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A peninsula hike along wild coastline and empty hills — Kintyre Way

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A peninsula hike along wild coastline and empty hills — Kintyre Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

7-15

days

3-6 h

/ day

104 mi

10,200 ft

10,175 ft

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.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    05:14
    11.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,325 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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. …

  • Difficult
    05:32
    12.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    925 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 …

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  • Intermediate
    04:04
    9.77 mi
    2.4 mph
    275 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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, …

  • Difficult
    07:27
    16.3 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,900 ft
    1,875 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 …

  • Difficult
    09:34
    21.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    2,200 ft
    2,250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 …

  • Difficult
    06:58
    15.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 …

  • Difficult
    07:43
    16.4 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,150 ft
    2,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    104 mi
  • Duration
    46:31 h
  • Elevation
    10,200 ft10,175 ft

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A peninsula hike along wild coastline and empty hills — Kintyre Way