A weekend road trip through Kintyre – Scotland’s hidden peninsula

17 January 2022

“Mull of Kintyre, oh mist rolling in from the sea. My desire is always to be here, oh Mull of Kintyre.”

First released in the late 1970s by Wings and penned by front singer Paul McCartney, the iconic song Mull of Kintyre might be more famous than the place it describes.

McCartney wrote it in honour of Kintyre, a peninsula in Western Scotland where he purchased a farm in 1966 and which became one of his favourite places in the world.

Nestled between some of the most dramatic Inner Hebrides, Kintyre feels like an island – but it isn’t.

A hideaway for McCartney and his loved ones, Kintyre feels very remote and definitely doesn’t qualify as a tourist hotspot.

Still, it’s accessible enough to make for the perfect weekend road trip from Glasgow.

Organising your visit

From Glasgow, a trip all the way to the southern end of Kintyre takes about four hours.

There are lots of opportunities to take in the rugged nature, relaxed surroundings, and delicious specialties of the area – you’ll even have the chance to spot Ireland in the distance.

It’s possible to drive there and back in a day, but we suggest taking it a bit slower and visiting for at least a weekend.

Past Loch Lomond and the Southern Highlands

From Glasgow, the road north towards Kintyre is already a knockout. Passing the bonnie shores of Loch Lomond (that are just as lyrically famous as the Mull of Kintyre), you’ll take a left in Tarbet after about an hour of driving.

The Highlands are in full swing by now and the “Rest and Be Thankful” car park is a wonderful spot for a first break where you can marvel at the impressive mountains rising left and right.

Heading south soon after, you’ll reach Loch Fyne and Inveraray, a town void of colour – architect Robert Mylne renovated the entire village exclusively in black and white in the late 18th-century.

Into Kintyre

After driving along the shore of Loch Fyne for a while, you’ll reach the town Tarbert. A very common name in Scotland, Tarbet or Tarbert usually refers to a town on a narrow strip of land connecting two bodies of water.

Here, Tarbert is the gateway to Kintyre and its only connection to the mainland, making it a peninsula and not an island.

Passing by the small village, you’ve reached Kintyre, where the adventure really begins.

Driving down the west coast

The main road of Kintyre leads from Tarbert to Campbeltown along the west coast and might well be one of the highlights of the trip.

In the distance, you’ll spot several of the Inner Hebrides. Most prominent is impressive Jura with its distinct mountains (the ‘Paps of Jura’), where George Orwell gave birth to literary classic 1984.

Much closer lies Gigha, well worth an explore if you fancy a bit of bird and seal-watching, visiting pretty Achamore gardens, or enjoying some Michelin recommended seafood in the Boathouse restaurant.

Hidden behind Gigha you’ll see Islay, an island that has become synonymous with whisky and where some of world’s renowned distilleries can be found.

Exploring the Mull of Kintyre

From Campbeltown, there are several ways to explore McCartney’s beloved Mull of Kintyre a.k.a. the southern tip of the peninsula.

If golf is your thing or you want to try it out, there’s a golf club in the village of Machrihanish, just a ten-minute drive outside Campbeltown.

On a beach at the south end of Kintyre, the magnificent Dunaverty rock awaits to be climbed.

While little more than the foundation of Dunaverty castle remains, the area has a very typical Scottish history, as the battle of Dunaverty took place here which saw hundreds of MacDougall clansmen die at the hands of the Covenanters.

Spotting Northern Ireland

Last but certainly not least on the list of sights in southern Kintyre is the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse.

About 30 minutes from Campbeltown on small and windy tracks, the lighthouse feels like the ultimate end of the road.

The drive through the hills of the Mull of Kintyre is especially scenic and, despite the outstanding landscape, few people come here so you’ll most likely have the area all to yourself.

At the top of the mountain that hides the lighthouse you’ll find a small car park – leave the car and walk the rest of the way down the hill.

The 30-minute-walk is spectacular and soon you’ll spot not just the lighthouse down below, but another island in the distance: Ireland!

In fact, you’ll be standing on the closest Scottish point to Ireland: only ten miles of the North Sea divide the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland.

In 2018, plans existed to build a bridge here to connect Britain to Ireland. But they were scrapped because Kintyre was too far out of the way to actually be a viable option for anyone traveling between the islands.

As this would’ve likely destroyed much of Kintyre’s charm and uniqueness, residents and tourists alike were relieved to see those plans abandoned.

On the way back home

Making your way back to Glasgow, you can decide to drive on the east coast this time. The roads will be a bit windier, but the rugged outline of small yet impressive Arran (another incredible day trip from Glasgow) is not to be missed.

If you’re still hungry for more sights, you can make the last stop at Skipness castle and chapel, built in the early 1200s and situated on a beautiful piece of land facing Arran.

Supposedly, it’s haunted by the Green Lady of Skipness protecting the premises.

From here it’s only a stone’s throw to Tarbert, which marks the end of your Kintyre road trip – although you still have the drive through the Highlands ahead of you before finishing your adventure back in Glasgow.

Snaps taken by our insider guider, Luis