Friday, 21 August 2009

The Viking Isle - Kintyre

The longest promontory in Britain, immortalized by Paul MacCartney, Kintyre (Gaelic: ceann tire - land's end) is only by geological chance not an island.

A1.5 km isthmus is all that joins it to the mainland: it was in fact claimed as an island by the Norwegian king Magnus Barelegs, by dint of an agreement allowing the Norseman to claim all parts of the Hebrides which could be navigated by boat.

Old Barelegs sat in his boat while his warriors hauled it over the narrow neck of land. As a consequence, many of Kintyre's place names are Norse in origin, including Claonaig where the ferry landed us (just).

There is a long distance path (the Kintyre Way) but due to the high blanket bog much of it is not suitable for horses (as several riders have discovered).

I rode from east to west via Loch Lussa, which despite the appalling weather conditions (surprise) is a lovely ride, taking in Saddell Glen.

Saddell is reputed to be the final resting place of heroic Somerled, who freed Kintyre from Norse domination on the twelfth century.

I rode across the 'spine' of Kintyre, passing close to its highest point (with ubiquitous windfarms). These are lovely forest tracks, well graded and not too steep although you climb quite high . I know this is for the benefit of the timber lorries, but we appreciate it too!

The going underfoot - which can be so variable on forest tracks depending on how recently they were constructed- is good, with a huge sandy strip down the middle for much of the way. On a good day I'm sure there would be some stunning views too!

We exited on the west side at Bellochantuy. Sadly not possible to ride along the beach, so we rode south along an A road which was pretty scarey...although the traffic wasn't too heavy, it was extremely fast.

A reporter from the Campeltown Courier caught up with me, pretty cross just after a 'nearie' with a tourist caravan so heaven knows what they'll print- lots of asterisks, I bet.

But we made it to the Lalargarve Highland pony stud - wonderful location to see the mares and foals high up with the sea as the backdrop. Some of the ponies are in their 30s, testament to Sue's care...although I suspect her goat kids Butch Casserole and the Sunday Lunch kid may not enjoy the same longevity somehow...

Doogs and Yeoman just look better and better - I on the other hand feel, look (and probably smell) more & more like Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Will it ever stop raining, one wonders? Sharp eyed readers will notice the photo was taken with me standing INSIDE this old barn
looking out - it's bloody wet out there!


  1. Hi Kate! The ponies are looking exceedingly well! Bully for them, I can understand your comments re the state of yourself, been there! I was sorry to hear that you didnt get into the hills of Arran, perhaps another time? But good luck with the next step of the journey.

  2. HI kate, will do a backwards rain dance in the hope it dries up! Good piccie in Scottish Farmer , Carol &Co x

  3. hi kate some ideas about the weather try to persuade a ramdom gamekeeper to give you one of the terry toweling scarves they wear on wet january shoots they really make a difference or rip a hand towel in half lenthways our freinds in the cycling fraternity are terribly keen on the tiny little towels they have try dispacing bill to a cycle shop if he's down this way pitlochry is fab and also honest in a staight down water situation i have been known to use a small umbrella on a polo pony though they are totaly bomb proof