An Unexpected Afternoon in Carradale.
Carradale is a quiet and unassuming wee village, which is cuddled into the east side of the Kintyre Peninsula. Here’s what I got up to on my afternoon adventure.
When it comes to travel, there’s only so much you can plan for. I always try to pack light, but I still end up with friction marks on my shoulders from two backpacks. I do own and carry waterproofs aye, but I inevitably get caught in sudden downpours which soak me through to my underwear, and leave me with serious ‘fringe issues’. On my public transport adventure around Argyll, it was a last-minute change to my travel plans which threw a wee spanner in the works.
After some trip planning wizardry, my itinerary had been executed with perfectly-timed precision in the first few days. A quick improvisation was required however, when my boat trip from Campbeltown to Northern Ireland was cancelled at a day’s notice, for operational reasons. I was in a remote corner on the country, the weather was looking less than favourable, and I obviously didn’t have a car. I’d spent sufficient time exploring Campbeltown, where I was staying, so after cross-referencing a map and various West Coast Motors timetables, I decided to spend the day in Carradale.
As far as Scottish destinations go, Carradale keeps itself to itself. The village holds fond memories for those who have holidayed there since childhood, while others have never even heard of it. Admittedly, I fell into the latter camp. Given my limited time in the area, I was taking a risk on an unknown destination.
Would it pay off?
Journey from Campbeltown to Carradale.
The bus was small, and I was obviously the only tourist on board. Such situations offer prime ‘people watching’ opportunities, and an interesting wee insight into local life. I love being in transit, and I had 41 minutes to enjoy the journey north along the east coast of Kintyre. The sky was pale and blurry, as was the sea; they almost blended together with no distinguishable line, and with only a couple of wee boats on the horizon to punctuate the otherwise infinite haze.
Though the visibility was so poor, it was still mesmerisingly beautiful. The bus had ascended from blue sky in Campbeltown into a misty microclimate, with brewing clouds which had ‘imminent downpour’ written all over them. I took the bus all the way to the last stop, at Carradale Harbour.
The views of Arran from Carradale Harbour are stunning, they said. I’m sure they are! A momentary gap in the thick marshmallow-like cloud cover revealed the dark profile of Arran’s stunning mountain tops. Then, with a wave of nature’s magic wand, it was gone. The vista had vanished but the harbour itself is a pretty picture, so I sat down to appreciate my surroundings for a short while.
Carradale Harbour was once a hive of activity, where tourists would spill out in the village from 19thcentury steamships which stopped in at Carradale on the route from Glasgow to Campbeltown. This surge in visitors transformed Carradale from a modest fishing into a popular leisure escape, calling for the opening of local hotels.
Nowadays, the village doesn’t feel very touristy all at – which I liked. I popped into the bakery for an Empire Biscuit, and continued walking in search of a lunch spot I’d read about online. I bumped into a lovely local man Ian on the way, who recommended I take the scenic route up through Crow Wood to the café and come back to the village centre via Carradale Bay. Of course, I took his advice.
A Walk in the Woods.
The woodland path starts just across the street from Carradale Village Hall, and quickly ascends into the forest. Mist hung around the trees, and the wooden walkways were slippery from the moisture in the air. Once I reached the track at the most elevated point on the trail, I felt like I was the only person for miles. Despite being a social butterfly and shameless chatterbox, I take great comfort in being swallowed up in my surroundings, with no another soul around.
Silent and still, I stopped to take it all in. I then became all too aware that the atmosphere was on the brink of a downpour, and my stomach was ready to throw a tantrum. I began the descent towards my lunch destination.
I love a wee community café, and Network Tearoom is just that. Rustic inside and out, and busy with locals, it is exactly the kind of place I gravitate towards on my travels. Just after I arrived, the dark clouds dumped a furious stream of water from the sky, and what a sound it made! Hot drinks always taste better when it’s raining outside (fact) and despite being rushed off her feet, the lady running the café did a crackin’ job of my hot smoked salmon and potato salad. Of course, I was reluctant to leave the sheltered confines of the tearoom given the inclement weather, but I had a beach to check out! On went my fetching waterproof trousers.
- Network Bistro is open from 10.00 – 16.30 every day (expect Mondays and Tuesdays)
- To view the sample menu the website
I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t exactly optimum conditions for a walk on the beach, but it was Scottish in every sense. A good old blast of the coastal wind ensured that I was evenly coated in rain water from top to bottom, and I took the opportunity to munch on my Empire Biscuit as I walked. Despite the dreich conditions, I could still appreciate Carradale Bay’s long stretch of sand, and imagine it is the picture of seaside loveliness when the sun is shining. I persevered through the onslaught of drizzle, along the length of the beach, before retiring to… THE PUB!
The bar in the Carradale Hotel is traditional, friendly, and conveniently located right next to the bus stop. All good adventures finish with a cheeky pint, and mine came in the shape of a nice, cold Tennents. I took time to dry off and post a wee update on social media, before catching the bus back to Campbeltown.
Port Righ is picturesque wee bay in Carradale, which I didn’t get the chance to check out on this visit. It is alleged that Robert the Bruce landed here in 1306 before his legendary encounter with the wee spider in a cave. It is said that it was his observation of the determined spider trying over and over to spin its web, that inspired him to continue in his pursuit of freedom for the Scots, and begin military preparations for the epic Battle of Bannockburn. There are many theories about the location of the cave; one being Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland, which is visible and accessible by boat from Kintyre.
Carradale, the Overall Verdict.
Carradale is a ‘make your own fun’ kinda place, and despite the weather-related challenges, I was glad that I took a chance on a village I previously hadn’t heard of. There is such a thing as over-planning, and it was nice to indulge in a spot of spontaneity, and not have a strict checklist of sites to run between. From the lack of tourists to the absence of the sun, it was a local and authentic experience from the get-go. That said, if someone could arrange even a wee sliver of sunshine for my next visit, that would be wonderful. Thanks in advance, Kay.
- I travelled to Campbeltown on the Citylink service from Glasgow. You can view the timetable here
- From Campbeltown, I reached Carradale on the West Coast Motors service. You can download the timetable here