Kintyre is a fabulous place to explore. This beautiful peninsula – a long finger of land stretching south towards Ireland – is packed with things to see and do. From the wild sandy beaches of the Atlantic west coast to beautiful island of Gigha and the whisky heritage of Campbeltown, it’s as diverse as it is beautiful. What’s more, you can drive or cycle (if you’re a fit and experienced cyclist!) around the peninsula by following the ‘Kintyre loop’. Take in an abundance of sights on this route. Stop off along the way to visit castles, beaches, distilleries and more.
Start your journey in Tarbert, the gateway to Kintyre. It’s a working fishing village and the shops, hotels and art galleries cluster around the natural harbour. Before you head off on your journey take the short walk up to Tarbert Castle. It sits high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the harbour. The earliest stone structure on this site dates from at least as far back as the 13th century, and possibly even earlier.
From Tarbert, head south west along the A83. Five miles along this route, take a left turn onto the B8001. This single track road winds through beautiful countryside to Claonaig and along the coast to the village of Skipness. It’s well worth taking the time to visit Skipness Castle, where you can climb up a narrow staircase and onto the ramparts where you’ll be treated to incredible views across the Kilbrannan Sound to Arran. In the summer feast on fresh seafood from the Skipness Seafood Cabin in the castle grounds and check out the Skipness Smokery.
Head back along the B8001 to Claonaig and then pick up the B842 which will take you down Kintyre’s beautiful east coast. Enjoy stunning seascape vistas and fabulous views of Arran as you drive (or pedal) along. Take the short detour to Carradale where there’s a magnificent sandy bay and a golf course, then continue to the tiny hamlet of Saddell, home to Saddell Abbey. This ruined Cistercian monastery is a fascinating place to explore. The highlight is a collection of late medieval grave slabs, displayed in a shelter. From Saddell you can walk to Saddell Bay, passing Saddell Castle. This wild and remote beach was used in the video for Mull Of Kintyre, the multi-million selling song by Paul McCartney and Wings. Look out for the sculpture by Anthony Gormley standing on the rocks in front of the castle.
Continue along the B842. Before you reach Campbeltown you’ll see Davaar island. This tidal island is linked to the mainland by a natural shingle causeway. You can walk across the Dhorlin at low tide in around 40 minutes, but check the times of the tides or you could get stranded!
Your next stop is Campbeltown, a bustling town that’s home to no less than three whisky distilleries, as well as lots of shops and cafés. If you have time, it’s well worth taking a distillery tour to discover Campbeltown’s fascinating whisky heritage.
Now it’s time to head even further south. Continue along the B842 to Southend and Muneroy Tearooms. Take a walk along Dunaverty Bay, a magnificent sandy beach, and visit Columba’s Footprints, Keil Cave and St Columba’s Chapel.
If you have time, you can take the ‘long and winding road’ to the Mull of Kintyre. This wild and windswept spot, made famous by the 1977 Paul McCartney and Wings hit, is at the extreme southwestern tip of the Kintyre peninsula.
Now make your way back to Campbeltown and head north out of Campbeltown on the A83 up the west coast of Kintyre. Stop off at Glenbarr Stores and Café for delicious coffee and cakes. Westport Beach is a huge stretch of sand often pounded by Atlantic breakers. It’s popular with surfers and you can get surf lessons here with Pete’s Surf School. At Tayinloan you can catch the ferry to the beautiful island of Gigha. The main attractions on Gigha – aside from the peace, quiet and wildlife – are the white sandy beaches and the fabulous local food. And it doesn’t get much better than The Boathouse Café Bar at Ardminish Bay.
Follow the A83 back to Tarbert and your Kintyre journey is complete!