Round Britain: Machrihanish to Glendaruel

Our last evening in Machrihanish arrived with a thunderstorm after two warm and sunny days. We got our waterproofs out and walked to a local hostelry for our evening meal. I was glad to have seen the sunset the previous evening. On a dry, warm morning we first drove down to the southern part of the Mull of Kintyre on the B842. It runs through farmland and forests to Southend and Dunaverty Bay. There was a seal resting on a rock. There were several oystercatchers on the beach and one heron on a rock further out who flew off before I could get a photograph.

We returned to Campbeltown to pick up some supplies and continued on the B842 on the northern side of Campbeltown Loch. The road passes through Peninver and Ardnacross Bay before reaching Saddell Bay which is said to be where Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre video was filmed. Across the other side of the water towards Portvadie is where Polphail Village was flattened in 2016 when it was only 40 years old. The village was built to accommodate 500 workers for a nearby oil platform construction yard but it was never occupied and remained a ghost town from the day it was completed to the day it was bulldozed. It is said to have provided a home to a colony of bats and a blank canvas for street artists. We made a short diversion down a side road to Carradale Bay where we hoped to find a coffee. The harbour was quiet

and the tea room was closed. We had to continue past Grogport and Claonaig before arriving in Tarbert to top up the caffeine levels.

We were then back on the A83 which like many roads in this part of Scotland is lined with rhododendrons, crocosmia and bamboo: all non-native garden escapes from the estates that brought these plants into the country in the late 18th and 19th centuries.  The road continues through Lochgilphead and Inverary, passing the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar which we ate in many years ago during a holiday with some friends. After Cairndow we took the A815 and then the A886 heading south on the Cowal Peninsula to Glendaruel. The River Ruel runs down to the Kyles of Bute. The campsite we stayed at for one night is on the site of Glendaruel House. In the Second World war it was requisitioned and used as a hospital. Afterwards it was sold, used as a hotel and then destroyed by a fire in 1970. The population of the village is now less than 200 and it has lost a lot of its services including a post office, tea room, hotel and general store. The campsite is quiet and surrounded by woodland which provides some welcome shade in the hot weather.

Round Britain: Lochgilphead to Machrihanish

En route to Lochgilphead where we were re-starting our tour of the British coast we passed Glasgow and stopped briefly so that I could take a photograph of the Clydeside Distillery which has been there since 1897.

I am compiling a photobook for James of the whisky distilleries in the British Isles. There were views over the Clyde on a very sunny morning

and street art on the nearby railway bridge.

Continuing, we stopped for lunch at the Rest and be Thankful. These words were inscribed on a stone by the workers who built the military road in the 1740s. There is a good view down the glen.

After settling into the campsite, it was time to walk to a local restaurant for a meal. There are views down Loch Gilp from the shore.

The following morning we set off down the west side of Loch Gilp. The road parallels the southern end of the Crinan Canal and passes through Ardrishaig. A little further on we took the B8204 which runs over a hill, past a small lochan and down to Loch Caolisport. There are several small villages along the road. At Achahoish was a firewood seller and at Ormisary there was a fish farm. There are views over to Jura and Islay. At Kilberry there are some engraved stones which may have come from a medieval church and burial ground nearby.

While a drain was being dug under a bowling green, human bones were found. The stones are dated between the 14th and 15th centuries. There is also the remains of a castle nearby but it is on private land with no access. At Tarbet we entered the Mull of Kintyre which I had not visited since childhood. In 1597 Kintyre had been marked out as a rebellious part of the Gaelic west which needed control. Ten years later Clan Donald lands were taken over by Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll. Hence the town he created became Campbeltown. The plantation by the lowland lairds happened in 1650, most came from Ayrshire and Renfrewshire and took place before the plantation of Ulster. We had a coffee in Tarbert and then walked up the hill from the harbour to the ruined castle.

There was a hill fort here which became a Royal Castle in 1292. It was extended by Robert the Bruce in 1325 and repaired further by James IV in 1494. IN 1705 it was tenanted by the Campbells but fell into disrepair by 1760 when most of the useful stones were used to build the harbour. There are views all around from the castle.

We then continued down the A83 along the side of West Loch Tarbert, passing Kennacraig where the ferry to Islay departs from and further on, the Arran Ferry port. Lunch was had in a small car park just south of Ronachan Bay. Apparently seals and otters can be seen here but none on my visit. There are views over to Gigha and Jura.

At Tayinloan a ferry runs to Gigha. After Campbeltown airport we drove through the town and then took the B road to Machrihanish. The town was formerly known as ‘The Pans’ up to the 18th century when salt was formed from the evaporation of seawater and it is still on this old milepost.

Kintyre’s only mine closed in 1967 and was nearby. Our campsite was next to the golf course but there were views over to the sea so in the evening I watched the sun go down.

The following morning was time for a beach walk. Machrihanish Bay is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and has the largest sand dune system in mainland Argyll.  It was very quiet that morning.

A lazy day followed before we got ready for the next leg in our journey.