The Kintyre 66
Our advice? Take it slowly to take in the scenery and experience it all
What is the Kintyre 66?
The Kintyre 66 route is 66 miles (106.22 km) on the existing A83 and B842 roads looping around the Kintyre peninsula. There are another 6 spurs taking you on to further destinations that are just as lovely to explore. While many will still want to bag the route quickly, the best way to follow it is to take your time and make it an adventurous road trip, so you capture it all.
The official details are linked here where you can get a downloadable map and guide of places to visit and things to see and do.
Why create the Kintyre 66?
The Kintyre 66 was launched at the beginning of May 2021 and has already generated huge interest. This lesser-travelled area has been one of Scotland’s best kept secrets for years. We often hear of people taking the well-known routes such as the North Coast 500, or going up to Fort William and Ben Nevis, or even to famous isles like Skye. In comparison, Kintyre sometimes feels a bit left out.
The positive side effect of this relative isolation means the region remains unspoiled with stunning scenery, magnificent vistas, and a sense that time has slowed a little, meaning epic views and authentic experiences await you. You have room to breathe, time to think, and the opportunity to appreciate everything the region has to offer, in detail, at your own leisurely pace.
Kintyre is not a through route, it’s a true destination, so the creation of the Kintyre 66 makes a lot of sense to better promote what there is to see and do and to suggest a style in which to do it. This is why the Kintyre 66 was created, to showcase the region and to highlight it as a destination.
The technical details!
The Kintyre peninsula itself lies on the Gulf Stream. This means you get much milder weather overall and by the time showers come much of it has blown over as it’s no more than 11 miles (17.7 km) wide at the widest point and 30 miles (48.28 km) long. The number of Torbay Palms (Cordyline Australis) that are dotted around can be surprising and just shows how well the climate is suited to these plants. Their presence also lends a distinctly tropical air to this beautiful area of Scotland.
What about The Kintyre Way?
The Kintyre Way is a walking/cycling route (mainly walking) that takes you around the peninsula but also crosses into the interior of hilly moorland and beautiful lochs. The coastal parts (of which there are many) also offer magnificent views. Learn more about the Kintyre Way on their website and their Facebook page and maybe mix it up a little!
A little taster at Skipness
This is a little guide based on my experience. Personally, I just love castles, absolutely adore seafood and apparently enjoy travelling clockwise around maps, so assuming we’re starting at the top and have fully explored Tarbert, one of my first stops is going to be Skipness. I write about in a bit more detail here and just wanted to mention once again that the views across to Arran are amazing from there!
The whole experience of eating at the Seafood Cabin, witnessing the processes used in the Smokehouse, and the relaxing nature of the day out itself is just sublime. On one of our days out, we’d packed some French Bread and after buying some pate at the Smokehouse we spent a few hours sat on Skipness beach, enjoying the view of the sparkling sea toward Arran, just lazily picnicking as the hours passed by. A very simple day but just gorgeous.
Head south along the B842 winding single track road and before long you’ll come across the sleepy little village of Carradale. Carradale has its own working harbour with a mélange of colourful boats, lobster pots and fishing baskets offering great views across the Kilbrannan Sound toward Arran and lots of photo opportunities.
The nearby Carradale Bay is just gorgeous whatever the weather. We’ve had the kids down there when it’s been sunny and warm without the smallest breeze, to walking the dog in the depths of winter with the white horses crashing to the shore. We never tire of the experience here.
While you’re here in Carradale, there’re great places to eat and drink such as the amazing Drumfearne Guest House and Tea Room, The Glen Bar & Restaurant, The Carradale Hotel and The Ashbank Hotel. There’s also a small network of forest trails and walks including the Kirnashie Walk, Deer Hill and Sally’s Walk. They all branch out from the Network Centre.
Bienn an Turic gin distillers is next, just a short way south along the B842 at Torrisdale Castle and is the home of Kintyre Gin. There’re tours available, a gin school, a shop (of course) and a café! Be sure to pay them a visit.
Next on the list is Saddell which is a day trip in itself as it features the bothy and beach used in the very famous Paul McCartney and Wings video of Mull of Kintyre. Saddell Castle and the remains of Saddell Abbey and its connection with Iona are resplendent in situ with the only remaining Antony Gormley statue “Grip” standing watch against invaders. I’m not sure what invaders there are, maybe seals are invading!
Hop down to the Wee Toon next, and that’s Campbeltown. This is where our B&B is, Gowanlea Heights, and where we’ve made our home. There’s not a day goes by that we don’t pinch ourselves and remark on how lucky we are. Check it out and stay if you like. There’s nothing quite like starting the day with a hearty, cooked breakfast after a comfortable night’s sleep in a gorgeous Victorian Villa.
The Wee Toon has many places to go as you’d expect. It features a lovely loch where Davaar Island dominates the horizon. You can take a day trip across and climb to the trig point or visit what our kids have named “the Jesus cave” which is where you’ll find a painting of the crucifixion. Or do both!
Where do I start with dining out? I do mention these on the Gowanlea Heights page and go into more detail with specific recommendations for guests, but perhaps I should still mention that you’ll never be hungry, whatever your style. So, if you fancy a chippie, there’s The Crew. Pizza and takeout? Rosie’s Rolls. Tea, cake, and light meals? Tea on The Quay and Café Bluebell. Seafood and sit down dining? 42 on Main Street or the Harbourview Grill and their amazing Haggis Nachos! Pubs? Nearly every corner but for whisky, there’s the leader of the pack, the Ardshiel Hotel Bar with around 500 types to choose from.
What you won’t find is a corporate chain. Campbeltown, in the main, has local, independent businesses featuring delicious local produce. Nearly every penny you spend goes into the local economy which makes you and your visit especially important. You might also like to know there’s a genuine farmer’s market every Saturday at the Campbeltown Heritage Centre too!
Campbeltown features three distilleries which is roughly a tenth of what it had during its Victorian heyday but what remains are strong and vibrant. There’s Mitchell’s Glengyle, Springbank and Glen Scotia. Pay them a visit and go on the tours!
Wow. I’m not even halfway around the peninsula on the Kintyre 66 and I’ve written so much already! Let’s carry on!
Southend is a place with a lot of ancient history too, this features St Columba’s footprint, Dunaverty Castle, Keil Caves that had a tinker and his family living there until the early 1900s, and the fantastic Muneroys! They bake cakes that have to be seen to be believed, then eaten of course. Then you just have to buy more to take home. We’ve spent a few summers sitting on Southend beach munching on their delicious meringues and cakes.
A must-do is visiting the Mull of Kintyre and the lighthouse itself. A single track roads takes you there, and with a bit of care you can park up, then take a short walk down to the lighthouse. You can even see Northern Ireland from here! I will warn you right now that the short but steep walk back to the car park is a killer on the thighs. At least, it was on my thighs. Maybe it was all that cake?
Next, we have Machrihanish and to be fair the only place I’ve been to is the magnificent sandy beach. I haven’t visited the golf as I don’t play nor the Gauldrons (Bay of Storms) nor the Tin Roof Diner at Machrihanish air base, but that’s only due to Covid-19 restrictions which are now gradually lifting at the time of writing this.
Travelling north now and I know Nick will probably appreciate a mention of the Argyll Hotel that he and his partner Ian own. It’s a dog friendly hotel in Bellochantuy with fabulous sea views and great food. Pay them a visit!
Glenbarr Abbey is next on my to-do list as I haven’t got around to seeing it yet. We always visit the Glenbarr garden centre with the café and shop selling a wide selection of yet more food and drinks. Don’t miss this opportunity to stock up on your way around the route.
Isle of Gigha
Gigha is next and I do want to mention that if you wanted to make the most of a visit to Kintyre you really should take some time out to visit Gigha. Gigha is simply beautiful and no wonder the Vikings called it Gods Isle. The ferry is “turn up and go” with sailings on the hour and twenty minutes later you’re on Gigha. If you need to wait a bit for it, why not pop into Big Jessie’s Tearoom?
There’s much, much more but this is all I have for you right now. I really hope that I’ve provided some ideas for your visit and encouraged you to soak in the sights and the experience of this glorious part of Scotland. This is my take of the Kintyre 66, a fantastic route exploring Kintyre and showcasing the best this region has to offer. Please get in touch if you have any questions.
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Bilbo by J.R.R. Tolkien