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 Columbas’, 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 the 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 some 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.
In a plot worthy of Dynasty (apparently) this was all the idea of the scheming little brother of Malcolm, Donalbain. In true Machiavellian style when Malcolm was later killed in battle, 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. Malcolm’s son Duncan later deposed him 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.
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 just a short drive from the Cuilidh Kintyre Holiday Home in Carradale and 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 too, 10 minutes walk in Carradale!) Read more and explore links at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintyre
All of Kintyre is within easy reach of our accommodations.