle, his brother Donalbain quickly took the throne and in betrayal to the Gaelic people confirmed Magnus should indeed have Kintyre. Despite the fact he was probably doing this to save lives, this made him very unpopular. King Malcolm’s son Duncan later deposed Donalbain after what may have been a very uncomfortable conversation!
War, huh, oh, wait.
Rebellion against Magnus followed, and much fighting ensued until Edgar, another son of Malcolm, signed over the entirety of Kintyre to Magnus in another act of betrayal, if only for peace. The struggle for independence didn’t end there.
Roll on to mid 12th century and Somerled, a product of Gael-Gall mixed blood and the husband of Godred Crovan’s grand-daughter, led a successful revolt against Norway and Kintyre once again became independent. (Remember Godred?) Imagine how Magnus’ rule must have burned in his mind for his family to take up the cause! The successful revolt became known as the Gaelic Renaissance and Somerled later became Thane of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne. With Norse blood in Kintyre diluting over the next few generations, we would see the rise of the Clan Donald and the Lord of the Isles for the next 300 years. That is, until James I revokes the title in Kintyre.
The title “Lord of the Isles” historically referred to the ruler of the Hebrides and the western coast of Scotland. Today, it is a ceremonial title held by a member of the British royal family, namely the Prince of Wales therefore, Prince William is the current Lord of the Isles. As the title is ceremonial it’s just another bauble. A far cry from the immense power it once held.
Somerled’s grandson Donald established Saddell Abbey in 1207, and the remains stand to this day with some fantastic examples of the stone carvings of the period. It is rumoured that Somerled was buried here after the Battle of Renfrew. Saddell Abbey is about 25 minutes from Gowanlea B&B in Campbeltown.
There’s so much more history to explore; we’ve not even touched on the Suppression of the Isles and Skipness Castle, the ghost, Tarbert Castle and Saddell Castle or Robert the Bruce and the abundance of caves he reputedly sheltered in with a spider (there’s one at Port Righ in Carradale!) Read more and explore links at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintyre
All of Kintyre is within easy reach of our accommodation.
Carradale WalksCarradale is an excellent base of operations. Remote enough to give you that feeling of seclusion and with enough amenities to make you feel at home. Nearby are three popular walks with the fourth part of The Kintyre Way:
- The Carradale Explorer
- Deer Hill (Cnoc nan Gabhar)
- Kirnashie Walk
- The Kintyre Way, Carradale to Campbeltown
Kintyre WalksThe Kintyre Way is the obvious walk to mention here. There have been some management irregularities in the past and to improve on that situation a new charity has taken over the management of this wonderfully challenging scenic walk. The new, official site with map and contact details is http://thekintyreway.com so please only use that as the prime source of information and contact point. Along 100 miles over 4-7 days you will discover hidden coves, deserted beaches, woods & forests, castles & fishing villages and an abundance of wildlife. Stretching from Tarbert in the North to Machrihanish in the South, the seven graded & way-marked sections offer a variety of walking terrain from serious hiking to gentle rambles. If you want to go off the beaten track there are a good selection of walks throughout the Kintyre Peninsula within convenient reach of both Carradale and Campbeltown, including GPX files. Give Walk Highlands a visit.
Davaar IslandDavaar Island is situated at the mouth of Campbeltown Loch and can be reached by the causeway called the Dhorlin at low tide. This is one of only 17 islands that can be reached by walking from mainland Scotland. With an operating lighthouse and inhabited by goats, sheep and mink, the island also has a hidden treasure. Inside one of the caves is a painting of the Crucifixion by local artist Archibald MacKinnon in 1887. Take a trip there yourself to investigate! Get the tide times from us here for an excellent day out.
Mull of KintyreWell, who can forget this? Even if you weren’t around in the seventies the echoes of Paul McCartney & Wings performing Mull of Kintyre reverberates through history for good reason. Yes, you can visit the actual Mull of Kintyre, it’s here. There’s also Linda McCartney’s Memorial Garden near the Campbeltown Heritage Center and the actual cottage that featured in the video that was filmed at Saddell Bay! If this is the sort of pilgrimage you were after, then why not?
Skipness Castle and ChapelThe main structure of the castle was built in the early 13th century by the Clan MacSween, with later fortifications and other additions made to the castle through the 13th, 14th and 16th centuries. The castle was garrisoned with royal troops in 1494, during King James IV of Scotland’s Suppression of the Isles and was abandoned in the 17th century shortly after The Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Watch out for the ghost of the Green Lady and you simply MUST have a snack in The Seafood Cabin nearby. Delicious! More details here.
If you’re looking for some exciting opportunities to see wildlife and scenery, there can be no better way than to visit Machrihanish Seabird Observatory, book a place on Mull of Kintyre Sea Adventures or hit the surf at Westport with Pete’s Surf School!
Machrihanish Seabird Observatory
Visit for free, it operates all year round and is based in Machrihanish around twenty minutes drive from Gowanlea Heights. Take your binoculars and camera! If you visit when the tide is on the rise you’ll likely see some otters too.
Mull Of Kintyre Sea Adventures
Join them for an unforgettable adventure; experience the natural beauty of Campbeltown Loch, Sanda Island, the Ailsa Craig and the Kilbrannan Sound.
Booking is absolutely essential. They offer 1 hour fast blasts, 3 or 4 hour sea safaris or private hires departing from Campbeltown Marina.
Pete’s Surf School & Hire
Based from Westport Beach with amazing views, whether you are looking to hire some kit and jump in the water, or get some coaching time with Pete, they have what it takes to get you in the water!
Contact them directly for hire and/or coaching details.
Tel: 07909 661857
A brief overview of what's on offer on the Kintyre 66
The Kintyre 66. Gowanlea Heights B&B is an excellent base from which to explore this exciting route in detail. Take your time on the peninsula and enjoy the many sights, tastes and experiences on offer. Such as…
The Distilleries: From Glen Scotia to Mitchell’s Glengyle, to Springbank to Kintyre Gin, it’s all here. They all offer tours, tastings and of course, shops! Glen Scotia and Springbank have both opened bars. Check with them for any special opening time quirks and see the articles from our visits to Springbank, Kilkerran (Mitchell’s Glengyle) and, of course, Glen Scotia!
The Golf: With six nearby golf courses listed and linked further up, including the award-winning Machrihanish Dunes you won’t want for choice. You could quite literally fill a week with golfing each day.
In History, there are many places to visit, such as Davaar Island, Keil Caves, St. Columba’s footprint, Saddell Abbey and Saddell Bay, the filming location of the Paul McCartney video “Mull of Kintyre” and the location of the Antony Gormley sculpture “Grip”.
The Walks: Not only are we on The Kintyre Way, which is a 100-mile hike around the Kintyre Peninsula, described in glorious detail here, but there is also a network of smaller walks, such as the one to visit the Cave Painting of the Crucifixion on Davaar Island.
The Food: being surrounded by the sea it’s not surprising to learn that seafood is on the menu at most local restaurants, it’s locally caught too. Check out many of the best restaurants such as The Boathouse on Gigha and Number 42 in Campbeltown.
The Music, everyone knows about the Mull of Kintyre by Paul McCartney and Wings, but did you also know about the Mull of Kintyre Music Festival featuring concerts, events, workshops, and entertainment for the children? Now you do.
The Sights, you simply must see the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse and while you’re there see if you can see Northern Ireland. It’s easily visible on a good day. Talking of sights, take in the ocean wildlife by booking a tour with Mull of Kintyre Sea Tours where you can see the puffins, Sanda Isle and maybe the dolphins and Minke Whales.
The Beaches, there are lots of natural and unspoilt beaches nearby. If surfing is your game then visit Westport Beach which offers great views toward the magnificent Isle of Gigha and the paps of Jura. There’s the wide expanse of Machrihanish Beach and at the bottom of the peninsula, you have the lovely sands of Southend and Dunaverty beach. For the history buffs, Dunaverty rock is also the site of a grim massacre. For the surfers among you, there’s Pete’s Surf School at Westport Beach nearby and on the Isle of Gigha there are waterboards at the Activity Centre.
The Islands. Campbeltown is a small, vibrant town with numerous restaurants, coffee shops and so many cakes we should call it the Caketyre Peninsula. The reason I am mentioning this is that you need to stock up before taking an exciting day trip to the nearby Isle of Gigha.
While there, visit Achamore Gardens, which house surprisingly tropical looking plants for Scotland, largely thanks to our proximity to the Gulf Stream. If you want to go further afield, Islay and Jura are within reach too.
Further details are available to our guests.
Gowanlea Heights in Campbeltown offers you excellent exploratory capability from the southern end of Kintyre, giving you a hearty breakfast to start the day and the facilities of town close to hand. It’s an excellent base of operations during your stay on the Kintyre.
For some inspiration as part of a longer road trip, why not check this out? Wild About Argyll, Kintyre & Gigha