Clyde to Kintyre with lots in between. 320 miles approx.

It's now necessary to head North again, effectively inland, along the East bank of the Firth of Clyde. This is a place of Islands and soon one in particular starts to dominate the Horizon. Arran, often called Scotland in miniature, and with it's rugged serrated skyline soon becomes quite imposing.

Before then there is the almost perfect peak of Ailsa Craig, acting as a foreground attraction.

The small town of Ballantrae, Alisa craig and the imposing skyline of Arran in the distance.

After the array of ferryports leaving stranraer the coastline becomes quite placid, quiet, nothing exciting unless you are a  golfer. 

Soon Turnberry is reached, past the huge imposing house of the Laird of Turnberry there are a number of smaller houses, all part of a golfing village. Terribly neat, terribly pleasant, terribly boring if you are not a golfer.

THe coast around here is quite scruffy.  I do not mean that in a human sense of dirty or lots of litter but in a nature sense. Nature seems to delight in depositing all sorts of stuff on the beach, large seaweed, small seaweed, odd shaped boulders, bits of grass, even a splodge of sand here or there not to mention an abundance of white and yellow perfectly round large pebbles, or are those golf balls?


Scruffy? No sign of golf balls at least.


After Turnberry the popular resort of Ayr  reached. Ayr for some is lovely, Victorian elegance, a long sandy beach, a wide esplanade, but for me it was a traffic-choked metropolis with a seafront. I couldn't wait to get out of town.

The next 30 miles are pleasant enough, and with golfing resorts such as Troon en route for those who like spoiling a nice walk in the countryside by lugging a heavy bag around, before hitting balls all over the place, ever so exciting I suppose. For me the attraction was in front, the ever increasing grand skyline of hills and mountains, forests and lochs. Taking centre stage are the Trossachs, Loch Lomond country, but my eye was also fixed on yet another golfing town, Dunoon, on the other side of the Firth of Clyde.

The firth of clyde: Arran extreme left, Trossachs right, and left-centre Dunoon.

As the Clyde narrowed so ahead would be an 80 mile journey inland before heading south again for the coast and the kintyre peninsular. As we approached the lovely little clydeside town of Gourock so an opportunity presented itself. A ferry between Gourock on one side of the Clyde and Dunoon on the other. 

It was time to take Albert on his first nautical journey and save 30 miles of beautiful, but inland, travelling.

The other side of the Clyde, leaving Dunoon, it is still necessary to travel 30 miles inland to Inverary before being able to head back South again towards Kintyre and the sea. However by way of compensation the drive along the lochs, the mountain scenery, the beautiful green woods and gorse covered slopes is simply stunning. 

Then, finally, South again, along Loch Fyne towards the sea. Albert, after his first taste of life on the ocean wave, may have had delusions of being a pleasure craft so I had to make quite sure that all four tyres were firmly planted on tarmac!

Stick to the road Albert! You are a camper van, not an ocean liner!

Heading south again towards the open sea.

Soon the delightful small village and harbour of Tarbert is reached, perched on the narrow neck seperating two sea lochs, East and West Tarbert. Back to the sea at last!

Town and harbour of Tarbert

East from Tarbert towards the coast. Arran in the distance.

Shortly after Tarbert the road forks and we took the left fork along the Eastern shoreline of the Kintyre peninsular. 

Not a route for those in a hurry. It is one lane, twisting, slow but breathtakingly beautiful with glorious views of the other side of the Isle of Arran. Albert liked it. His sort of rugged terrain. It continues as a switchback, narrow single carriageway for 20 miles until reaching the small village of Carradale and the bay of the same name. Glorious empty countryside with stunning sea views.

East Kintyre, Arran to the left, the Mull of kintyre centre distant.

After Carradale, in twelve miles, the largest town on Kintyre is reached, the harbour and ferry terminal of Campbeltown. It is still another 12 miles to the tip of the Kintyre peninsular and the last village, appropriately called Southend.

However a few miles before Southend a single track road leads off to the right. This is the road to Beinn na Lice and the mull of Kintyre.  Beinn na Lice is what is called a Marilyn.

Mountains in Scotland over 3,000 feet are called Munro's, after Sir Hugh Munro who published his tables of scottish peaks in 1891. To be a Munro not only must the peak be over 3,000 ft above sea level but it must also be at least 500 feet above the rest of the surrounding landmass.

In 1992 a list was compiled of all peaks, regardless of altitude, that elevate themselves as an indepent entity for over 150 metres from the surrounding landmass. As a pun on the name Munro they were called Marilyns, after Marilyn Monroe!

A couple of miles after leaving the main carriageway and the narrow road gets narrower, the broken surface gets more broken, the hill gets steeper, the big drop on one side gets bigger. Then a gate is reached with a big sign basically saying the road ahead is unsuitable for all sorts of vehicles.  I read the list. Buses, coaches, lorries, big motorhomes, small motorhomes, caravans, anything with a trailer, long vehicles ....  everything on four wheels seemed to be mentioned, but no mention of Alberts.

This may be a Marilyn but I have an Albert. Onwards!

A match made in heaven. Marilyn and Albert.

This is glorious, open, beautiful, wild country.  I was glad of my vehicle. Sometimes a compact campervan can be a cramped and messy habitation. However the California, with it's four wheel drive, powerful engine, rugged build and compact dimensions is a go-anywhere vehicle, and, after all if I did get stuck, I could always make a cup of tea!  It is also a self-contained stay anywhere vehicle. I could even stop the night or several nights!

Finally, after sometimes bone-jarring bashes and crashes over the often broken road, the Mull is reached. Ireland visible in the distance but a haze spoilt clarity. For some possibly too stark and wild, for me the emptiness, the stillness, the feeling of nature all around, was breathtaking. Sometimes I feel privileged beyond words to be alive.

Journeys end. The Mull of Kintyre. Just visible in the hazy distance is the Irish coast.

After a long period of reflection, enjoying the solitude, it was time for Albert and I to make our way back, returning to Campbeltown then up the West Coast of the peninsular to Tarbert and on to Oban.

As with the Mull of Galloway a note in my diary to return. Return soon. 

Onwards Albert! No room for melancholy. 


Returning back from the Mull. Southend bay and in the distance the island of Sanda.

The West coast of Kintyre is completely different to the East. It is softer, more placid, more developed. The island scenery though is just the same. Where Arran for miles provided a rugged backdrop so now first Islay and then Jura provide the same,

Islay in the distance with the small island of gigha in front.

Finally, West Tarbert loch is reached, then inland to Tarbert before retracing footsteps, or tyre tracks to Lochgilphead, then on to Oban. A truly magnificent journey, from the stunning loch and mountain scenery of the Firth of Clyde, inland through the hills and mountains, back south to the Kintyre peninsular and the sea, the Mull, and now the soft beauty of the West coast and West Tarbert loch.

The mouth of West Tarbert Loch, Jura in the distance

After Kintyre the few miles to Oban are fairly undramatic although there are some nice views of loch Melfort from Aurduaine Gardens, a Scottish National Trust property a few miles from Oban.

Loch Melfort

Oban is a nice town. Well laid out, picturesque. I would have taken a photograph but for a traffic system that ensured that Albert and I went the wrong way past every car park, always passing the exit, never the entrance.

Perhaps for the start of the next section I will get that photograph, the section that takes us to Skye, to legend, to heroism, to the land of Flora McDonald and bonny Prince Charlie.

Until then, haste ye back!

Onwards my bonny Prince Albert! Skye awaits!


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