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Kintyre Way 4 days / 82 miles (131km)

OS Route Map South Section→ Map GPX Route file →
OS Route Map North Section→ Map GPX Route file →
Kintyre Way Logo

Date: 24 May 2018
South Section: Start: Southend (Wallace Cottages) / Finish: Machrihanish.
North Section: Start: Campbeltown / Finish: Tarbert (abundant free parking).

Bus information and Journey Planner: Traveline Scotland
Tarbert → Campbeltown: Scottish Citylink Service 926 Glasgow ↔ Campbeltown.
Machrihanish → Campbeltown: West Coast Motors Service 442 Machrihanish ↔ Campbeltown.

Kintyre Way: Official Website Maps: Explorer 356 & 357: Kintyre South & North.

Day 1Dunaverty Bay, Remuil Hill & Binnein Fithich11.1miles / 2098 feet (17.9km / 639m)
Day 2Innean Glen, Lussa Loch & Carradale27.1miles / 3839 feet (43.6km / 1170m)
Day 3Deucheran Hill, Tayinloan & Clachan22.2miles / 2262 feet (35.7km / 689m)
Day 4Claonaig, Skipness & Tarbert21.4miles / 2835 feet (34.4km / 864m)
Pitch on Cnoc nan Gabhar

A 4-day backpack of the Kintyre Way (KW) waymarked trail in Argyll, running through the peninsula from Southend in the south to Tarbert in the north (the KW is usually walked north to south as described on the official website).

Note on variants: this is the old variant of the KW that included the 5.4miles (8.7km) B843/B842 road walk link from Campbeltown to Machrihanish. Many walkers sensibly avoided this, as I did, by taking a 17-minute journey on the local bus service, exceptions being absolute purists or those with a hard fetish for tarmac - there is quite enough road and hard track walking as it is.

KW marker post

The new official KW route omits the above road walk and instead joins Campbeltown with Southend by a 13.7miles (22km) road walk. Ouch!. In compensation at least the view must be a lot better from the coast road. This new section is also sandwiched by road walks common to both variants of 5.8 miles (9.3km) north of Campbeltown and 5.5 miles (8.8km) out from Southend, making a total of 25 miles (40km) of continuous road walk on the new route apart from a brief walk along the sands of Dunaverty Bay.

Scotlands Great Trails Logo

Either way, if you plan to put in long or moderately long days, be supremely confident in your footwear and ensure that it has very good cushioning - you will need it. The route is marked by powder-blue marker posts bearing the KW logo as shown above. There are also taller plain milestone posts showing the current mileage in both directions measured on the new route.

The weather forecast was highly unusual: warm or hot sunny days for a week ahead in Scotland but often wet with thunderstorms farther south in England. I took the opportunity to pack my gear for this trail backpack at the last minute, despite some misgivings about the timescale including a bank holiday weekend. I was familiar with the Citylink 926 coach service from my Cowal Way trip last year, but this time I would be driving all the way to Tarbert and didn't book an e-ticket in advance, judging that the last leg of its long journey to Campbeltown would not be packed full - this turned out fine.

Day 1 - Dunaverty Bay, Remuil Hill & Binnein Fithich

I arrived in Tarbert in plenty of time for the coach, bought some food and a drink and sat at the picturesque harbour a while, watching the oystercatchers and an otter in the seaweed. The coach was only a few minutes behind schedule and I arrived in Campbeltown well over an hour before the next 400 bus for Southend. I was keen to get going on the trail and I took a taxi from the town centre rank to Wallace Cottages in Southend, the start of the old KW route.

The KW starts after the last building and heads towards the sea on a track bound for the striking headland of Dunaverty, well seen from the enjoyable walk along the sandy beach of the bay along with Sanda Island and Sheep Island.

Tarbert harbour
Tarbert harbour (24 May 2018__11:15:12)
Dunaverty Bay
Dunaverty Bay (24 May 2018__14:28:34)
Looking back across Dunaverty Bay
Looking back across Dunaverty Bay (24 May 2018__14:40:31)
Sheep Island & Sanda Island from Keil Point
Sheep Island & Sanda Island from Keil Point (24 May 2018__15:06:30)

At the far end of the bay the KW takes to the road for several miles to the access drive of Amod Farm, crosses the stream and doubles back to begin the ascent of Amod Hill, an indistinct and sometimes rather wet line but easy to follow despite one of the KW marker posts lying flat. Where the line crosses a fence in wet ground, I was surprised to find a picnic bench slightly raised on a little oasis of dry grass.

The thin path traverses Amod Hill alongside the forest and undulates to arrive at the higher top of Remuil Hill, giving good views back towards Ailsa Craig and a pleasant aspect across Glenadale.

The path descends the slopes and traverses another forest edge to reach the track through Largiebaan nature reserve, turning westwards through the trees shortly before the buildings.

View to Ailsa Craig & Sanda Island from Remuil Hill
View to Ailsa Craig & Sanda Island from Remuil Hill (24 May 2018__17:21:21)
View from Largiebaan path
View from Largiebaan path (24 May 2018__18:37:52)

Emerging from the trees the line descends a little over open ground to a stile and the best section of the route, the ascent and traverse of the seaward cliffs and coves of the rugged west coast.

A sharp ascent led to the top of Binnein Fithich, a small rise perched on the cliffs at the western spur of Cnoc Moy with grand views into the gullies and out to sea. I found a good pitch spot nearby and called it a day.

Cliffs below Binnein Fithich
Cliffs below Binnein Fithich (24 May 2018__19:00:50)
View back from Binnein Fithich slopes
View back from Binnein Fithich slopes (24 May 2018__19:08:14)
Evening sky from Binnein Fithich
Evening sky from Binnein Fithich (24 May 2018__19:31:12)
Evening light on Binnein Fithich from pitch
Evening light on Binnein Fithich from pitch (24 May 2018__20:20:05)
Pitch on Binnein Fithich
Pitch on Binnein Fithich (24 May 2018__21:12:16)

Day 2 - Innean Glen, Lussa Loch & Carradale

An early start on a grand morning brought the dawn light skimming the gullies and coves as the path descended sharply weaving around the slopes towards Innean Glen. At An Cirein where the Allt Dubh flows into the cove, the Sailor's grave can be seen below on the grassy shore.

The path ascends eastwards up Innean Glen to a wide and quite boggy plain of cotton grass, becoming squelchy near the Old Shielings, and descends via a footbridge to Ballygrogan. A short way eastwards is the road head into Machrihanish where I was in good time for the first bus to Campbeltown.

Early light at An Cirein
Early light at An Cirein (25 May 2018__05:21:24)
Innean Glen cove
Innean Glen cove (25 May 2018__05:37:02)
View back from the Old Shielings
View back from the Old Shielings (25 May 2018__06:25:28)
Machrihanish
Machrihanish (25 May 2018__07:26:19)

I bought some food and drink in Campbeltown and set off northwards on another long road hike to Lussa Loch. Bodies of water always add much to the landscape view though here the felled trees on the slopes and wind farm in the background gave the loch an industrial aura.

The route from here to Carradale Bay is mainly typical forestry tracks and paths, quite pleasant and easy going.

On reaching the road at Carradale Bay there are two alternatives: a descent to a pathless shoreline of potentially wet and slippery flooded rock depending on the tides, or a continuation along the road. I looked at the attached tide table (for 2016 if I read it correctly without my specs!) and, in a moment of laziness and not trusting my patchy recollection of tidal physics, decided not to risk it and took the shorter road route to Waterfoot and the bridge over Carradale Water.

Lussa Loch
Lussa Loch (25 May 2018__11:37:49)
View from forest above Bordadubh Water
View from forest above Bordadubh Water (25 May 2018__13:15:43)
Forestry view
Forestry view (25 May 2018__15:11:04)

Beyond the bridge a pleasant woodland walk rejoins the B842 at the small Visitor Centre and bike hire/repair. The centre was closed but the public toilet at the back was open. The KW ascends a short way to a T-junction at a forest track.

From here the official KW route turns right to descend to Carradale and its facilities and climbs back around the flanks of Cnoc nan Gabhar. At this point I made my planned route deviation and instead turned left a short way to join a local walk ascending the hill directly on a mapped path and signed with the familiar forestry colour-coded posts.

The good path climbs to the 160m contour and weaves around the hummocky topology of the hill to its south ridge for the final ascent. The map shows a short deviation to the trig point but I obviously missed it in the roughly vegetated upper slopes, anyway it didn't really matter since the views are very fine from anywhere up here. The path joins the KW lower down the northern side and I ascended to a saddle near 190m. Here I made an excellent pitch with a fine view over to Arran.

Western Arran mountains from Cnoc nan Gabhar
Western Arran mountains from Cnoc nan Gabhar (25 May 2018__16:05:02)
Pitch on Cnoc nan Gabhar
Pitch on Cnoc nan Gabhar (25 May 2018__20:20:30)

Day 3 - Deucheran Hill, Tayinloan & Clachan

The dawn sky developed into a superb colourful sunrise over the Arran mountains and was quickly gone. I almost missed it but periodically squinting through the mesh covering the kickstand vent I spotted it coming.

The good KW path descends to join a forest track down to the B842 where the route resumes its westward course alongside Carradale Water and crosses the river to traverse Deucheran Hill and its E.ON wind farm, a typical forest track walk passing an information board at its highest point showing a map of the KW and a brief description of the wind power project.

The track descends to cross Drochaid Burn and ascends to an open plateau with a feeling of spaciousness, passing Loch na Naich with a sombre aspect today under the now overcast sky and quite strong wind.

Sunrise from Pitch on Cnoc nan Gabhar
Sunrise from Pitch on Cnoc nan Gabhar (26 May 2018__04:47:11)
Loch na Naich
Loch na Naich (26 May 2018__09:22:40)

I reached the A83 and saw a KW post on the east side of the road, unfortunately I didn't spot the post on the far side of the hedge on the west side that would have saved me a road hike to Tayinloan. Anyway it wasn't far and I soon reached the village and bought some refreshment at the Post Office/General store.

I took the minor road out to the Gigha ferry terminal and passed through a couple of gates to the seafront. From here to Rhunahaorine Point was an easy enjoyable walk along the beach in the bracing wind, following the sweet-spot line in the sand that is neither too wet nor too dry, with grand views over the clear blue water to the Isle of Gigha and distant Jura.

Past the WW2 lookout post at Rhunahaorine Point and its trig point of height 2m, the character changes. The KW passes slightly inland for a short distance on a messy grassy line but is quickly forced onto the beach. Here there is no sweet spot and I alternated between squirming gravel and sand and a line of lumpy dried seaweed, neither easy to walk on. The line passes the site of an old derelict fish farm that is now being cleared and developed into the world's largest onshore salmon farm. After what seemed like an age I rejoined the A83.

Between here and Clachan the KW manages to avoid the road for some short stretches, but it was a toss-up which was better or worse: in the end I decided to stay on the road verge, it was less laborious and a lot faster. The one exception was at Ronachan Bay where a good woodland path has been marked in the grounds of Ronachan House that provides welcome relief for a while.

At Clachan I diverted a short way up the road to the petrol station/shop to buy more refreshment and returned to enter the surfaced lane by the pair of road signs opposite the village road via a gate. Just inside the gate is a KW post directing the route left into the woods on a path that curves around and enters the valley of the Allt Mor at a stile. Mindful of the fresh wind even at this low level, I made my pitch here in a glade at the foot of the valley.

Ferry terminal at Tayinloan
Ferry terminal at Tayinloan (26 May 2018__11:35:57)
Shore north of Tayinloan ferry terminal
Shore north of Tayinloan ferry terminal (26 May 2018__11:39:43)
View to Isle of Gigha & Jura
View to Isle of Gigha & Jura (26 May 2018__13:03:12)
Shoreline view towards Ronachan Point
Shoreline view towards Ronachan Point (26 May 2018__13:07:34)
Pitch above Clachan
Pitch above Clachan (26 May 2018__19:13:00)

Day 4 - Claonaig, Skipness & Tarbert

I made an early start for the last leg in the pleasing dawn light, following the path by the Allt Mor that joins a track past the large Loch Ciaran. The track turns eastwards and I kept my eyes peeled for the forest path that branches off left to the northern shore of Lochan a'Chreimh, looking quite picturesque in the low early sunlight. The path continues through the trees to Lochan Fraoich, a very fine lochan for a forestry setting with views to the distant hills from the elevated path that circles around its southern shore with the aid of wooden steps.

Early light following the Allt Mor
Early light following the Allt Mor (27 May 2018__04:56:51)
Loch Ciaran
Loch Ciaran (27 May 2018__05:19:50)
Lochan a'Chreimh
Lochan a'Chreimh (27 May 2018__06:03:43)
Lochan Fraoich
Lochan Fraoich (27 May 2018__06:17:37)

At the eastern end of the lochan conditions deteriorated as I crossed a stile. The meandering line north-eastwards is often wet and boggy, though the underlying ground is fairly firm - except for two brief bits that weren't and my feet sank!. The line improves a lot as it joins Larachmor Burn and approaches a footbridge.

The path now ascends at the forest edge and at the highest point becomes a good track descending to the B842 with grand views over to Arran. The final road section is a 3½ mile (5.7km) hike to Claonaig and its ferry terminal and Skipness village.

From Skipness the KW ascends north-westwards to become a pleasant woodland track alongside Skipness River and climbs gradually into forestry, reaching its highest point as it crosses open ground to join a forest road. After a lengthy descent the KW leaves the road and turns right onto a good path down to Tarbert, passing the elaborate Millenium Cairn. The KW seemed to get lost at the bottom among the various local paths but there are several places to drop down to Harbour Street.

North-west Arran from Claonaig shore road
North-west Arran from Claonaig shore road (27 May 2018__08:18:20)
Millenium cairn on the descent to Tarbert
Millenium cairn on the descent to Tarbert (27 May 2018__12:20:36)