A DAY OUT TO CAMPBELTOWN and KINTYRE
 

There is something about the rugged scenery of Western Scotland, broken up as it is by many islands, lochs, estuaries and overlooked by mist shrouded hills. There is always the sound of the sea, a sense of mystery, a taste of danger when storm winds blow. There is a literal warmth because of the effect of the Gulf Stream that passes by the its coast, but there is too, the warmth of its hospitality.

Romantic wanderings of a fevered mind ? Not really. My Scottish roots go way back to 1600 or so when my ancestors went to Ulster, but I still feel at home on my occasional trips to Scotland, and the further I get from the big cities the happier I am. One of the pleasures of sightseeing in Scotland is that the roads are empty compared to the madness around the big cities south of the border. If you should take detours along some of the minor roads it is common to find sheep grazing by the side of the road, and in Spring for lambs and baby rabbits to hop out of the way (hopefully) as you approach. In other parts the warning sign "beware deer" really means what it says. There is a different pace about life here.

Kintyre2.jpg (32089 bytes)Although it makes for a long day it was a real pleasure to spend time travelling from the Falls of Laura, just outside Oban, down the length of the western shore of Kintyre to Campbeltown and back along its east coast. This is a mini tour of Western Scotland  as heading south we pass through the districts of Lorne, Argyll, Knapdale and Kintyre. - all names that ring with history. It is possible to take short detours along coast roads and savour the stillness and relevant emptiness of the fertile coastal plain while offshore can be seen the islands in the Firth of Lorne - including Shuna, Scarba, Lunga and the Garvellachs. Beyond them is Mull and Iona where 48 Scottish Kings, 4 Irish Kings and 8 Norwegian Kings lie buried, the last being Duncan, slain by Macbeth in 1040. It was from Iona that Saint Columba went out in his conversion of the Picts to Christianity in the sixth century.

The most dangerous spot in the sea around Scotland is said to be the whirlpool of Corryvreckan which lies north of Jura near the Argyll coast. Corryvreckan is a Gaelic word meaning "the whirlpool of Breacan" who was a chief of the Picts who drowned there. Even in good weather the sea boils and it is dangerous to sail near at any time. In bad weather the water swirls violently and appears as if being sucked into a pit. The whirlpool is apparently caused by the meeting of several tides, but Gaelic legend has it that beneath it lies the home of a sea beast.

At the beginning of Kintyre is the small town of Tarbert from where we swing out past the end of West Loch Tarbert and the yachts that lie there, to begin the run down the coast of Kintyre. Here we catch sight of the Isles of Jura and Islay with Colonsay hidden from view beyond them , and inshore the small island of Gigha. We stopped near Ronachan on the coastal road to take in the view of the islands, in the foreground the edge of Gigha, Islay in the left background and Jura in the right background. The light in Scotland can produce quite brilliant sunsets because of the moisture in the air, other times it can be incredibly clear. With the foreshortening effect of the camera it hardly seems to be about 16 miles to the big islands in the background.

You know when you have arrived in Campbeltown by sight of the harbour , a fine cross nearby which was brought from Iona in the 12th century, and sight of the small island of Davaar guarding the entrance. In a cave on the island, illuminated by a shaft of light through a hole in the rock, there is a scene of the Crucifixion painted by Archibald MacKinnon a native artist, in 1887. I have yet to visit Southend, about 9 miles south of Campbeltown where it is said that St Columba first set foot in Scotland and that there are fine views of the Mull of Kintyre, the Ayrshire coast and even Ireland.  All these views are, however. conditional upon there not being a sea mist that can close in very quickly indeed and which has been responsible for many misadventures and even deaths over the years.

Campbeltown was first called Kilkerran, until the Campbells renamed it,  and the home of the Fergusons of Kilkerran, who descended from Fergus, son of Fergus, in the time of Robert the Bruce in the fourteenth century. The clan were the keepers of the cross of St Ciaran. The Rev Norman McLeod , minister of Glasgow Barony Parish, Dean of the Chapel Royal and friend of Queen Victoria was born in Campbeltown.

And Robert Burns' Highland Mary lived in the town for some time. Mycamphbr.jpg (30904 bytes) particular interest is that the Orr family have been in the area since about 1640 and the sheltered harbour of Campbeltown may well have been the departure point for my ancestors who crossed the sea to County Down. When I think of the tiny little boats they had in those days, and the rolling waves off shore, there is a touch of pride and gratitude in their achievements just getting to their destination.

On the return trip up the eastern side of Kintyre can be seen the Isles of Arran and Bute before turning along the shore of Loch Fyne to Lochgilphead and inland once more. Stopping points include Saddell, about nine The lymphad (galley) miles north of Campbeltown where there is the remains of a monastery built by Somerled, the first Lord of the Isles and founder of Clan Donald. It is Somerled's  emblem of the lymphad, the galley with sails furled and oars in action, that appears on the coat of arms of the Campbells through marriages to the Stewarts of Lorne.

It is a long day and dusk is likely to be settling as you get to Lochgilphead, but if time affords the ancient castle of Kilmory and its gardens are close by, and there are scenic routes through the hills if you want to go around Loch Fyne past Inveraray and on to Loch Lomond. Perhaps save these joys for another day which might include a tour round Loch Awe.  Otherwise on to our hotel and perhaps a dinner of fresh salmon followed by a juicy Angus steak, a glass or three of a good claret and perhaps a wee dram to seal the night. Yes, coming to Scotland can become a habit in my book. Why not try it yourself?

                          Next : Campbell of Glen Orchy - a tale.

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