Day 1: Tarbert to Claonaig (11.7 miles)
The bags had all been packed the day before so we were able to just get up and head straight off on the Sunday morning, arriving in Tarbert at lunchtime on a gloriously sunny day. Everyone was in high spirits about the adventure ahead!
We went to the chippy in Tarbert to fill everyone up before we started and sat at the harbour to eat. Before setting off we made sure to make use of the public toilets – we didn’t expect to find any more until the end of the day.
Once everyone had eaten we hoisted on our bags, left a note in the car (plenty of free parking around the harbour) and headed on our way. The markers for the route are on bright blue poles and were generally easy to follow. The Kintyre Way heads up the hill out of Tarbert, past the ruined castle and then heads South inland on a mixture of forestry roads and paths before rejoining the coast at Skipness and following the coast road to the ferry crossing at Claonaig. We had a lovely afternoon walking enjoying the views and the remoteness. The main shock was the number of clegs (horseflies)! They bit hard and swarmed like they hadn’t seen flesh in weeks!
Julie had planned to camp on the coast by the B road between Skipness and Claonaig. It had the advantage of a basic looking toilet at the equally basic ferry terminal! In the end we walked just past the ferry terminal and camped by the shingle beach with a field of sheep behind us. Unfortunately the toilet has been removed so wild weeing was required!
Everyone enjoyed paddling/swimming in the sea and watching the ferries while Iain started boiling water for tea. The tent is so quick and easy to put up that setting up camp at the end of the day and packing up in the morning was easy and only took about 10 minutes each time.
As the sun went down the midges came out and we rapidly retired to the tent! We left the outer door open to enjoy the view over to Arran, until about 10mins later when we realised the midges were able to squeeze through the inner mesh (downside of a cheap tent!). View or no view, the outer was quickly zipped up and everyone buried themselves in their sleeping bags with lots of complaining about the number of midges inside the tent!
Day 2: Cloanaig to Rhunahaorine Point (16.3 miles)
Everyone slept OK but next morning the swarm of midges waiting outside the tent had grown, so we packed as much as we could inside, had a quick breakfast of apples and cereal bars and then braved the outside world! We packed up super fast and were on our way (not stopping for even a cup of tea!)
Today’s route initially followed the road before heading up inland on a familiar mixture of tracks and paths until reaching the main road on the West of the peninsula at Clachan. We quickly discovered that yesterday wasn’t a one-off and that any time we headed inland the clegs appeared and started to bite. They were unpleasant and the kids did struggle with them to varying degrees all week! Luckily Julie was the only one to react to the bites and she was able to put up with it with the help of antihistamines!
We arrived in Clachan for a late lunch, so headed for the filling station which had toilets, a tap to refill water and a random assortment of food! We got lunch, drinks and ice creams and enjoyed sitting at their picnic benches before heading on again.
It was hot all week so lots of suncream was needed everyday and had to be repeatedly topped up! Sun hats were definitely needed and Julie was very thankful for her sunglasses.
We expected the walking for the second half of the day to be easy as the route headed along the road for a while before following the coast. This was a mistake! Once the path leaves the road it passes through fields of bracken. Someone was in the process of strimming the path through but once we passed them it was hard going especially for poor Angus as the bracken reached well over his head. Julie went up front to try and clear a path through and everyone else followed close behind! We finally reached the beach and walked along for about a mile – hard going on tired legs, whether on sand or stones! Before long we found a beautiful spot to camp for the night on a level grassy patch just off the beach. We were again treated to beautiful views of Gigha and Jura and there was barely anyone else around – just one camper van at the end of a track several hundred metres away. We collected enough drift wood for a small fire and fortunately there were no midges tonight, making for a much more relaxed evening.
Day 3: Rhunahaorine Point to Carradale (21.4 miles)
Today we had a leisurely start! We had already planned a stop at Big Jessie’s tearoom in the morning which was only a few miles away at the Gigha ferry near Tayinloan and it didn’t open until 10am. The walk along the beach was surprisingly hard going, even on fresh legs but we timed it perfectly to arrive at Big Jessie’s as it opened. There are also public toilets here if the cafe had been shut. Everyone enjoyed breakfast rolls (filled with any combination of bacon, lorne sausage, black pudding, eggs and tattie scones) and drinks and they even had gluten-free bread. There is an outside seating area and you can watch the ferry load and unload.
From Julie’s research we had found there was a small convenience store / post office in Tayinloan where we planned to restock, so we headed on to the main village, only to find the shop is gutted and in the process of being renovated! Luckily the owner was working on the site and kindly offered the use of a tap to refill our now empty bottles – and promised the shop will be back open in 2022! Luckily we had enough food for the day and planned to get an evening meal in Carradale where the Glen Bar does both eat in and take away.
The kids found the walking today tough – it was hot and the clegs were relentless, making it hard to stop for any length of time! It was also our longest day’s walking. We encouraged them on with thoughts of the meal we would have in the evening and we had a lovely late afternoon stop at the picnic area at Coronation Wood to cool off in the shade (the first point of the day with no clegs 🤣)
As we walked the last few miles into Carradale on tired legs Iain phoned the pub to see if we could get a table or if we would need to order a takeaway – disaster they were fully booked and not offering take away as they were short of kitchen staff. We then phoned the hotel in the village only to find they had a family emergency and weren’t offering any evening meals at all! After a moment’s upset we decided to head to the pub anyway for a drink and bar snacks and then we still had cup a soups for once we had made camp. Decision made we headed on! The pub came in sight, we bagged the last free picnic bench outside and we all collapsed onto it hot and tired.
Iain went to order drinks and came back with the wonderful news that the kind staff would squeeze us in and we could order food – food has never tasted so good 😊 They were also kind enough to refill our water bottles and had lovely loos!
All fed and watered we headed off to find somewhere to camp just out of the village. We didn’t want to go too far as we needed to use the community shop to restock when it opened at 9 the next morning. We ended up finding a lovely little cove to pitch in looking out over Carradale Bay. It would have been great for a fire on the small beach as there was loads of driftwood but the kids were too tired so we went straight to bed!
Day 4: Carradale to Campbeltown (20.5 miles)
We had a great start to the day with the kids playing while Iain walked back to the shop – he got things for breakfast and lunch as tea would be in Campbeltown later and we could restock further at the big Tesco there. A local lady told us about the great cafe at Torrisdale Castle which we decided to stop at.
Once we got going the walk along the shore required concentration on the rocks (there is a high tide detour route along the road if needed) and then had the walk up through the Torrisdale estate. We arrived at the Kintyre Gin / Beinn an Tuirc distillery café about half an hour before they opened but were made so welcome by the staff. We were invited to wait at their covered outdoor seating area and then had lovely drinks, ice creams and cakes when they opened and they topped up our water bottles before we headed on our way.
Everyone loved this stop but the downside was that we still had a lot of walking to do and it was nearly noon by the time we left and it was already hot!
The first part of the walk over into Ifferdale was lovely again but the horseflies were a major problem! The next section over to Lussa Loch was just hard work – it was hot, the forest roads were baked hard and dusty by the wind farm construction traffic and the loch never seemed to get closer. We had hoped to stop at Lussa Loch for a paddle but in fact due to the weather it was so low it was hundreds of metres from the path that nominally followed the Western edge of the loch, so we plodded on! We drank a lot and by mid afternoon had to stop at a farm and ask for water – the lady kindly refilled some of our bottles even though their own water was in short supply as all the burns were dry.
The kids were hot and tired and the walk into Campbeltown took a long time. We eventually collapsed on the bench outside Tesco around 8pm while Iain went in to restock. Julie checked her feet as one had been sore and found a large blood-filled blister on the ball of the foot 🙁 She patched it all up while Iain was shopping and then we all headed for the chippy!
The chippy took forever, it was getting late and everyone was tired – by the time we found a bench by the harbour no one felt like eating! We ate what we could to replace calories and then headed to find somewhere to camp.
This was the night Julie was most worried about as we had struggled to locate anywhere suitable for camping without going at least a couple of miles out of the town. We had walked through the park on the Kilkerran Road out of town when a local lady started chatting and asking if we were looking for somewhere to camp. We explained what we were doing and she assured us we could camp on a disused park on the opposite side of the road, that it wasn’t uncommon to see people camped there and that we wouldn’t be disturbed. We weren’t 100% sure about the location – but faced with a couple more miles with everyone tired, we thanked her for the tip and within ten minutes were tucked up in sleeping bags in the tent!
Day 5: Campbeltown – Southend (15.9 miles)
Julie was looking forward to this day as the route mainly followed the coast road (and therefore would hopefully mean a lot less clegs)! Iain had to head back to Tesco to get water in the morning, Isla went with him and Julie took the others to the park where they had a well deserved play! We finally got on our way at about 10am.
Everyone enjoyed the walking on a quiet road out of Campbeltown with some lovely views out to sea. By midday it was hot and after a reasonable amount of climbing we had dropped back to the coast and there was a lovely rocky bay just by the road where we stopped for lunch. Iain and the kids enjoyed a paddle while Julie enjoyed an uninterrupted half hour book reading. The only difficulty with this stop was getting everyone walking again!
After another big chunk of road walking it was a nice change to cut back to the coast. This section was really interesting as it went along farm tracks and through small collections of static caravans by bays along the coast. We were able to refill our water bottles at a stand pipe by one of these caravan ‘parks’.
Walking along the beach in the afternoon sun was hard work so when we got to a particularly beautiful section of beach with no one around we decided to stop and have another paddle. It was wonderful and everyone enjoyed seeing a seal sunbathing nearby! Again everyone struggled with getting started again and the kids in particular found the rest of the day hard work as they were understandably hot and tired (and the sea looked so tempting!)
Another section along the beach, some coastal walking and then back up to the road for the walk into Southend. There is a cafe in the village but it was already shut when we walked through. At the far end of the village by the beach is a small camp site / caravan park, great sandy beach and public toilets. At the edge of the beach was a small area of grass, perfect for us to pitch on for the night.
Once pitched Iain and the kids enjoyed a swim and then we had sausage and beans for tea. Everyone was soon ready for their sleeping bags as we hoped for a quick start in the morning with the hope we would get to Macrihanish in time to catch the bus back to Campbeltown.
Day 6: Southend – Macrihanish (16.3 miles)
Another beautiful morning and we were up bright and early, ready to start by 8.30 when it wasn’t too hot! The first 5 miles was on country roads and was great walking. We were entertained by young calves in the fields and were all excited that it was the last day’s walking. Julie was slightly concerned when a local lady commented on this being the hardest day – how hard could it be?
After five miles the path heads uphill and is a lot less distinct. Lewis loved this day’s walking and spent most of it far ahead in the long grass! The others struggled to varying degrees – the path was steep in parts and by now it was hot and then the clegs came out to join us 😠
This section of the route is a beautiful, remote day’s walking – the path is less distinct and you really feel you are in the middle of nowhere. It would be very boggy in places after any rain. When you reach the coastline you are on a beautiful clifftop which you follow for several miles, passing an amazing secluded bay before cutting back inland to rejoin tracks and then the road into Macrihanish. The route is easy to follow but is harder walking with a lot of uneven paths and steep climbs and descents. It didn’t help it was the last day and the kids had few reserves left (apart from Lewis who was in his element!)
With the extra elevation and heat we drank a lot today but luckily found a clear burn to refill our filter water bottle and soak buffs to cool ourselves down!
We finally arrived at Macrihanish with only 10mins to spare before the last bus back! Sadly no time to stop in the pub or on the beach but after a quick ride to Campbeltown we transferred to a bus to Tarbert, stopped for another chippy tea and then drove all the way back home!
Looking back, it’s still hard to take in the enormity of what we had achieved – 100 miles in 6 days carrying everything we needed. We had overcome all the challenges including sore feet, clegs and midges and of course the heat. Along the way we had met some lovely people, saw some wonderful places and had an amazing experience as a family! Now we’re all enjoying a well-earned rest… until our next adventure!