The Kintyre Way is a long-distance hike along the Kintyre Peninsula on Scotland's west coast that explores a landscape of rugged hills, vast forests, deserted beaches, and remote fishing communities where catch-of-the-day and drams of Scotch whisky go hand-in-hand.
Starting from Tarbert, in the north, the Way zigzags down Kintyre along empty tracks, footpaths, and lanes, to finish in Machrihanish, on the southwest corner of the peninsula. The official route is 100 miles (161 km). However, with a few short detours to some worthy sites, this Collection is 104 miles (167 km) in total.
Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the hike is epic and endless coastal views that are yours alone to enjoy. As Kintyre is a narrow peninsula, the sea is never far away. To the east, you see the Firth of Clyde, Arran, Ailsa Craig, and the Ayrshire coast. To the west, you see Islay, Jura, Gigha, and even to Rathlin Island and the coastline of Northern Ireland.
Highlights along the way include: Tarbert, an attractive village with ancient castle ruins; Skipness Castle, a striking 13th-century fort; Kilbrannan Chapel, a haunting medieval ruin; numerous pretty lochs; Ballochroy Standing Stones, a spectacular megalithic monument; Rhunahaorine Point, a headland with fine views and the lowest trig point in Scotland; the summit of Cnoc nan Gabhar, which affords a spellbinding panorama; Campbeltown, once the ‘whisky capital of the world’; Kildalloig Bay; Keil Caves; and the summit of Binnein Fithich.
There’s no getting around the fact that this is a challenging walk. As accommodation — and indeed civilisation — is often sparse, some long hikes are required. You can, of course, wild camp in Scotland due to the Land Reform Act (see below for information), which is the only way to avoid lengthy stages.
You also cross some very empty moorland. The final stage in particular involves challenging hillwalking over wild terrain with steep ascents and descents and boggy conditions. As such, you need to be an experienced hiker with good technical ability and a high level of fitness and endurance.
Another thing to note is that roughly 25% of the hike is on tarmac. However, this is typically quiet lanes through pretty countryside and along spectacular coastline, with only a fraction of that on main roads. There is not much traffic on Kintyre.
In this Collection, I split the route into seven stages: 11.5 miles (18.5 km), 12.7 miles (20.4 km), 9.77 miles (15.7 km), 16.3 miles (26.2 km), 21.2 miles (34.1 km), 15.7 miles (25.3 km), and 16.4 miles (26.4 km), respectively. Tailoring the itinerary is tricky, unless you are happy to wild camp. Walking individual sections is possible but will require some forward planning.
As mentioned accommodation is patchy. However, there are places to stay at the end of each stage. Pre-booking is essential, though.
To get to the start of the route, your best bet is to catch a train to Glasgow. From there, you can catch the 926 bus service to Tarbert, which takes roughly three hours. At the end of the route, you can catch the 200 / 442 bus service from Machrihanish to Campbeltown and then the 926 bus back to Glasgow.
For the 926 bus service, visit: bustimes.org/services/926-glasgow-campbeltown.
For the 200 / 442 bus service, visit: westcoastmotors.co.uk/services/WCM/200.
For more information about wild camping in Scotland, visit: visitscotland.com/accommodation/caravan-camping/wild-camping.
Stage 1 begins from the picturesque port of Tarbert, climbs into a wild landscape with glorious sea views, and visits some interesting ruins. Whilst there are some challenging stages in this Collection, you are eased into the itinerary with a comparatively-easy 11.5 miles (18.5 km) of distance, 1,300 feet (396 m) of uphill and 1,325 feet (404 m) of downhill.From Tarbert, hike along Harbour Street briefly before taking steps up to the striking ruins of Tarbert Castle, where you are afforded lovely views. The trail rises gradually from the castle and eventually meets a forestry track, which you follow for 3 miles (4.8 km) to the highest point of the route. You then begin a long and gradual descent on grassy paths through woodland and upland scenery with great views of Kilbrannan Sound and the mountains of Arran. The trail picks up the course of Skipness River for a short while before a final descent through farmland to the golden sands of Skipness Bay.At the finish line, it is well-worth a brief extension to see Skipness Castle, a grand medieval fortification that was built in the early 13th century, and Kilbrannan Chapel, an eerie ruined medieval chapel on Skipness Bay.There are a couple of places to stay in Skipness and a restaurant, Skipness Seafood Cabin, which is open from May to September.
Expect lonely lochs nestled in wild scenery and pleasant walking through empty moorland on this stage.With 12.7 miles (20.4 km) of distance, 925 feet (282 m) of uphill and 850 feet (259 m) of downhill, this is another moderately-challenging hike.The stage begins with 3.5 miles (5.6 km) of walking along country lanes. Fortunately, the lanes are not busy and afford lovely views over Kilbrannan Sound to the mountains of Arran.You then take a footpath to the right and rise through a landscape of tussock grass and small woodlands. As you climb, be sure to keep glancing over your shoulder for superb views. As the trail reaches a high point, you wind around the southern edge of Lochan Fraoich and the northern tip of Lochan a' Chreimh, two pretty stretches of water surrounded by pines and moor.
You join forestry tracks for the next 1.5 miles (2.4 km) and soon stumble upon Loch Ciaran, another striking freshwater lake. The trail descends along a small glen beside the Allt Mor burn into greener pastures to finish in the village of Clachan, where you find a couple of places to stay and a small petrol station shop.
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This is a short-and-sweet coastal walk that takes you to the most spectacular megalithic monument on the Kintyre Peninsula and the lowest trig point in Scotland. With 9.77 miles (15.7 km) of distance, 275 feet (84 m) of uphill and 325 feet (99 m) of downhill, this is an easy hike. The itinerary gets much harder from this point onwards, however.The stage begins along Tarbert Road. Whilst there is a pavement for the most part, traffic travels quite fast so take care. You then take a footpath to the right, head along the coast past Corriechrevie Beach and continue on the road. A short-step later, it is worth a brief detour to see the mystical Ballochroy Standing Stones, three magnificent stones that ancient people used to frame the winter and summer solstices.The trail soon veers away from the road, continues down a grassy track and heads along a stretch of shingle beach to Rhunahaorine Point, where you get fine views of the Island of Gigha and see the lowest trig point in Scotland.The rest of the stage continues along the shingle with fantastic views and stunning birdlife displays to the Tayinloan Ferry terminal, where you take the road into the village itself. Here, you find some accommodation, a shop, and a cafe beside the ferry.
Stage 4 begins along the coast and climbs through open countryside with fine views before a final descent to the fishing village of Carradale. With 16.3 miles (26.2 km) of distance, 1,900 feet (579 m) of uphill and 1,875 feet (572 m) downhill, this is a challenging hike and is a flavour of what is to come. From Tayinloan you hike south along the coast with views to Gigha and head alongside the A83. The Way crosses the road and heads up a track on the opposite side. If you have time, it is worth following the brief extension to see St John’s, a ruined church and old graveyard in Killean.It is then a long, gradual and winding ascent along the main track through farmland, moorland, and woodland, which reaches a high point close to Loch an Eich. From here, you continue along the main track as it winds through upland scenery.The trail descends to Carradale Water, crosses it, and continues down to the B42. Head right here to Grianan Car Park and then take the track left. You then begin a long and undulating ascent of Cnoc nan Gabhar, which affords a stunning panorama from the summit. The final section descends through Century Wood and skirts around Ballanmeanach Wood to Carradale, a traditional fishing village with views over Kilbrannan Sound and the Isle of Arran. There is accommodation here, a campsite, places for food and drink, shops, and a nice stretch of beach.
Exhilarating coastal walking combines with wild scenery, empty forests, and stunning loch views on this challenging hike.The toughest in the itinerary, this stage is 21.2 miles (34.1 km) long with 2,200 feet (671 m) of uphill and 2,250 feet (686 m) of downhill. You need a good level of fitness and stamina to attempt this hike. To begin, walk west along the road out of Carradale and then take a track through woodland to the right. Cross the road, head through fields, over Carradale Water, and then pick-up an exciting coastal section. At high tide you have to take the road instead.You head left along the B42 for a short while, take the lane towards Torrisdale Castle, and continue as the road turns to track. A steep climb follows which summits near Cnocmalacilach. You continue along forestry tracks before descending steeply on footpaths into farmland. It is then a long climb on tracks that wind through forests and empty scenery before a steady descent to Lussa Loch, a picturesque stretch of water surrounded by trees.You follow a minor road for the next few miles. Whilst hard underfoot, the road is relatively traffic-free and winds through pleasant countryside. Upon reaching the A83, head left and follow it into the heart of Campbeltown, the largest town on Kintyre. With places to stay, options for food and drink, and a rich whisky heritage, there is plenty to keep you entertained here.
Expect whisky heritage, coastal views to the islands of Davaar and Sanda, and mystical ancient fortifications on the penultimate stage. At 15.7 miles (25.3 km) long and with an equal 1,425 feet (434 m) of uphill and downhill, this is a moderately challenging hike. However, as the majority of this stage follows country lanes, the distance might not feel as tough as expected. From Campbeltown centre, cut through Kinloch Park and pass Springbank Distillery. You then head to the shore, pick-up the footpath, and then join the coastal road as it winds around Campbeltown Bay to Kildalloig Bay, where you are afforded great views over Davaar Island.A short-but-steep climb follows before the coastal road continues on its gently-undulating journey around the southeastern corner of the Kintyre Peninsula. Whilst road hiking might not be everybody’s cup-of-tea, the lanes are gentle, relatively traffic-free and explore some wonderful countryside.Right at the end of the stage, you wind around Dunaverty Golf Course to Dunaverty Rock, where there once stood a mighty castle with drawbridge that was built in the 8th century. You find a couple of places to stay around Southend, including the Argyll Arms Hotel, which serves food. There is also a shop and tearooms.
The final stage affords magnificent coastal views, empty countryside, saintly footprints and mysterious caves.With 16.4 miles (26.4 km) of distance and an equal 2,150 feet (655 m) of uphill and downhill, it is a fittingly tough finish to a challenging overall itinerary. Please note, this stage involves some challenging hillwalking over wild terrain with steep ascents and descents and boggy conditions. You need to be an experienced hiker with good technical ability to undertake this hike.To begin, you head west along the road out of Southend and immediately stumble upon some interesting places to explore; Keil Caves, which were inhabited by people for many centuries, and nearby, St Columba's Chapel, St Columba's Well and St Columba's Footprints, which all mark where Columba — who brought Christianity to Scotland — first landed.The road winds inland and, at Carrine, you head left along another lane through
Glen Breakerie. You then turn left onto Amod farm track, cross the bridge over Breakerie Water, and begin a steep ascent of Remuil Hill. The trail levels out over wild and empty countryside before another sharp ascent to Binnein Fithich. At the summit, you get wonderful views out to sea and over the Kintyre Peninsula. Keep a look-out for herds of wild goats here.You then make a long and steep descent before rising briefly to the Sailor’s Grave Viewpoint. It is a gradual descent for the rest of the hike; rugged upland terrain softening into a greener pastoral landscape to finish in Machrihanish. Within the village you find a hotel and some B&Bs, as well as a couple of places to eat and drink.