355 Machrihanish to Glenbarr

I catch the bus back to Machrihanish. It’s another bright and breezy Scottish morning.

01 Machrihanish Beach, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

Last time I was on this bus, a Scottish gentleman kept up a conversation with me for the entire journey (we were the only passengers). Sadly I could barely make out a word he said, perhaps because of his accent, or perhaps because of the effects of a mild stroke. I resorted to nodding and smiling. Today, there are a couple of other passengers, but no conversation.

Machrihanish Bay is a beautiful stretch of unspoilt sand, and I’m very much looking forward to the walk today. After miles of either tough tarmac or wild countryside, a gentle stretch of sand-walking will be a real treat.

02 Machrihanish Bay, Ruth hiking the coast, Mull of Kintyre

I walk across the edge of a golf course, and down to the sands, where a few other people are strolling and taking photographs. I rarely meet other people on my walks around Kintyre, and so I feel a vague sense of resentment because, selfishly, I don’t want to share this beach!

03 people walking Machrihanish beach, Ruth Livingstone

I walk close to the waves, and soon come to the river – Machrihanish Water. Could I wade across? Yes. But I know the water will come over the top of my boots. It is a little early in the day to get my feet wet…

04 Machrihanish Water, Ruth hiking the Mull of Kintyre, coast of Scotland

…so I walk up the bank of the river, and soon come across a handy bridge. Was it constructed for the benefit of the local farmer, or for the golfers whose greens lie on either side of the river? I’m not sure.

05 bridge across Machrihanish Water, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland, Kintyre

On the other side are grassy dunes, and I walk along the topmost ridge, enjoying the views and the winds…

06 dunes, Machrihanish Bay, Ruth hiking the Mull of Kintyre

… before climbing down to walk along the sands again. I’ve left the strollers behind. Now there are only a few oyster catchers for company.

07 sand and oyster catchers, Machrihanish Bay, Ruth Livingstone

The sea is dark green, and the wind has whipped up moderate sized waves. I stop to photograph the surf.

08 waves, Machrihanish Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre, Scotland

This beach is around 5 miles long. Walking on sand can be monotonous, but is very soothing for the soul. It is also a place where the eye plays tricks, because there is little to give a sense of perspective.

Sand and more sand. One foot after the other. Repeat.

An hour passes. The other side of the beach seems a distant place I will never reach. One foot after the other. Sand and more sand.

Then I meet a couple of dog walkers, and realise – with some sadness – I must be coming to the end.

09 north end, Machrihanish Bay, Ruth's coastal walk

(When I first decided to walk the coastline of Britain, I thought every walk would be an easy stroll along a flat beach. How wrong I was! Beach walking is a rare luxury.)

I pause and look back at the Mull of Kintyre, and remember my difficult walk of yesterday. Yes, I certainly deserved an easier walk today.

10 Mull of Kintyre, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

Leaving the beach, I clamber over some rocks and find a quiet place to perch. Time for a drink and a snack. Over the water, hazy and indistinct, is the island of Islay.

11 picnic spot, Ruth Livingstone hiking the coast of Scotland

Now comes several miles of road-walking along the A83. This is the main route to Campbeltown and I’m expecting heavy traffic. Oh dear. I seem to have done more than my fair share of road-walking around the Kintyre Peninsula.

Luckily – and to my surprise – the traffic is fairly quiet. In addition, some of the time, I can follow the remains of an earlier coastal road…

12 Westport, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre

… although most of the time I’m verge hopping along the edge of the main road.

13 A83, Ruth Livingstone hiking the west coast of Kintyre

Here’s another stretch of old coastal road, but it soon comes to an end. Shame. Wish it had been kept as an alternative route for walkers and cyclists.

14 old coastal road, Ruth Livingstone

Luckily, the views are wonderful. When I first drove along here, on my way to Campbeltown, I couldn’t believe how beautiful this coastal road was.

15 road walking, A83, Ruth hiking the west coast of Kintyre

Cormorants (or are they?) perch on a rock. I haven’t seen many of these birds in Scotland, so perhaps they aren’t cormorants, but something different.

16 cormorant rocks, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre peninsula

Scattered intermittently along the remains of the old coast road are static caravans. I wonder if they’re holiday homes, or lived in permanently?

17 static caravans, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Kintyre

I come to the occasional stretch of sandy beach. Makes a welcome change from tarmac.

18 patches of beach, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre

Back on the road again, and past some road works. They appear to be repairing the crash barriers.

19 roadworks, Ruth Livingstone hiking the A83

Luckily, the traffic lights help to break up the stream of cars and lorries.

A while later, I stop beside the shore for another snack break, and to take more photographs of the waves and the rocks. Islay is clearer on the horizon.

20 views of Islay, Ruth hiking the west Kintyre coastline

Over the crest of a low hill, and there’s another beautiful bay in front of me. Check my map. Bellochantuy. It’s a tiny place, but has a hotel. And more caravans.

21 Bellochantuy Bay, Ruth hiking the coast of Kintyre

I walk along the sand. A tractor is at work. Taking sand? Or piling it up? Or digging a drainage ditch? I don’t linger for long enough to find out.

22 excavating sand, Bellochantuy beach, Ruth's coastal walk

This bay is lovely. Small rocks poke their heads above the water and fight with the waves. Nobody in sight. Occasionally I have to wade across streams, and now I get my feet well and truly wet. But I don’t care.

23 beach walking, Bellachantuy Bay, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre

Inland are fields. Cattle. Sheep. And more static caravans. This one looks definitely lived in, with solar panels and a strange array of antennae, one decorated with… is that a bicycle wheel? Yes.

24 beach artwork, Ruth's coastal walk, Mull of Kintyre

I can’t work out if this is an elaborate piece of artwork, or some Heath Robinsonish contraption for generating power.

Out to sea, storm clouds are gathering. That’s definitely rain over Islay.

25 rainstorm out to sea, Ruth Livingstone walking the Scottish coast

This stretch of beach ends at a caravan park. Time to turn inland again…

26 caravan park, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre

… and rejoin the road.

27 back on the A83, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre

At the top of the next rise, I turn to look back. Uh, oh. More rain clouds. These ones are over the Mull of Kintyre and they’re heading my way.

28 rain storms over Mull of Kintyre, Ruth's coast walk, Scotland

Originally I was going to walk further along the road, for another 2-3 miles, but the prospect of rain makes me change my mind. My B&B is just a few hundred yards inland of here, and I’m going to head there now.

I turn off along a quiet lane.


29 quiet road to Glenbarr, Ruth's coastal walk, Kintyre

And walk past Glenbarr Abbey, which is also the ‘Macalister Clan Centre’, according to a sign. I wonder what sort of gatherings the Macalister Clan hold?

30 Glenbarr Abbey, Macalister Clan Centre, Ruth hiking the Kintyre Peninsula

Glenbarr is a tiny village, but it has a wonderful village shop, which is also a café, a garden centre, and rents rooms out.

31 Glenbarr cafe, stores and garden shop, Ruth's coastal walk

I’m staying here for a few nights – in splendid isolation – as there are no other guests. Sadly, they don’t do a cooked breakfast, but serve some tasty homemade bread and hot croissants.

Walked today = 12 miles (surprising, because it seemed less)
Total distance around coast of Britain = 3,696.5 miles

Route today:


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 21 Argyll and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 355 Machrihanish to Glenbarr

  1. Jean says:

    What a beautiful part of the world. And as always Ruth ,your account is full of interest. Lovely photos too, I especially like the rain clouds over Islay and the dunes (sixth pic). Oh, and the caravan with solar panels and masts – the things you have to do to get a telly picture! Weren’t you tempted to knock on the door and ask the occupants what the bicycle wheel was for?

    • Thank you Jean. I must say I always feel a little nervous around those static caravans. I suspect the inhabitants are oddballs and eccentrics, living on the fringes of society. They could, of course, be wonderfully welcoming too! I usually just creep past. 😄

  2. Alice says:

    Hello Ruth, I am enjoying following your blog – especially the scottish coast. We are trying to do a coastal tour but cheating by staying in our camper van and walking or cycling sections.
    To paraphrase Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, I’ve generally found caravan dwellers to be ‘mostly harmless’, but sometimes they seem to enjoy endless conversation, so you could be hi-jacked for hours if you’re too polite.
    Enjoy your walk and keep safe.

    • Hi Alice. A camper van seems an excellent solution to the logistical problems of finding convenient places to stay in Scotland. Your adventure sounds wonderful. There is no “cheating” involved, in my opinion, because you are allowed to make your own rules! Best wishes.

  3. 3696.5 miles is fantastic achievement Ruth! You are posting wonderful scenic photos, which is lacking in Suffolk except for wonderful cloud formations over long flat sands! I am way behind but at least the end of the Suffolk coastal path will be achieved on my next walk before venturing into Essex! Am tempted to take a diversion up the Stour and Orwell estuaries but that’ll add 42 miles! Better face what Essex has in store I guess.

    • Hi Chris. It’s a difficult decision whether to walk round estuaries or not. I choose to cross at the first public crossing I come to, but others have gone the long way round. I tell myself I can always revisit these places (in fact, Andy Philips finished his coastal walk last year and is starting again – to include estuaries and other places he didn’t visit first time round!) Essex has an awful lot of estuaries 😀

  4. Karen White says:

    I love to walk in the sea!
    The dark clouds over Islay are dramatic and a definite warning of rain! The village shop / cafe sounds a delightful place to stay for a few nights,
    To do all the estuaries would add a lot of miles to a coastal walk. I wonder how far Andy Philips has got – does he have a blog?

I welcome your views

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s