Kilmartin and Kintyre (Day 26)

Mr. T encouraged a lovely (and in Brad’s case, long) night of blissful sleep. Aaaaah. Breakfast was hearty oatmeal (porridge) and stout coffee. Mmmmmmm. Our first stop: Kilmartin. We were only 15 miles from this amazing place, so we headed over to explore a few of the myriad prehistoric and historic sites in the area. It is the most profusely clustered area of prehistoric monuments in Britain, according to the tourist info I was reading. There are something like 800 known monuments scattered across the landscape there within just a few miles’ radius.

The first stop: Dunadd. This was an ancient hill fort where the kings of Dalriada were crowned. It was rainy and misty, so a very appropriately moody way to see this very mysterious place. Luckily, the rain stopped for us when we arrived at Dunadd so we were able to climb the hill without getting wet. It was a surprisingly treacherous climb in the wet weather as the rocky hillside was slippery. We had to keep a close hand on the kids to help them keep upright. They alternated between doing a great job, being slow and methodical, and forgetting themselves and going too fast, sometimes ending in minor tragedy. No one really got hurt, though. We all had fun searching for indentations and carvings in the rocks. We were very excited to get to the top and find the stone with the footprint indentation. We all took turns “trying it on” as the ancient kings of Dalriada might have done. (They had really small feet!) We were treated to sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. It was quite stunning.

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Next stop: Dunchraigaig and Ballymeanoch. Just up the road a mile or two from Dunadd was a path around a prehistoric chambered cairn and a stone circle. We parked in the lot, ate some tuna sandwiches for lunch, and watched sadly as the rain came down. We didn’t think we’d get lucky again, so we sucked it up and ventured out in the rain. We got pretty wet, but had a lovely walk by the cairn and then through pasture to the stones. We didn’t get all the way to the Ballymeanoch stones as there was a herd of cattle grazing in and around it and we didn’t feel like wrestling cattle in the rain. (A couple of them were acting a bit…frisky…) We admired them from the gate into the pasture and then turned around and returned to the van through the now very heavy rain. We were drenched! Luckily, we had spare shoes and trousers and were able to get dry and comfy quite quickly. We continued up the road to Kilmartin and saw the “linear cemetery” out the passenger side windows: a line of prehistoric cairns. It was pretty remarkable.

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Then…on to the Kilmartin House Museum. The museum is housed in a lovely building just next to the Kilmartin church and churchyard, where a remarkable collection of early Christian grave slabs and crosses is on display.

The museum was small but excellent, with great hands-on activities for the kids like grinding grain with a traditional quern and making colorful rubbings from replicas of ancient stone carvings.

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After we’d had our fill of ancient history for the day, we headed south toward Kintyre. We only got as far as Tarbert, the gateway to the peninsula. I had visited this place 20 years previous with my parents when we looked up some of our distant relations. We ended up having tea with the lovely Mrs. Effie MacFarlane and her son, John. They were distant cousins, but I don’t remember just now exactly how we were connected, only that we were. Today Tarbert looked much like it did 20 years ago: familiar and beautiful. What a gorgeous setting for this quaint fishing town. It may be the most picturesque we’ve seen so far.

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We walked through the town a bit and took lots of photos, then decided to try to make it back up and around Lochgilphead and head toward Loch Lomond.

We made it as far as Ardgartan Camping and Caravanning Site in the Argyll Forest Park. Along the way, the clouds had come so low that we could rarely see the hillsides, let alone the peaks on either side of us. Even so, the drive was spectacular.

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The campsite was really lovely, situated along Loch Long, just a few miles from the more famous Loch Lomond. We enjoyed a dinner of turkey korma, vegetables, and rice, followed by strawberry milkshakes from the campsite café.

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Tomorrow we will drive through Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park, hoping to make it all the way down to Ayrshire (south of Glasgow) to see Culzean Castle.

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