Struan Lodge Beauly
self catering highlands
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Kintyre is the longest peninsulas in Scotland
Kintyre is the longest peninsulas in Scotland, self catering highlands thrusting south west like a great longboat hungry for the haven of the blue hills of Antrim. It is not so fanciful a notion; the lighthouse at the Mull of Kintyre casts its beam across a mere twelve miles of sea to the coast of Ireland.
Scottish history sparked to life here. This is the ancient Dalriada, first Kingdom of the Scots. The fishing port of Campbeltown on the south-east coast stands on the site of the old capital of Dalruadhain. An aura of its regal past still lingers. The imperious sweep of the broad bay has a certain hauteur hardly in keeping with the modest presence of a little market town.
But Cambeltown, intimately linked with the countryside of Kintyre, needs self catering highlands no capital status to be conscious of its importance. Within the sea-girt boundaries of Kintyre, Campbeltown is king, and no small town in all Scotland inspires fiercer loyalties. Expatriate Campbeltonians, no matter how spectacular their successes in the wider world, rarely lose touch with the town of their birth. For exiles intent upon a more active return than a retirement pilgrimage, the homeward road has become a much more practical proposition.
The singular characteristics of the broad bay on Campbeltown Loch that drew the first Scots to the heel of the long peninsula have a contemporary relevance. As the oil-extraction industry moves west and into the Celtic Sea, Campbeltown acquires ever greater significance on the maps of the oil-men.
As a fishing port, it had the distinction of being the site of Scotland’s newest shipyard, builders of the first steel fishing boat to be launched in Highland waters. Those waters are the source of new wealth from below the sea-bed and a burgeoning Campbeltown has been fired by a fresh dynamism.
Across from Campbeltown on the west coast lies Machrihanish, known to golfers the world over. Few courses can claim Atlantic-washed links and a conveniently adjacent airport.
For the motorist and walker alike, one of the delights of Kintyre’s coast roads is the exhilarating seascapes – richly patterned by islands – that are rarely out of sight. On the west, the clustering tail of the Southern Hebrides can be seen. Tiny Gigha, unlikely harbourer of the luxuriant oasis of Achamore Garden; Jura of the illustrious Paps, and the Green Isle of Islay.
The east coast road, along the length of Kilbrannan Sound, opens new windows on the majestic mountains of Arran, authentically Highland in their grandeur. Whilst to the south, the absurdly theatrical back-cloth of Ailsa Craig – rising sheer out of the first – rivets the eye.
The fishing village of Tarbert links Kintyre and Knapdale on the wrist-thin isthmus between the long sea-loch of West Loch Tarbert and the inlet of East Loch Tarbert on Loch Fyne. Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway, had his war-galley hauled across the isthmus in the year 1093. A classic case of brute strength being harnessed to an imaginative ploy on psychological warfare. Native waters in the heather who survived the shock of a Viking war-galley moving on land must have been unmanned thereafter.
Tarbert sits in an idyllic picture postcard frame; a superb harbour crowded with inshore fishing boats, the occasional yacht and pleasure cruiser looking a trifle self-conscious in such uncompromisingly workaday company.
In the eighteenth century, plans were mooted for a canal across the narrow isthmus to eliminate the long sail around the Mull of Kintyre to the Atlantic Ocean. But Sir John Rennie’s design for a canal linking Loch Gilp and Loch Crinan gained favour, and the4 earlier scheme was abandoned.