Campbeltown & Machrihanish

Things To Do In This Area

Springbank Distillery
This unique distillery is well worth a visit. (See the section on the whisky industry in Campbeltown). Visits by arrangement. Tel: 01586 552085.

Campbeltowm, with a population 5,500, is the main settlement on the peninsula. The town was founded in the early 1600s and became a Royal Burgh in 1700. The town’s prosperity was built on farming, fishing, coastal shipping, coal mining and whisky distilling and by 1900 it was the wealthiest town in the country. It was here that Neil Munro’s ‘Para Handy’ met and married his wife.

The Campbeltown Heritage Centre
Located in an old church (the Tartan Kirk), the centre is full of interesting information about Campbeltown’s history, about the whisky industry, the ‘Wee Train’ that moved coal and tourists between Machrihanish and Campbeltown, the herring fishing, and so much more. Seasonal opening with details from:

Campbeltown Heritage Centre, Lorne Street Church, The Big Kiln, Campbeltown.
Tel: 01586 551400.

Campbeltown Museum and Library
Located on the sea front in a beautiful sandstone building, designed by Sir John James Burnet, there is an excellent reference section dealing with local history, and a small museum containing archaeological artefacts from the area. (Closed on Mondays). Contact:

Campbeltown Library, Hall Street, Campbeltown.

The Picture House (The Wee Pictures)
Built in 1913, in a distinctive Art Nouveau Style, this is the earliest purpose built cinema in Scotland, and is probably the oldest surviving cinema still showing films. It is located on the sea front close to the library. Contact:

The Picture House, Hall Street, Campbeltown.
Tel: 01586 553657. (After 7pm, 01586 553899)

Campbeltown Cross
This is a ‘masterpiece of medieval carving’ and stands at the bottom of the main street, facing the harbour. It was probably carved at Saddell Abbey or on Iona and stood in the grave yard at Kilkivan near Machrihanish, before being moved to Campbeltown around 1680. There, it served as a market cross, in front of the town hall, until it was removed for safety during the second world war, before being re-erected on its present site.

Much of the late Victorian/Edwardian architecture in Campbeltown is of a very high quality, reflecting the prosperity of the town. There is a Town Trail Leaflet available from the Tourist Information Centre in Campbeltown.

The MacGrory Collection
The historical photographs on this website come from the A.P. MacGrory Collection, by kind permission of Argyll and Bute Council, who are the custodians of this invaluable photographic archive.

This unique collection of black and white photographs is one of the outstanding photographic collections in the U.K. Between 1890 and 1911 the MacGrorry brothers, Charles and Dennis, recorded every aspect of Kintyre life on film. They were addicted to outdoor photography and took thousands of photographs of very high quality, which provide us with an invaluable record of life at that time.

The original glass plates are held at library H Q in Dunoon, but copies of some of the pictures can be viewed in the Campbeltown library. Recently, a lengthy video of many of the photographs, together with an informative booklet, was compiled and this can be purchased from Campbeltown library.

Iron Age Hill Forts
It is clear that in earlier times the flat area between Campbeltown and Machrihanish must have been of considerable strategic importance. The area is dominated by a whole series of hill forts, at Largiemore, Ranachan Hill, Ballywilline Hill, Knock Scalbert and Bealloch Hill.

Kilkivan Chapel
This is another medieval chapel with sculptured stones. It seems that the Campbeltown Cross was originally sited here.

Coal, Canal and the Railway
Sadly, very little is left to see of the coal mines at Machrihanish and Drumlemble, or the canal and the later railway that linked Machrihanish and Campbeltown.

The Fessenden Tower
While the Marconi brothers get the credit for the first Transatlantic radio signals, few people know that the credit really lies with Professor Reginald Fessenden, of Washington D.C.

He built his wireless telegraph tower at Machrihanish in 1905 and sent the first signals to Boston in January 1906. He was unable to repeat his success, which led to the conclusion that his results were due to freak weather conditions. The tower blew down in December 1906 and the remains of the concrete foundations and blocks for the cables can still be seen, near the Marine Research Centre at Uisead Point, just beyond Machrihanish.

Wild Life
The area between Campbeltown and Machrihanish is know as The Laggan, and is one of the largest lowland flat area in Argyll. Its special topography relates to the fact that it was once beneath the sea and has risen since the last Ice Age. Here, not so long ago, were extensive wetlands, now mostly drained to produce high quality grassland for dairy cattle.

Masses of grey geese, Greenland and white fronted, graylag, pink footed and barnacle geese stay over winter here and are easily seen from the main roads.

The remnant Aros Moss wetland has recorded some remarkable bird sightings, including garganey duck, red backed shrike and Teemminck’s stint and is a magnet for birds of prey like the hen harrier.

Uisead Point, at Machrihanish, is a wonderful location for watching sea birds and migrants. Almost 200 species have been recorded here, at the wild life observatory, including real rarities. Seals, otters, whales and wild goats occur also.

The stupendous four miles of beach at Machrihanish, open to the Atlantic surf, is backed by spectacular dunelands and Machair ecosystems. Rare orchids and invertebrates occur here amongst a profusion of flowers in the summer.

Campbeltown Loch is often visited by dolphins and seals and the Dhorlin Laggan, overlooked by Davaar Island (A remnant volcanic plug) is an accessible site to view teal, wigeon, sea birds and waders.

Forestry walks on Beinn Ghuilean, above the town, reveal wild life havens amongst the heather and blueberries, with overwhelming elevated views.

There is a wide variety of walks from Campbeltown and Machrihanish.

For a gentle stroll around Campbeltown, follow the Town Trail with the leaflet and map from The Tourist Information Centre.

The coastal walk from the shipyard at Trench Point is sign posted and takes you to Kilchousland Chapel.

Walk to Davaar Island to the cave, where a painting of the Crucifixion was discovered in 1887 by some fishermen. This turned out to be the work of a local art teacher, Alexander MacKinnon. The walk is across a tidal causeway and then bears right along the rocky shore of the Island, where there is a line of seven caves, with the painting being in the fifth one. The walk is not easy and requires sensible footwear. Please also consult the tide times in The Tourist Information Centre, before attempting the walk. Also, the owners of the Island have made it clear that they prefer walkers to stick to the shore and not to walk across the island.

Continuing on the coast road past Davaar Island, there is a small parking area, where the road turns away from the sea. There is an interesting shore walk from there past the old cottage called New Orleans. In one of the caves before the headland are relics of Saint Ciaran, one of the early missionaries who brought Christianity to Argyll. Again, this is a difficult walk in places and is best done at low tide.

There is a forest walk on the slopes of Beinn Ghuilean. Access to this walk is, at present, being improved and sign posting is being carried out.

At Machrihanish there is the beach walk to Westport and another interesting shore walk to Uisead Point, past the site of the Fessenden Wireless Tower to The Gauldrons, with its strange rock formations and sandy beach.

At Uisead Point you will find the Machrihanish Seabird Observatory, voluntarily manned by Eddie MacGuire offering an opportunity to see wildlife using the state-of-the-art optical equipment and a digital camera to capture that precious moment.

The eighteen hole old course at Machrihanish is a real treat for the enthusiast. Relatively unknown, until recently, it is now regarded as one of the finest links courses in Scotland, and is becoming increasingly popular with visiting American golfers. Recently, Jack Nicklaus, described the first hole at Machrihanish as, ‘the world’s greatest opening hole. Contact:

The Secretary, Machrihanish Golf Club, Machrihanish, Campbeltown. PA28 6PT.
Tel: 01586 810213. Tee reservations: 01586 810277.

Music and the Arts
Campbeltown has a flourishing musical scene, with regular concerts featuring the pipe band, award winning brass bands, the Accordion and Fiddle Club, folk music and country dancing. There is an Annual Music Festival in August. (see Events)

Campbeltown has an excellent sheltered harbour with pontoons and plenty of eating places and ‘watering holes’ close by. There is a small sailing club with regular races on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays.

While there are many beautiful beaches in Kintyre, the miles of sand between Machrihanish and Westport provide one of the best surfing beaches in the UK. Facilities are limited and most surfers base themselves in Machrihanish, where there is good camping available.

Food and Drink
Most of the fish and shellfish landed at Campbeltown goes south to London or abroad, but there is a flourishing smoke house supplying their own local shop and mail order business. Specialities are smoked salmon and trout, smoked scallops and smoked cheeses. Contact:

The Old Smoke House, Roading, Campbeltown
Tel:01586 553580.

The Campbeltown Creamery produces an award winning mature cheddar cheese (Featured in the food hamper in the BBC’s ‘Ready Steady Cook!’). The Creamery is open to visitors by arrangement. Contact:
Tel: 01586 552244.

Eating out
There is a wide variety of eating places in Campbeltown with several hotels, cafes and restaurants. Facilities in Machrihanish are more limited as it is a very small village.

Campbeltown boasts an excellent pottery located in the centre of the town, several craft retailers and a craft co-operative. The work of several local artists is on display in these outlets.

There is also a first class photographer’s shop in Long Row, with stunning pictures of the area. Contact:

Stewart Andrew at Kintyre Photography, Long Row, Campbeltown.
Tel: 01586 551661

Fitness and Leisure
Campbeltown has a relatively new Indoor Swimming Pool complex with cafe, gym facilities and a library called the Aquilibrium.

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