Escape the Crowds in the Scottish Wilderness

Escape the Crowds in the Scottish Wilderness

The Allure of Kintyre: A Tranquil Oasis in the Scottish Highlands

As I traversed the winding roads of the Kintyre Peninsula, I couldn’t help but feel like I had stumbled upon a hidden gem tucked away in the vast expanse of the Scottish Highlands. The undulating landscapes, sheltered bays, and wooded glens seemed to beckon me to slow down and savor the moment, a far cry from the bustling tourist hubs I had left behind.

This October, after a particularly hectic year, my partner and I decided we needed a few days of respite in a quiet corner of Scotland where we could simply unwind and enjoy the simpler things in life. We had heard whispers of the Kintyre Peninsula’s remote charm, and as soon as we laid eyes on it, we knew we had found our sanctuary.

Discover the “Mainland Island” of Kintyre

As we ventured south from Tarbert, the charming fishing town that serves as the gateway to Kintyre, the landscape began to transform. The eastern coast of the peninsula was dotted with sheltered bays, lush wooded glens, and magnificent views across the Kilbrannan Sound to the majestic mountains of Arran. It was a quintessentially Scottish scene, with a twist.

The local tourist board markets Kintyre as the “Mainland Island,” and for good reason. This slender stretch of land has an undeniable sense of isolation and self-containment, not unlike that of an island, yet it remains firmly connected to the Scottish mainland. The reason for this unique distinction lies in a bit of historical mischief.

In the 11th century, much of Scotland was claimed as territory by Norse invaders. One particularly cunning Viking prince, Magnus Barelegs, made a deal with Scotland’s King Malcolm that allowed him to lay claim to any land he could navigate around by boat. Interpreting the wording of the deal quite literally, Magnus had his longboat dragged across land from West Loch Tarbert to Loch Fyne, thereby claiming the entirety of Kintyre as his own. Thus, the “Mainland Island” was born.

Tranquility and Wildlife Abound

As we meandered along the B842, the tranquility of Kintyre became palpable. The road was a veritable roller coaster, weaving through steep and twisting climbs as it navigated the various glens that cut inland from the Kilbrannan Sound. But the effort was well worth it, as we were rewarded with breathtaking vistas at every turn.

The serenity of Kintyre isn’t just enjoyed by humans, though. The animal kingdom seems to coexist happily with the occasional visitor, and we were treated to some delightful sightings during our stay. At the harbor in Carradale, we watched in awe as resident seals swam playfully, hoping for a handout from the local fishermen. And just a few meters from the pier at Claonaig, where the ferry to Arran departs, we were lucky enough to spot a relaxed otter diving for mollusks – a rare treat indeed.

These moments of connection with the natural world were the perfect antidote to the hectic pace of our daily lives, and they served as a gentle reminder to slow down and appreciate the simple joys that the Scottish wilderness has to offer.

Exploring Kintyre’s Rich History and Heritage

As one of the closest landfalls to Ireland, the Kintyre Peninsula and its surrounding seas have long been an important thoroughfare for trade and early Christian missionaries. At Southend, we discovered the ruins of a chapel with links to the revered St. Columba, who is said to have knelt and prayed here after his safe arrival in Scotland from Ireland in 563 AD.

While the story of St. Columba’s footprint in the nearby stone may be more legend than fact, the nearby 13th-century chapel dedicated to the saint is a tangible reminder of Kintyre’s deep-rooted history. Just a short drive away, we stumbled upon another important religious site – the Cistercian Abbey at Saddell. Though little remains of the original structure, the impressive collection of medieval grave slabs adorned with intricate carvings, known as the “Kintyre School,” is a testament to the abbey’s former grandeur.

As we wandered through these historic sites, we couldn’t help but be captivated by the sense of serenity and isolation that permeated the landscape. It was easy to imagine the Cistercian monks of old finding solace in these remote and tranquil settings, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Discovering the Treasures of Campbeltown

While the remote and serene nature of Kintyre was a major draw for us, we couldn’t resist the temptation to explore the area’s most lively and vibrant town – Campbeltown. As we approached the bustling harbor, it was hard to reconcile the sleepy atmosphere of modern-day Campbeltown with the hive of industry that once thrived here.

In the early 1800s, Campbeltown boasted around 25 active distilleries, earning it the title of the “whisky capital of Scotland,” surpassing even the renowned Speyside region. Today, only three distilleries remain – Springbank, Glen Scotia, and the more recent Glengyle – but they continue to produce some of the finest single malt whiskies in the country.

As we wandered the streets, we couldn’t help but wonder about the town’s former glory days, when it was a bustling port for the “puffer” boats sailing to Ireland and the islands, and home to a thriving shipbuilding industry and small coal mining operation. While the modern-day Campbeltown may have a slightly sleepy atmosphere, its maritime heritage and world-renowned whisky scene make it a must-visit destination for any traveler exploring the Kintyre Peninsula.

Escape to the West Coast

After immersing ourselves in the history and tranquility of Kintyre’s eastern coast, we decided to venture to the rugged and exposed western side of the peninsula. Here, the scenery and views took on a dramatically different character, as we were fully exposed to the powerful North Atlantic weather systems rolling in from the sea.

One of the standout attractions of the west coast is the renowned Machrihanish Links golf course, which has been hailed as one of the best in the world. An American company, recognizing its potential, has recently bought and refurbished the nearby Ugadale Hotel, ensuring that this slice of golfing paradise remains at the top of its game.

But golf isn’t the only draw of Machrihanish and the surrounding area. Just a half-mile west of the Ugadale Hotel, we stumbled upon the site of a historic radio mast that was erected in 1906 for the purpose of transatlantic communications. The mast has long since fallen victim to the relentless Atlantic storms, but the concrete foundations serve as a testament to the ingenuity and determination of those who sought to connect Scotland to the world.

As we stood on the windswept shore, gazing out at the vast expanse of the North Atlantic, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe and humility in the face of nature’s raw power. It was a fitting end to our journey through the Scottish wilderness, a reminder that even in the most remote and untamed corners of the Highlands, there are always new wonders to discover.

Escape to Loch Ness Shores

As I reflected on our time in Kintyre, I couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to explore this hidden gem of the Scottish Highlands. The sense of isolation, the abundance of wildlife, the rich history, and the dramatic natural beauty all combined to create an unforgettable experience.

If you’re looking to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Scottish wilderness, I can’t recommend Kintyre highly enough. And if you’re seeking an equally captivating, yet slightly more accessible, destination, I’d encourage you to consider Loch Ness Shores, a campsite nestled in the heart of the Highlands that offers the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation.

So why not heed the call of the Scottish wilderness and plan your escape today? Whether you choose the remote charm of Kintyre or the captivating allure of Loch Ness Shores, I can assure you that the memories you create will be as enduring as the landscapes that inspire them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top