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Friday, 28 June 2013

Heading West

At the campsite we watch the setting summer sun drop down behind the purple moors of Kintyre, and in Lochranza, the coast of this mainland peninsula is closer to us than any villages of Arran apart from Catacol. Back in the days of seafaring peoples, in the fifth and sixth centuries Arran, Kintyre, Knapdale and Bute were all ruled as part of the sea kingdom of Dalriada which encompassed Argyll and Northern Ireland. In this way, the summer ferry between Lochranza and Claonaig continues a longstanding relationship, and this year Calmac are offering a Kintyre link between Brodick and Campbeltown too, making round tours of Arran and Kintyre an appealing possibility whatever your mode of getting about.

The closest point between Arran and Kintyre is the three mile stretch of the Kilbrannan Sound between Imachar on Arran’s west coast and the picturesque fishing village of Carradale half way down the east coast of Kintyre. When Nigel and I paddled this route in our kayaks earlier this month, we were delighted to see a large sign pointing to a hilltop tearoom as we hauled our boats up onto the beach. We hadn’t expected to be able to sit munching homemade cakes in a sheltered garden with a croquet lawn whilst enjoying views of bulky Beinn Bharrain and the Arran hills. The tearoom, by the way, was The Green Tearoom and Observatory (www.greenroomteas.co.uk).

Our second day out this month found us and Nigel’s motorbike on the Lochranza-Claonaig ferry with a view to touring some of the long, remote peninsulas in this part of Scotland. The fourteen miles of rough single track road between Claonaig and Carradale couldn’t have been a prettier start to the journey with cascades of colourful wildflowers tumbling down the banksides.

We know that many of you who stay with us travel on to Carradale Caravan and Camping Site. It has a delightful approach alongside a river which glides under leafy, mature trees. The site itself is tucked behind sand dunes and next to a south-facing beach, with views of our Arran mountains again. It turns out that Carradale hasn’t got just one café that offers fabulous home baking but two, and we enjoyed lunch at Nellie’s café at the west end of the village where you can also find bikes and buggies available for hire so that all generations of a family can get from one end of the village to the other with ease (www.carradalebikesandbuggies.co.uk).  

Though towns like Tarbert have all the fun, bustle and business of small ports, some parts of Kintyre seem almost more serenely remote than some islands. And Kintyre might be mainland but it’s only just hanging on by a thread of rocks between East and West Loch Tarberts. Yet great names of history have stood in this place before you including Somerled Lord of the Isles, St.Columba and Robert the Bruce. (Oh, and Paul and Linda McCartney.) A profuse scattering of standing stones, hill forts and Neolithic burial cairns across the landscape add to a sense that important events of long ago times are only a little beyond reach.

If you’re planning to explore Kintyre you can read more about it in some of my earlier blogs:

What do Campsite Wardens do on Holiday? Oct 2012
Isle of Gigha  April 2012
Meeting the Neighbours  June 2011
A Perfect Day Out  June 2010

Of course Kintyre also offers an alternative, relaxed and scenic route to reach the Isle of Arran.

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