While it is not strictly accurate to refer to the whole area, south of Campbeltown, as ‘the Mull of Kintyre,’ we hope the purist will forgive us.
The main village is Southend, perched on the coast above sandy beaches and looking out to the small Island of Sanda.
Just south of the village, and overlooking the golf course, is the steep, jutting headland of Dunaverty Rock. Almost completely surrounded by sea, it made an excellent site for fortification and, as a result, has a long and bloody history.
In AD 712 it was besieged by Sealbach, King of Dalriada; in 1263 it was captured by King Haakon of Norway and in 1306 it sheltered Robert the Bruce. In 1494 King James IV visited the castle and in 1558 it was attacked by the Earl of Sussex, but it was in 1647, that the castle saw its final, and bloodiest, act of violence. Royalist forces, loyal to the Stewarts, had been defeated in North Kintyre and had withdrawn to relative safety of the Castle on Dunaverty Rock, where they were besieged. When they finally surrendered, all 300 were massacred by the Covenanting army of General David Leslie. There is a small stone enclosure close by, where the dead are buried. Access to the site is through the golf course, but the site itself is very steep and dangerous.
Saint Columba’s Chapel
It is believed that Saint Columba landed here in AD 563, on his way to Iona and the Chapel bears his name, though it was not built until the 1320s, probably on the site of an earlier church. There are medieval grave-slabs inside the ruins of the church and these were probably carved at Saddell Abbey. Just outside the wall of the church is a slab in memory of Ranald MacDonald of Sanda, who died in 1681. As a baby he had survived the massacre of Dunaverty in 1647.
Saint Columba’s Footprints
Overlooking the chapel, on top of the rocks are two footprints carved into the rock. One dates from the 19th century, while the other is ancient and may have had some significance in the ceremony to inaugurate a new king, as there is a similar carving at Dunadd (the most important fortress in the Kingdom of Dalriada) near Lochgilphead. There is also the tradition of a ‘footprint stone’ at Finlaggan on Islay, where the Lords of the Isles were inaugurated.
There are a number of sites near Southend and on the Mull itself, but these are mainly difficult to access.
Mull of Kintyre Lighthouse
It would be difficult to come to Kintyre without visiting ‘The Mull’, made famous by Sir Paul McCartney in 1977. The first light was erected here in 1788 but it has been rebuilt several times and is now fully automated. Access is by 8 miles of twisting, single track road, from Southend, to the top of the cliffs above the lighthouse. Cars have to be left here in the small car park and the journey continued on foot. The descent is very steep, dropping 1000 feet within three quarters of a mile. The climb back up is even steeper!! Wrap up well it can be very windy here.
The coast lines around Southend and The Mull itself are perhaps the most unspoiled and dramatic in Kintyre. Lovely beaches, such as Polliwilline, Macharioch and Carskey, some with Machair fringes, are the haunts of otter, seal, and seaducks.
The nearby isles of Sanda have special breeding populations of puffins, Manx shearwater and storm petrel; the gannets from Ailsa Craig put on spectacular diving displays close into shore.
The high heather moors of the Mull have a character all of their own, with dramatic sea cliffs along the west coast and stunning views across the sea to Northern Ireland. This is wild, majestic country and probably the best location in Kintyre for seeing birds of prey, including golden eagle, hen-harrier, sparrow–hawk, peregrine, kestrel, buzzard, merlin and perhaps before too long, sea eagles.
At certain locations, the sea cliffs support rare and important communities of Artic Alpine plants such as yellow milkvetch, mountain avens and purple saxifrage. There are herds of wild goats established here, using the many cliff caves for shelter.
Beach walks in and around Southend are easy. There is good walking on the Mull itself at Borgadale Glen and to the ruined township of Balvicar, but these are strenuous walks, in difficult conditions, and should only be attempted by the fit and well equipped.
Southend boasts an excellent 18 hole links course at Dunaverty. The views are outstanding and the course itself is challenging and of a high quality.Contact:
Dunaverty Golf Club, Southend, Campbeltown. PA28 6RW.
Tel/Fax: 01586 830677.
There is a small hotel and a seasonal tea room in Southend. You will need your own sandwiches on the Mull!