A motorcycle parked in front of a tent on a pleasant green campsite

Home Travel StoriesBute And Kintyre 2019

Exploring The Mull Of Kintyre

Ride Date 16 May 2019

By Ren Withnell

Now we are upon flat ground Sharon has not slithered to the bottom of the tent. That's a good start. We have chocolate granola for breakfast, even better. I could almost say Sharon was barely even narky when she awoke. Frighteningly good. The forecast is still dry but there may be a stiff breeze. Perhaps I have been transported to a parallel universe?

The tent, Sharon's bike and a bungee with clothes drying on it at the campsite
Stiff breeze, dry and warm enough. Drying weather so I've hung the washing out.

Sharon decides to once again hop onto the back of my bike for today's explorations. I'm gonna get me a tall girlfriend next time so I can hop on the back of her bike. Actually no, maybe not. With my rude ways and oft offensive cheek I fear I may be left standing alone in the middle of nowhere. I clutch my keys tight to stop Sharon from ramming them somewhere unpleasant.

I know the road west from the site doesn't go far but as we're here it makes sense to at least ride to wherever the end is. Beyond the large pub restaurant hotel thing houses line the road. They're all very nice, some large some merely modernised fisherman's bungalows. It feels like a village that's missing a centre and a post office come convenience store.

To our right the shore mixes patches of sand with hard rocks. "Seals!!" squeals a voice from behind. Oh yeah, so there are. I pull in to have a look and take a few pictures. They're fat, as seals should be. One oozes over a rock surrounded by the still calm waters, another looks disgruntled as his rock is being swallowed by the tide. I've seen them in the water, I can't recall a time I've seen them on the shore like this. Fabulous.

Several fat seals lounge on the rocks by the sea
Fat, lazy and fantastic to see.  

The single track takes us up into the rolling hills for a mile or so then comes to a dead end. I turn around and on the way back we stop a moment longer to enjoy another rocky outcrop draped with lardy sea mammals. 

Our next stop is at Southend. No, not that Southend where cheeky chirpy southern shandy drinkers go for their weekend getaways. No, Southend at, well, errrrm, the south end of the Kintyre Peninsula. 

I'm getting a feel for the area. Sandy beaches and rocky shoreline. Small and sparsely populated hamlets. Throw in occasional random quiet little static caravan parks. Plenty of farming with the associated fields, drystone walls, wire fencing and cow sheds. It rather lacks the drama of Snowdonia or The Highlands but it is relaxing, rural and gentle.

hard angular rocky outcrops mixed with sand and the sea at Southend Mull of Kintyre
A typical section of shoreline at Saaaffend, sorry Southend.
Keil hotel, a 5 storey white painted and ugly abandoned monstrosity blighting the shore
It's not ALL beautiful. The abandoned Keil Hotel.

We take several turnings and lanes then we end up on the lane to The Mull Of Kintyre Lighthouse. Here we leave the rolling rural farmland and find ourselves back amidst steep hills with hardy grasses and thick commercial woods once more. The road is gnarly and broken in places, writhing through deep troughs and peaks then sheep then gravel. It is but 6 miles long though these are 6 challenging miles.

The road ends abruptly with a small parking area and a firmly closed gate. We are not alone, a couple of cars are parked presumably with the same intentions as we have. 

We knew we'd have to walk. As such I have brought the very big bag and my sandals. We lock the lids to the bike. I put my bike kit and a few of Sharon's items into the very big bag. We have a sandwich and some crisps and a bottle of water. We are prepared. Except for that which confronts us.

We knew it would be steep, but not this steep. Sharon, myself and 2 other would be walkers ponder the zig-zag lane falling down below us. The other 2 walkers decide not to bother but for reasons beyond my understanding it seems logical to Sharon and I that we're here so we ARE walking down there.

Sharon stands on a sharp steep bend on the treacherous road to the lighthouse
They do rather like steep roads with switchbacks here.

After 5 minutes of going downhill I think I've pulled something in my "good" knee. After 10 minutes of going downhill I'm worried about coming back up. After 20 minutes of going downhill my legs are wobbly and I'm bored now. This is downhill, I wonder if mountain rescue would be kind enough to take me back up?

The view across to Rathlin Island and Ireland is misty and hazy but I'm sure we can see enough to say we can see something. The sea is millpond calm. We are close to the lighthouse now, much to my relief. I stand a moment, legs trembling, and try to imagine what it is like here in the midst of an autumn storm or a bitter winter's morning. Harsh I'd say, damn harsh.

The lighthouse at the bottom of the steep hill, misty sea waters and maybe we can see ireland in the distance
Maybe, maybe maybe that's Ireland in the haze at the top of the image.

The lighthouse is now automated, leaving the lighthouse keeper's accommodation vacant. There are builders here turning the rooms into holiday cottages. Ahhh. That will explain the shiny new safety barriers on the incredibly steep and twisty road. While I'm sure the road will be (fairly) safe there will surely be some bent bumpers, fried brakes, dented armco and plenty of terrified tourists. I wouldn't fancy that road in my long estate car or on a bike in bad weather. 

A worker on the roof of the crisp white buildings at the lighthouse, steep hillside behind
Work is afoot at the foot of the steep hillside.
Rocky promontories plunge into the calm sea in a dramatic shoreline vista at the Mull
A dramatic setting with a dramatic road for access. 

We sit a while and dine on our crisps and butty. Yes, I'm glad we made the effort, we've been, we've seen and it is quite lovely. My legs have stopped shaking now. There's a gentle breeze with sea-cooled air warranting a light jumper, nothing more. There is of course one blight on this pleasant scene. We are at the bottom of the hill, the bike is at the top.

We trudge. I tell Sharon to shorten her steps and slow down as she's already struggling. Our trudge slows to a shuffle. With each shuffle we are a little higher and I keep positive. Then we're overtaken by 6 walkers all of whom are older than us. I really must do more walking. We trudge. Ever upwards. One thick, gloopy, leaden step at a time.

It's psychological. There is no doubt we are both physically capable of walking back up yet as we turn a bend to see another bend way up ahead our hearts sink and the mind despairs. Keep on going. That is all we can do. Step by step. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Harumph, mantras are not really helping right now. 

Of course we get back up, we're not that unfit. Admittedly there were times I doubted myself. As soon as we're back at the bike I feel absolutely fine. It's all in the head I tell ya, all in the head. As we ride away Sharon spots a young deer crossing the road ahead, it's all too beautiful. I get emotional. It's all in the head I tell ya, all in the head.

Carskey Bay, down below in the distance we see a sandy beach and lush green farmland
Carskey Bay. No, really, look it up. Sharon's pictures are always better than mine.

Back in Southend I think we deserve a rest. It is but a small place but there is a pub, The Argyll Arms. Within a perfectly pleasant lady serves us tea, I sense she may be a tad relieved to escape the clutches of another patron that is talking at her. As we finish up and return our crockery I take a moment for idle chat.

Our exploration while not solitary has shown us the tip of the peninsula is a calm, serene place. It seems this is not always the case. The landlady is expecting a deluge of holidaymakers from Glasgow soon when the schools break up. The caravan parks will fill, the roads will become jammed if the weather is good and the idyll becomes Costa Del Chaos. My good lord Sharon, we are here at just the right time for once. Well done us.

We drop into Campbeltown on our return leg to get supplies then return to the tent. I suspect my legs may be a little stiff tomorrow otherwise we have enjoyed another exemplary day's exploring. Even if the rest of this trip is a miserable washout I'd still call it a success. 

Speaking of a washout. Tomorrow's forecast starts off well enough but it seems there is a front working its way north east. There may be rain in the evening and Saturday doesn't look too clever. We'll be homeward bound and we've done well so far. No complaints.


If you'd like to advertise with Bikes And Travels contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Bute And Kintyre - But Why? Ren is trying to justify why he's not taking Sharon abroad to exotic places. He blames Brexit but we all know the real reason is because he's mean and miserly.
Getting Mentally And Physically Ready Before Sharon leaves for Scotland she's both excited and yet pensive? She's normally a chilled out traveller so what is different this time?
Ayr For The Third time Familiar roads to familiar places, theoretically, if Sharon can work out which way is up.
Air Head To Ayr Sharon is having one of those days. Still, she's keeping positive and her motorcycle upright.
Boating To Bute An easy and leisurely ride up the coast of Ayrshire and an evening on the Isle of Bute.
Breathtaking Bute Sharon would like a lazy, laid back and chilled day. Unfortunately she has brought a Ren with her. He's not so bad when he stops flapping.
The Beauty of Bute Is Bute a Beaut? It's a most peculiar day to find out though. There's no rain and a big yellow thing in the sky.
The Long Way To Machrihanish Using ferries to get from Bute to Machrihanish ought to be a most pleasant and easy ride. So how do Sharon and Ren manage to turn it into an epic exploit?
Exploring The Mull Of Kintyre A little look around The Mull Of Kintyre on two wheels and a short walk that Ren makes a big thing of.
Of Batteries and Glendaruel A bit of an issue this morning. Can Ren pull himself out the poop or will Sharon simply tear him limb from limb? Serves him right for being an idiot.
It's Time To Go Home It's the saddest part of any adventure, the return home. All good things must come to an end. Fear not Ren is more than man enough to cope...?

Reader's Comments

Upt'North said :-
Fat, Lazy and fantastic to see. I thought Sharon was doing a descriptive of your good self Ed until I read the last three words.
God Scotland is beautiful.
Especially when Ed is out of shot.
Upt'North.
16/6/2019 5:22:07 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
You know, I can go to far better blogs than this to be insulted you know Upt' and I have been too!

Yes Scotland is beautiful ain't it. And you only live around the corner, I woulda thought you'd be there every weekend.
17/6/2019 8:40:46 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
I was there last Monday Ed, day ride to North Berwick. Fish, chips, peas and cherry ice cream for pud.
Blummin lovely.
North Berwick has just been named as second best seaside resort, it is nice. In first place was Bamburgh in gods country. Before you know it there'll be a NEC 200 to ruin the flipping place. The NC500 has done nothing to improve a ride in Scotland, damn clever marketing though. The very thing that would stop me going anywhere is if MCN say I must go and everyone else does.
But that's probably just me.
Ed! Lock your top box!
Upt'North.

17/6/2019 9:36:19 AM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Did I come over a bit curmudgeonly there.
Hmmmm.
Upt'North.
18/6/2019 10:52:46 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Curmudgeonly? Not at all Upt'North, why that would be unfair on curmudgeons!

As I seem to recall in a previous post, the problem with beautiful or interesting or exciting places is other people also see them as beautiful, interesting or exciting. So they, you and I go to see whatever that amazing thing is which if you're into peace and quiet... ruins it.

The top box is locked. I'm at that paranoid stage that will sooner or later pass and normal casual care will return. Soon followed by forgetting again at which point I will repeat the loop.

Been to Bamburgh. What makes it the best seaside resort? And where? Best in the UK, or best in the North, or best in the North East or best in the area around Bamburgh.
18/6/2019 12:12:43 PM UTC
JohnS said :-
I'm out of breath reading the walk back up that hill.
18/6/2019 3:38:28 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
Firstly,,,,,,,apologies for thread hijack.
Apparently Ed, I think it said UK, can't remember why and from my own point of view I'll enjoy it from November to February when all the Emmets have gone. Too darn busy otherwise.
Upt'North.

18/6/2019 6:41:59 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Emmets? Presumably tourists, but why emmets?
18/6/2019 7:15:43 PM UTC
Upt'North said :-
It's a Cornish term I believe Ed, I think it refers to a swarm of ants moving south. I also think they're Grockles in Devon, same thing different name. Are you ever amazed how much total rubbish the brain can retain but then you can forget where you've put your keys.
Upt'North.
18/6/2019 11:20:51 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Yes I have a rudimentary understanding of Quantum Mechanics yet I can stand in the kitchen for over 30 seconds wondering why I am stood in the kitchen.
19/6/2019 8:37:49 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Unfortunately Ren you are not alone in this. I have walked the length of the ship many times to wonder why the hell I am standing at the bow. I then walk back and of course, as I am removing all my safety gear I remember what it was in the first place I went to do.
Not sure if it is just me, early senility or normal senility.
20/6/2019 12:33:54 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I just hope this does not happen when you're heading to the bow to do something really important. You know, like looking for a leak or something.

"Why did the ship sink?"
"We sent Borsuk to the bow to turn on the pumps to remove the the flooding in compartment A17. He forgot why he was there. By the time he returned the bow was deep below the water line. When asked why it took so long to get back to the bridge at the stern he stated 'It was uphill all the way back...'"
20/6/2019 7:02:36 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Ohh. I didn`t realise you had read my CV Ren. It only happened the once and it was okay as the ship had fully comp insurance.
20/6/2019 10:03:13 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I'm sure the ship owners were thrilled. And the crew as you all bobbed along the ocean waves in your little liferaft.
21/6/2019 7:36:04 AM UTC

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