Kintyre Way July 2023

Date walked: 04/07/2023

Time taken: 6 days

Distance: 161km

Kintyre Way
4th – 9th July 2023

Tarbert – Skipness (11 miles)

The 12 o’clock bus from Glasgow left me at Tarbert at 3pm, leaving enough time to stock up on supplies in Tarbert and complete the first section of the route to the east facing coast at Skipness.

The Kintyre Way starts (or ends) on the front at Tarbert, opposite the Co-Op. Here, as elsewhere on the route, there is an information board with map and the distinctive light blue way markers which point the way along the whole route.
The way begins up by the castle following local paths, reaching a cairn and giving fine views back down to the town and up Loch Fyne. From here, it’s up through a plantation and over a moor where Arran mountains and the Kilbrannan Sound come into view. The Way then descends down through another plantation joining forestry tracks into Skipness. This was a straightforward section. Easy to navigate with the prominent way markers. I also used flyers about each route section obtained from the friends of the Kintyre Way via their website.

The well-known seafood shack at Skipness was closed when I arrived. This was a pattern and something to note if doing the Kintyre Way on consecutive days; there are not many places to stock up on provisions, and the places that do exist have short opening hours, so some forward planning is needed. A highlight, however, was each day’s walk finishing on the coast. I was wild-camping and found an idyllic pitch by the water each night.

Claonaig – Clachan (10 miles) & Clachan - Tayinloan (9 miles)

Two sections in one for me. I camped between Skipness and Claonaig. From here I started off along the road past the CalMac ferry terminal, the morning ferry arriving from Lochranza on Arran, up the lane and onto the moor. I had read this was a boggy section but it was fairly dry this day, it was a long walk up and over but gives a good impression of the extent of the hinterland of the Mull of Kintyre, which is more known for its coasts. The Way descends past some lochans, then steeply down and onto the busy A83 at Clachan. Here there is a good petrol/service station where it is wise to stock up.

The next section runs down the west coast with fantastic views across to Jura and Islay as well as Gigha - closer at hand. I enjoyed the zig-zagging between the east and west coasts, and here the wilder Atlantic side. The path meanders around the A83, the main road down to Campbeltown, in places overgrown with ferns, in other places on the road itself, but being coastal there is always the option to just walk on the beach, which I did much of the time.

The Way passes some old standing stones and houses before reaching Tayinloan, another CalMac port, this time for the Isle of Gigha. There is a tea room here but it was closed when I passed, luckily I had stocked up at Clachan petrol station!
I had thought to camp in the hills above Tayinloan but found an idyllic nook in the dunes, looking out to a sunset over Gigha. There was a campsite here too and, I imagine, some accommodation options in Tayinloan but little else in the way of facilities.

Tayinloan – Carradale (16 miles)

This was a good walk. Up and over the Mull’s spine again. Mostly on forestry tracks, passing ruined villages then into a windmill farm. At one point both coasts are visible and it feels the Mull is narrow, but then the route descends and runs along little glens which makes it feel much more expansive.

It started raining this day and I arrived in Carradale in driving wind and rain. Though a small place the village is spread out over Carradale West (shop and restaurant), Carradale East (B&B, pub, hotel) and Carradale Bay (campsite and wild-camping spots). Signs point to each one. The Way pops you out close to Carradale West – handy for the shop. Due to the rain I enquired as a to a bed for the night but found nothing. After an enjoyable pint in the pub I fled into the rain, eventually pitching my soaking tent under an oak tree.

Carradale - Campbeltown (22 miles)

A long day to Campbeltown, the main town on the Mull of Kintyre. Initially the route heads out of the village and along some slippery rocks, best done at low to mid tide. This is a relatively short section before it goes up onto the road and into the Torrisdale Estate. Here the route passes an excellent café which does good coffee, cakes and meals. Then it’s up into the hills, on forestry tracks then down onto farmland.

Just past Ifferdale Farm is a waterfall, perfect for a quick shower! It is marked by a cairn but easy to spot as it’s next to the track. The route arrives along the shores of Lussa Loch then a long trudge along roads into the metropolis of Campbeltown. Here there are lots of accommodation options. I stayed at my Mum’s house, but if wild-camping I’d probably pitch somewhere around Lussa Loch as after this it is mostly farmland and around the town there are fewer options.

Campbeltown – Southend (16 miles)

Good chance to stock up on provisions in Campbeltown; along this section of the Way there are no facilities. In fact it is a tough section: all road walking with some steep climbs. By this stage in the walk, my feet and legs were feeling it. Still, there were great views out to sea, especially passing Davaar and there was a real sense of rounding the Mull itself as the route follows the coast from east-facing Campbeltown round to the southern-facing Southend.

Southend is a small village with tearoom (closed) and a hotel and campsite. I went beyond this to the area around Keil Caves for a beautiful, peaceful pitch for the evening.

Southend – Machrihanish (16 miles)

The final day! For the first four miles or so out of Southend, the route is along the road, passing farms and fields. It gets interesting when it turns off at Amod farm, pointing first along the edge of fields and then up into the hills. Finally the route is on high moors, and it feels like a place for walking rather than for vehicles. Again it gives a sense of the vastness of this part of the peninsula, I used the OS map here but the way markers were frequent and, due to the bright blue, very easy to spot. The path enters Largiebaan Nature Reserve with sweet nothing except cattle (in fields) and birds. It was a lovely section of the walk which runs down and then up, suddenly opening out onto a cliff-top path.

This is truly the best section of the walk. The final miles are high up on cliffs looking down to tantalising little bays – ideal picnic/camp spots if time allowed – then finally cutting inland and down into Machrihanish. The end is a beach which, on the July day I arrived, was an ideal place to rest, take a splash and reflect on a long walk.

If I was to do it again I might factor in a couple of rest days, along with excursions out to Gigha and Arran, possibly more time in Campbeltown and I’d stay in an Air BnB or a farmhouse – the route is mostly solitary and far from anywhere. I didn’t encounter or hear about anyone else doing it during my 6 days. A highlight, however, was taking the LoganAir flight back to Glasgow at the end. The plane flies over a good section of the route allowing an interesting perspective of land you can feel in your legs! Though it is a strange sensation being plunged from the wilds of Kintyre back into Glasgow city centre within 30 minutes!

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