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To Kintyre and the Benmore botanical garden

Home -> Europe -> Scotland -> Travelogue Scotland -> 19 & 20 June 2014

Thursday 19 June, to Kintyre and the Benmore botanical garden

Gatelodge of Skipness castle At Skipness CastleWednesday, the 18th of June we make a long trip over Kintyre, an elongated peninsula and we take the ferry from Portavadie to Tarbert because otherwise we have to make a long detour. Our first stop is at Skipness Castle from the 13th century. And as always I find the gatekeeper's house at the entrance of the estate much nicer than the castle itself which is a rude and angular building. And then it is also a ruin. Why do not I have such a nice gate lodge?
On the roof of Skipness castle Courtyard of Skipness castleThere is a two-storey residential tower and we carefully walk upstairs where you can see how the roof is covered with slate and where we have an overview over the courtyard. This castle, like most others, has seen a lot of struggle and fighting and has not endured the centuries unharmed. At first it belonged to the Normans, later to Scots (the clan MacDonalds) who supported the English in their fight against Scotland. I sometimes find the history of Scotland quite confusing, but it is clear that they did like a game of fighting.
Village along the coast of Kintyre Church bell in Campbeltown, KintyreThen we drive on the narrow B842 through small villages to the south, to Campbeltown where we find a terrace. Scotland has few outdoor terraces and that will mainly come because it is not so often such nice weather as it is now, it is almost 30 degrees! Once there were 30 whiskey distilleries here and the town called itself the whiskey capital of the world but there are only 3 left. They were more concerned with quantity than quality and also the prohibition in the US in the 20th century did not help. The three that still exist are Glen Scotia, Glengyle and Springbank.
View of Alisa Craig from Kintyre Cow on KintyreWe drive all the way to the southern tip of the peninsula and have completely passed by the island of Arran, where we spend a week, 3 years ago. In the distance we now see Alisa Craig, the top of an extinct volcano off the coast of Ayrshire. The roads go up and down the hills and we occasionally pass a car or a hamlet, but usually we have the road and the land for us alone. Except for a single cow, of course.
Steep road on Kintyre The ferry from Tarbert to PortavadieAt Southend, on the southern tip of Kintyre, we visit St Columba's Chapel, Footprints, and Holy Well, 3 places which according to the oral tradition are related to St. Columba, a monk who was exiled from Ireland in 563 AD. and then started christianizing the Scots. A chapel, a footprint in stone and a sacred source but probably they have nothing to do with the saint at all.
Via the west side of the peninsula we drive back to the north and in Tarbert we just see the ferry depart as we enter the harbor.
Castle at Tarbert The harbor of Tarbert on KintyreWe now have to wait an hour, so we drive past the castle of Tarbert, which is built on a 30 meter high plateau, but it is not much more than a ruin now. This area was very important between the 10th and 13th centuries in the battle against the Vikings and there were many castles built by both parties who regularly conquered each other's castles until the Normans were finally defeated in the 13th century although the Orkneys and Shetland Islands remained in Norwegian hands for a while.
We are back quite late at our house because, even though the distances were not that big, the travel times are long because we had to wait for the ferry and on the narrow winding roads you can only drive slowly. Of course you also have to stop very often to enjoy the landscape and make photos. Sigh, why did we lose so much photgraphs? It is a real shame, because with this beautiful weather we make a lot more photos than when it nis raining.
In the botanical garden of Benmore The botanical garden, BenmoreThe last day in Kilmun is such a beautiful day and it is quite hot so we stay in the neighborhood. Just a few miles away is the Benmore botanical garden, which is part of the Edinburgh botanical gardens that has multiple establishments throughout Scotland. Benmore covers an extensive terrain and there are several hiking trails. At the entrance the area is still fairly flat but a large part is quite hilly. We first walk through the Redwood avenue, large sequoia trees that are bordered by rhododendron bushes.
Castle in the botanical garden of Benmore Castle in the botanical garden of BenmoreThere are more than 300 species of rhododendrons to see but I can not distinguish them from each other. I like the little castle that is on the estate, Benmore house. We walk past it for a while but soon we have to climb and we are at the same height as the turrets and we see them between the trees. Behind the castle the terrain is becoming more and more hilly and the map we have is not very accurate and we sometimes have no idea where we are. We look for a certain viewpoint but do not find it. There are many more paths than the map indicates and we get lost further and further. We have noticed that we are further moving away from the entrance when we go up.
Climbing in the botanical garden, Benmore Pond in the botanical garden of BenmoreAfter 2 hours of wandering about we go looking for the way back, so we keep going down. But the fact that we have been wandering around means we have liked the walk, since we do that not often. This forest area full of exotic trees and shrubs is better than some of the neatly decorated gardens at some castles.
The pain in my back tells me that we really have walked a lot and especially climbed. Fortunately there is a bench near a pond where we can relax. And then quickly to the entrance where we get some soup and coffee. A great walk but now I really need a rest.
On the beach in Scotland Reading on the beach in the sunAnd that rest we find on the beach. We always have camping chairs when we travel with our own car and they are useful on this pebble beach. We never actually bring swimming gear to Scotland, but there is no one who sees that we are sitting here in our black underwear. And we do not go into the water, even though it is almost 30 degrees. We see too many jellyfish on the pebble beach. But Teije, with a paper book, and I with my e-reader are enjoying ourselves, sitting in the sun!


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