Knapdale is a beautiful and unspoilt area of Argyll, bounded to the south by the Kintyre peninsula and to the north by the Crinan Canal. Its coastline is deeply indented by a series of sea lochs. Perhaps the most beautiful of these is Loch Sween, which stretches north from the Sound of Jura.
The village of Tayvallich sits in a small horseshoe-shaped bay in Loch a'Bhealaich at the north end of Loch Sween. You couldn’t ask for a more idyllic and peaceful spot, where yachts bob in the sheltered waters and kayakers are often seen paddling by.
Tayvallich comes from the Gaelic Tigh a'Bhealaich which mean "the house of the pass". A settlement is known to have existed at Tayvallich from at least the 1750s when it would have been a resting place on the track that ran the length of the peninsula to the Jura ferry at Keillmore. While Tayvallich faces east, its twin village Carsaig faces west onto Carsaig Bay and the Sound of Jura. Thomas Telford built piers at Tayvallich and at Carsaig Bay. With its incredibly protected natural harbour, Tayvallich established itself as a fishing village and remains a vibrant community today, popular with sailors. Carsaig is a tiny settlement wrapped around a shingle bay. The views from here across to the north end of Jura are stunning, particularly at sunset.
Isle of Jura
If those views of Jura inspire you to visit the island, then you can catch the Jura Passenger Ferry from Tayvallich directly to Craighouse on Jura. It runs from Easter until the end of September. Vehicles are not accommodated on this route. Look out for wildlife as you zip across the sound.
One of the highlights of a visit to Tayvallich is the opportunity to sample the local seafood. And there’s no better place than the Tayvallich Inn. This warm and welcoming pub and restaurant overlooks Tayvallich Bay and specialises in fresh, locally caught seafood, much of which is landed by local fishing fleets from the cold, pristine waters of the sound of Jura. There’s a lovely deck which is perfect for al fresco dining on a sunny day. Tayvallich Coffee Shop is the place to go for great coffee and scrummy home made cakes.
Things to see and do
If you fancy a walk or cycle to work up an appetite, Keills Chapel is well worth a visit. You’ll find it at the western end of the peninsula six miles south west of Tayvallich. It’s a truly stunning location and the chapel contains a sculptural feast of almost 40 carved stones, ranging in date from the 8th to the 16th century. One of the highlights is the Keills Cross, a free-standing, ring-headed high cross, carved from blue slate that stands 2 metres tall. It dates from the late 8th or early 9th century and was most likely made by a craftsman from Iona. When you’ve finished exploring the chapel, continue along the road to the end of the peninsula. You’ll reach an old Thomas Telford pier from where you can enjoy the most amazing views. It’s the perfect spot for a picnic. Keep your eyes peeled for otters! Look out to the MacCormaig Isles, which are situated near the entrance to Loch Sween. They’re a popular destination for kayakers and one of the islands, Eileen Mor, is home to St Cormac’s Cave, Chapel and Cross.
Another place for a walk is the wonderful Taynish peninsula, which juts out into Loch Sween just south of Taynish. This National Nature Reserve is one of the largest remaining oak forests in Britain. The woodland, grassland, heath, saltmarsh and shoreline are home to an amazing variety of wildlife. There are a number of way-marked trails. Explore the woodlands on the Woodland Trail, a mostly level and well-surfaced route. If you are feeling more energetic, the Barr Mor Trail is strenuous with some steep climbs, but it gives you a great view from the top. The Coastal Trails take you down to the southern shore on what are, for the most part, level and well-surfaced paths.
So whether you’re looking for an active sailing, kayaking, walking or cycling adventure, or you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and relax in stunning surroundings, it’s time you discovered Tayvallich.