Campbeltown (Gaelic: Ceann Loch Chille Chiarain) is a town near the south tip of Kintyre, the long narrow peninsula of Argyll in the west of Scotland. It's only 60 mi (97 km) from Glasgow as the crow flies, but 135 mi (217 km) by road winding around the many lochs and mountain ranges. In 2021 the population was 4490.
Kintyre has inspired two famous songs: the one that isn't by Paul McCartney goes "Campbeltown Loch, I wish you were whisky, I would drink you dry...." Wishful thinking but not for want of industry by the town's distilleries - there used to be 30 in this small place. As with Islay, the isolation was a factor. Barrels of whisky were loaded onto ships for export, duty free; but on dark nights many of them mysteriously found their way back to the mainland cities. By the 21st century only two distilleries remained in Campbeltown, but a change in the law in 2009 encouraged new production.
After all the twists and turns of the main road A83 to reach Tarbert on Loch Fyne, the last section to Campbeltown is a 37-mile straight run along the west coast. Most motorists and buses follow this route. A scenic route is the B-road along the east coast. This branches off just south of Kennacraig ferry terminal, runs over the moors to Claonaig (for Skipness Castle, and summer ferries to Lochranza on Arran) then south via Carradale, Saddell and Peninver to Campbeltown.
Scottish Citylink Bus 926 runs 4 or 5 times daily from Glasgow Buchanan Street to Campbeltown, taking 4 hours. The route is via Dumbarton, Tarbet on Loch Lomond, Inveraray, Lochgilphead, Tarbert on Loch Fyne, Kennacraig, Tayinloan and Muasdale. One bus a day runs via Glasgow Airport. Booking is recommended, as this is a busy route connecting with several ferries.
On school days there are a couple of extra runs by West Coast Bus 449 from Lochgilphead via Tarbert and A83 to Campbeltown.
The bus terminus is 200 yards north of the ferry pier.
1 Campbeltown Airport (CAL IATA), PA28 6NU (4 miles west of town). Two Loganair flights M-F and one on Sunday from Glasgow GLA take 45 min. The terminal is tiny, check-in here an hour before flight will be plenty. Car hire (pre-booking essential) is available from Kintyre Hire or Campbeltown Motor Company - see "Get around" for these and taxis. There's no bus service to the airport.
Calmac ferries sail three days a week May-Sept from Ardrossan (which has trains from Glasgow Central) to Campbeltown, taking 2 hr 40 min. A day trip is not possible. Return fares until end of March 2024 are £91.30 per car, £17.10 per adult passenger including driver, £8.60 per child aged 5-15. A quirk of this route is that the Saturday morning ferry from Campbeltown also calls at Brodick on Arran on its return to Ardrossan; it doesn't call on the outbound sailing. There's no ferry Oct-Apr. The 2 ferry terminal is at the head of the loch, 200 yards south of the bus terminus.
Kintyre Express is a foot-passenger ferry between Campbeltown and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. This runs Apr-Sep F-M, sailing from Campbeltown at 07:30, taking 90 min and returning at 16:30, so a day trip is possible. Adult fares in 2023 are £80 single, £150 return, bikes are free.
There's no car ferry between Kintyre and Ireland: with a vehicle you have to wind all the way back through Tarbert, Inveraray, Loch Lomond and Glasgow to sail from Cairnryan near Stranraer.
See Tarbert for details of ferries:
- - from Portavadie on Cowal to Tarbert, which, combined with the Gourock-Dunoon or Isle of Bute ferries, create a short cut from Glasgow or circular itinerary;
- - from Kennacraig to Islay, thence to Jura and Colonsay;
- - from Claonaig to Lochranza on Arran.
Bus: West Coast Motors run local buses around Campbeltown M-Sat; nothing on Sunday or late evening.
Bus 100 / 440 loops around town every half hour, as far south as the hospital and Ralston Rd, and as far north as Calton Ave.
Bus 200 / 442 runs every couple of hours west along B843 to Machrihanish. It doesn't serve the airport further north.
Bus 300 / 445 runs 4 or 5 times up the east coast from Campbeltown via Peninver, Saddell and Torrisdale to Carradale.
Bus 400 / 444 runs 5 or 6 times to Southend, from where it's a 5-mile walk (8-km) to the Mull of Kintyre.
Car hire: Kintyre Hire +44 1586 554480 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Campbeltown Motor Company +44 1586 552 030 or email@example.com.
Taxis (all serving the airport) are Fona Taxis +44 1586 554001 or free phone +44 800 666 666; Roy’s Taxis +44 1586 554 625; Tavi’s Taxis +44 1586 551122 and Kintyre Connect Minibus +44 7825 091 502 or +44 7984 634 824.
- Campbeltown Museum, St John St PA28 6BY (by harbour). M–F 09:00-12:00. Museum of local history in a fine late Victorian building designed by John James Burnet. The Linda McCartney (1941-1998) memorial garden is at the rear - Paul McCartney's song Mull of Kintyre featured the Campbeltown Pipe Band. Donation.
- 1 Heritage Centre, 3 Big Kiln St PA28 6JF, ☏ . May-Sep: Tu-F 11:00-16:00. A small museum of local history in the former Gaelic Free Church. They also have family archives. Free.
- 2 Davaar Island is a tidal island in the bay east of town, reached by the Dhorlin shingle causeway at low tide. There's a Stevenson lighthouse, and several caves: a painting of the crucifixion appeared in one in 1887, causing consternation among locals who took it as a sign from God. But "a prophet is without honour in his own country" (Mark 6: 4) and when they learned it was by a local man, Archibald MacKinnon, they ran him out of town. The painting is occasionally vandalised but has been restored. You can see it without a flashlight, though it's a bit gloomy and damp in there.
- 3 Mull of Kintyre is the scenic headland at the tip of the peninsula, with cliffs, a lighthouse, and the coast of Northern Ireland only 12 miles away - not much further than is Campbeltown. The mist-wraithed cliffs and ridges have claimed several ships and aircraft; a memorial near the car park commemorates the Chinook helicopter crash of 1994. St Columba (521-597) first landed in Scotland at Southend 5 miles east, but it was too close to his enemies in Ulster and he continued north to Iona.
- Sanda is the uninhabited islet seen 3 miles south of the Mull.
- 4 Kilchousland Chapel is the ruin of a 12th century church eroding into the sea. It was abandoned in 1617 but the graveyard continued in use.
- 5 Kildonan Dun is a sturdy D-shaped hillfort from maybe 1st or 2nd century BC. It was occupied on and off to 1300 AD, then used as a stock pen.
- 6 Sadell Abbey is the ruin of a Cistercian monastery active 1207-1507. It's on B842 eight miles north of Campbeltown. Free, always open. A short walk south gives you a view of Sadell Castle, a 16th-century bastion: this is nowadays self-catering property and you can't tour inside.
- 7 Carradale is a small village halfway along the east coast. It has accommodation and is an alternative base for touring Kintyre.
- Campbeltown Picture House, 26 Hall St PA28 6BU (100 yards north of ferry pier), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Scotland's oldest active cinema, built 1913 in Art Nouveau style. Screen 1 the original has 193 seats, Screen 2 is modern with 52 seats. Adult £8.50.
- Visit a distillery. This town used to have 30 distilleries. It now has three producing single malt Scotch whisky, and further north there's a gin distillery. All can be toured.
- 1 Springbank, 85 Longrow PA28 6EX, ☏ . M-Sa 10:00-18:00. Founded in 1828, it produces Springbank (double-distilled, medium peaty), Longrow (double-distilled, very peaty) and Hazelburn (triple-distilled, non peaty) Scotch whiskies. Tours are available four times M-Sa Apr-Oct, fewer Nov-Mar. Tour £12.
- Glengyle distillery next door re-opened in 2004, producing Kilkerran single malt. It's also run by Springbank, see above for tours.
- Glen Scotia distillery on Dalaruan St, founded 1832, is open M-Sa, contact them for tours.
- Beinn An Tuirc is a gin distillery opened in 2016. It's next to Torrisdale Castle, 10 miles (16 km) north of Campbeltown, see "Sleep". The shop is open M-Sa 11:00-16:00, Su 12:00-15:00, contact them for tours.
- Aqualibrium is the leisure centre, on Kinloch Rd just north of the harbour. It has a gym, swimming pool, fitness classes and sauna.
- Golf: Machrihanish GC is set among the dunes on the west coast beyond the airport. Dunaverty GC is on the south tip of the Mull.
- Kintyre Agricultural Show is next held on 4 Aug 2023. Campbeltown and Southend Highland Games are no longer held.
- MOKfest is the Mull of Kintyre music festival, with a mixture of traditional, classical and modern styles. The next is 9-13 Aug 2023.
Tesco Metro is just north of the bus station. It's open M-Sa 07:00-22:00 and Su 10:00-18:00.
- Number Forty Two, 42 Main St PA28 6AD (one block back from harbour), ☏ . Daily 10:00-23:00. Great place for seafood.
- Bangladesh Tandoori, 24 Bolgam St PA28 6HZ (corner of Burnbank Place), ☏ . Daily 16:30-23:00. Amazing to find such good Bangladeshi food in this small town.
- Taj Mahal on Hall St gets rotten reviews.
- Golden Ocean is a Chinese restaurant at 72 Longrow, open daily 12:00-14:00 & 17:00-23:00.
- Drink the local whisky from Springbank, Glengyle or Glen Scotia. You can try singing "Campbeltown Loch, I wish you were whisky...", but the barman's sick of hearing it.
- Black Sheep Pub is within Royal Hotel, see "Sleep"; Fiddlers Inn is on Lochend St, open daily.
- Royal Hotel, Main St PA28 6AG (by harbour), ☏ . Traditional Victorian hotel with 23 rooms but well renovated, clean and comfortable. Free shuttle to the golf course. B&B double £240.
- Ardshiel Hotel, Kilkerran Rd PA28 6JL (by ferry pier), ☏ . Comfy trad hotel, dog-friendly, and the bar has a huge selection of whisky. B&B double £150.
- B&Bs in town centre include Earadale, Gowanlea, Grammar Lodge and Argyll Arms.
- 1 Dellwood Hotel, Drumore PA28 6HD, ☏ . Pleasant friendly hotel. B&B double £100.
- 2 Craigard House Hotel, Low Askomil PA28 3EP (on B842), ☏ . Comfy hotel in Italianate villa on north loch shore with good dining. B&B double £130.
- 3 Machrihanish Holiday Park is five miles west of town on B843. Clean, well-run site open Apr-Oct with caravan hook-ups, camping and wigwams.
- 4 Ugadale Hotel, Machrihanish Dunes PA28 6PT, ☏ . Smart golf hotel amidst the dunes, same owners as Royal Hotel. Free shuttle to the golf course. B&B double £200.
- 5 Peninver Sands is a caravan park and campsite 5 miles north of town on B842, open mid-March to Oct.
- 6 Torrisdale Castle is a castellated mansion built in 1815. It's not open for tours but you can self-cater within or by the castle. Beinn An Tuirc gin distillery is within the castle grounds.
As of May 2023, Campbeltown has 4G from EE and Vodafone, with a patchy signal along the A83, but nothing from O2 or Three. 5G has not reached this area.
- Claonaig near Skipness castle has summer ferries to Arran, an alternative route back to lowland Scotland.
- Tayinloan is the ferry pier for Gigha; you'll have to return the same way.
- Tarbert (Loch Fyne) has ferries to Islay and to Cowal, and is the road north.
|Routes through Campbeltown|
|END ←||W E||→ Ardrossan|
|END ←||SW NE||→ Tarbert → Glasgow|