The Kintyre peninsula is about 40 miles west from Glasgow – if you’re a bird. Because of the numerous sea-lochs on Scotland’s west coast, you have to drive north then drop back south making a journey of over 2 hours. In November, we spent a couple of nights at the Stonefield Castle Hotel, just outside Tarbert in Kintyre.
Stonefield is a Scottish Baronial manor house designed by William Henry Playfair and built in 1837 for the Campbell family who owned it till 1948. It became a hotel in the 1950s and was extended in the 1970s – one of the extensions being the glass-sided dining room you can see above and below.
It was too dark to see anything at dinner, but at breakfast the view was wonderful. In the evening, the cosy bar was enjoyable too.
There are 60 acres of grounds at Stonefield, so on our first morning we had a walk around after breakfast.
Then we drove down to Tarbert itself, with its lovely harbour. You might remember that we stayed in a place called Tarbert in Harris last summer. There are several Tarberts in Scotland (sometimes Tarbet) – in Gaelic, an tairbeart means the isthmus. In this case, Tarbert village lies on the east of the narrow strip of land which prevents Kintyre from being an island.
Some of the pictures in the gallery above were taken on the climb up to the castle. The earliest fortifications on this hill date to the 13th century, but the most noticeable remains are of the 16th century tower house.
I had my first fall of the day at the castle – the weather was lovely and bright, but it followed a period of heavy rain so the grass was very slippery and I slid down a slope onto my bottom. Fortunately, no harm was done apart from a muddy patch on the back of my coat and the damage to my dignity! So it was on to Tarbert Sculpture Walk where we met some pretty black sheep.
Next stop (by car) was Skipness, with another 13th century castle overlooking the Kilbrannan Sound.
Close by, as you can just about make out in the last shot above, is the ruined Kilbrannan Chapel, dedicated to St Brendan and dating from the late 13th or early 14th century. It had an interesting graveyard attached which I enjoyed looking around.
As usual, I grieved at the graves testifying to the terrible rate of infant mortality. Anne McLellan lost three children in infancy, her husband in 1895 and a son in the First World War. Unimaginable. The black gravestone commemorating Emma Berrington also intrigued me – how did someone who was born in West Virginia and died in Wales end up here? Maybe her son lived in Kintyre? The stone gives no clue.
The current church was back near where we had parked. This was November 10th and a couple had just arrived with a car full of flowers to decorate the church for the following day’s Remembrance Service, so we didn’t look inside. The war memorial looked unusual to me with its clock – note my square shot. At this point I imagined I was going to take part in Becky’s daily #timesquare project in December. The thought was there at least …
There is also an iron age fort nearby – we set off through the woods to find it, but the rough path with treacherous tree roots and protruding stones hidden by a combination of mud and fallen leaves resulted in my second fall of the day. This time I came down with a heavy thump, banging my shoulder and ripping the elbow out of my coat. Walking was abandoned for the day!
Back in the car, we continued down the east coast of the peninsula to Saddell. The bay here is where the pipers marched in the video for Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre, but we didn’t visit – we looked at the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey (active 1160 to 1507) and its magnificent medieval grave slabs. Apparently, the abbey is haunted by a huge black spectral hand, but we were lucky to miss that …
We then drove on towards Campbeltown, the biggest settlement on Kintyre. By this time, the light was fading – and can you see the hint of a rainbow in the first picture?
In Cambeltown itself, we visited the Linda McCartney memorial garden (hmm, not sure about the merits of that statue) and had coffee in the recently restored art deco cinema. You might also spot another potential #timesquare that went unused!
By this time, it really was dark and not worth continuing to the Mull of Kintyre itself. That will have to wait for another visit.