Travel: Exploring the Kintyre penisula

Cat Thomson visits the Kintyre peninsula. Picture: Contributed
Cat Thomson visits the Kintyre peninsula. Picture: Contributed
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Travelling to the west coast of Scotland is always an experience as you never know what the weather will bring.

This time we witnessed Loch Lomond in its full, dark brooding majesty, complete with angry waves showing their displeasure under leaden skies.

Tangy Mill. Picture Contributed

Tangy Mill. Picture Contributed

The Rest and Be Thankful summit, which normally impresses, was encased in cloud so low there was not even a glimpse of its stunning vistas. I start to question leaving the comfort of my own home for a short break en famille.

However I know this is a bipolar landscape which can change in a second to give turquoise clear waters dancing with light that makes your soul soar.

Just when I begin to feel optimistic, we hit the A83 and a run of pot holes, like the surface of Mars, which slows us down. We are heading all the way to the edge of the world on the Kintyre peninsula.

When we eventually get to our journey’s end we all are ecstatic, mainly because we can finally get out of the car, but also because we are delighted to be exploring our cosy well appointed abode. We are staying in a property owned by the Landmark Trust, a charity which rescues historic buildings and restores them, before allowing people to holiday there. Our home from home, Tangy Mill, was built in the 1820s and was powered by a water wheel. This is no longer in operation, but the property is sited close to a photogenic babbling burn, which was used to power the machinery for grinding oats. It finally ceased operations in 1961 when the last miller, Neil McConnachie, fell through the rusting kiln drying floor, into the furnace chamber. Although largely unscathed by the experience, he decided to put an end to his milling career.

The machinery is still largely intact, with rooms and furniture fitted amongst it. There is a cheerful red conical revolving ventilator on the roof, which is called a granny. The original wooden one was deemed too noisy by guests so has been replaced by a metal one. The accommodation is on three levels with the ground floor, now the open plan living space, keeping the original open fire for warmth. Upstairs there are two bedrooms, and a shower room. The attic hosts another spacious double with ensuite tub.

Everything has been tastefully decorated by John Evetts of the Landmark Trust. We watched a TV programme on Channel 4, Restoring Britain’s Landmarks, about the charity’s work and recognised his interior design skills straight away.

Purposely there is no wi-fi and mobile reception is patchy so you really are getting away from modern distractions.

I would recommend doing some advance research and coming up with a plan. A colleague told us to visit the island of Davaar, just off Campbeltown. Reached by tidal causeway, there is a religious cave painting to discover and wild goats to befriend. We thought it would be easy enough to drop into the tourist information office to pin down tides and times, but sadly it is only open Monday to Friday and we were weekend visitors. Not wishing to risk a stranding, we went for the safer option of driving right around the Mull of Kintyre, ending up at Machrihanish beach, and were rewarded with glimpses of seals, views of a distant Ailsa Craig, and of the much closer Sanda Island and even the Northern Ireland coastline.

I instantly recognise Machrihanish beach from paintings by William McTaggart, who was born at nearby Aros in 1835. The coastline is well worth exploring on foot; we were rewarded by views of that “mist rolling in” made famous in the song by Wings but I resist the temptation to sing. We also found the cafe at Glenbarr village store, which not only provided us with a spot of much needed lunch, it also had free wi-fi.

As our stay was coming to a close, we wandered up the hill behind Tangy Mill, to see the modern windfarm up close as it is wind not water that is now being harnessed. Our last Kintyre memory is of the distinctive sound of the turbines whirring as we watched the sun come down over Westport beach and Machrihanish beyond. As confirmed history lovers we have all enjoyed our short stay but no one is looking forward to the long journey home. ■

THE FACTS

A three night stay (Fri-Mon) at Tangy Mill, Kelikenzie, Tangy, Kintyre, Argyll, which sleeps six people starts from from £433 (four nights during the week costs from £346). Call 01628 825925 or visit the www.landmarktrust.org.uk.

For more ideas of where to visit see http://www.exploreargyll.co.uk
Before walking out to Davaar Island, check tide times at the tourist office in Campbeltown or at www.tidetimes.co.uk/campbeltown-tide-times

A good lunch spot with free wifi is Glenbarr Stores, glenbarrstores.com