Kintyre is a long finger of land that stretches south towards Ireland. It’s almost entirely surrounded by water, with the Atlantic to the west, Kilbrannan Sound to the east and West Loch Tarbert and Loch Fyne to the north. So no wonder it’s one of Scotland’s top spots for watersports. There’s something for all watersport enthusiasts, with surfing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding and more on offer. You’ll find plenty of local operators who will be happy to show you the ropes and rent out the requisite gear.
The west coast of Kintyre has numerous deserted sandy beaches which are often pounded by Atlantic breakers, making it a destination for surfers in the know! Westport Beach stretches for six miles to Machrihanish. It has its own surfcam so you can check the waves before you arrive. Pete’s Surf School operates from the car park at Westport Beach, providing lessons for all levels as well as surf gear hire. Warm 5mm suits are standard all year round and boots, gloves and hoods are available too. Pete, who runs the surf school, says: ‘Kintyre is a surfing gem, providing waves for all abilities. A narrow window between the north tip of Ireland and the southern point of Islay allows Atlantic swells through to hit the west coast. From Machrihanish to Glenbarr, beautiful beaches convert the swell into waves fit for beginner and expert alike.’
The summer months certainly draw more people to Kintyre’s beach for a spot of surfing, but never to the point of being crowded. Be careful though – this is the mighty Atlantic, and you should always take certain precautions before getting in the water. Make sure you have the right equipment and ask advice from the locals about surfing conditions.
Post-surfing, good food and drink is essential! From Westport Beach, why not travel north to Bellochantuy and the Argyll Hotel, where you can get lovely food right on the beach? A couple of miles further on is Glenbarr Stores, offering great cake and coffee.
The east coast of Kintyre is gentler, and offers wonderful kayaking opportunities. Enjoy stunning views to Arran as you paddle around the coastline. Carradale Bay, a stunning and extensive, sandy, south-facing beach, is a wonderful place to visit with your kayak, as is the wild and remote Saddell Bay. Paddle to Skipness and go ashore to see the ruins of the 13th-century castle and enjoy the freshest scallops, mussels and oysters at the Skipness Seafood Cabin.
For kayaking lessons and guided kayak journeys, why not join a Kayak Majik trip from West Loch Shores? The warm, shallow waters of Escart Bay are ideal for learning paddlesports and honing your skills on the water. You can enjoy everything from kayaking taster sessions to a full-blown sea kayaking expedition. Instructor Dave knows the waters of Kintyre like the back of his hand, and there are some great kayaking journeys to choose from. Paddle out towards Eilean da Ghallagain, the Island of Two Strangers, where you might see seals and ospreys. Or how about a trip starting at Tarbert Harbour which takes in two local beaches, the White Shore and Shell Beach?
Kayak Majik also offer stand up paddleboarding, with regular group sessions and tuition throughout the summer. It’s a wonderful way to explore the waters around Kintyre and get up close and personal with the wildlife.
Go to Gigha
During the summer, hop on the ferry to Gigha and you’ll find Gigha Boats Activity Centre. The beautiful, shallow bay here is perfect for family watersport fun. Watersports hire includes single and double 'sit on top' sea kayaks, paddle boards, a rowing boat and a pedalo, as well as a range of wetsuits, snorkels, masks and fins. Staff are on hand to demonstrate the equipment and monitor activities from a safety launch. There's also a mini chandlery. If you’d like to explore the island further, you can hire bikes, which can also be fitted with tag-alongs, safety seats and a canopy buggy for toddlers and children. Open daily from Easter to mid/late September (weather dependent). It’s worth phoning ahead to check. Just across the bay is the wonderful Gigha Boathouse Restaurant.
If you’d like to be on the water (rather than in it!), how about taking a boat trip? Mull of Kintyre Seatours runs regular wildlife-watching trips from Campbeltown. Go to Sanda to see the seal colony, visit Ailsa Craig or join a whale-watching trip in Kilbrannan Sound. All the family will enjoy the 30-minute fast blast to Davaar island.
Inspired? Then don't miss the Campbeltown Community Regatta on 4th August 2018, where you can try your hand at sailing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, windsurfing or diving all for free! The event takes place at Dalintober Beach, Campbeltown Loch and the Aqualibrium.
Find out more about things to see and do in Kintyre and Gigha.
Photo Credit: Kieran Duncan