This website is brought to you by the local people of South Kintyre. We’re very proud of our beautiful part of the world and we’d like to share it with you…

Who are we

Explore Campbeltown is an ongoing project created by the community of South Kintyre. We have requested no public funding from Government bodies. All work, information, branding and photography have been sourced free of charge by local groups and businesses.

We would like to offer you things that we ourselves takes for granted, like famous Whiskies, delicious dairy, tasty seafood, beautiful golf courses and stunning scenery. South Kintyre offers a rich and diverse range of activities and interests for everyone.

Please take a look through our PA28 Gallery below and see what we have to offer as a region. Familiarise yourself with the wide range of businesses and services we can provide on this website.

We hope you will feel some of the passion that we feel for our area when you visit us. There is no better place to start planning your trip than right here!


CAMPBELTOWN (Kinlochkilkerran) HISTORY

Established as a royal burgh in 1700, Campbeltown (known historically as Kinlochkilkerran), nestles at the head of the beautiful deep water harbour of Campbeltown Loch, surrounded by rolling, forested hills. Campbeltown’s history has been defined by water: the water that surrounds it, which brought people and wealth, and the water known in Gaelic as ‘uisce beatha’, the ‘water of life’; whisky.

Campbeltown’s story began about 8000 BCE with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers visiting its shores.  They continued to do so for 4000 years, until the arrival of the early farmers of the Neolithic era (4000 BCE) who bequeathed us the standing stones and burial monuments which dot the surrounding landscape. The flints and stone age artefacts they left behind are on exhibit at the Campbeltown Museum in the Burnet Building.

In the 6th Century two great Christian Irish saints, St Kieran and St Columba, sailed to these shores.  Evidence of St Kieran is everywhere in Campbeltown names and places: Kilkerran Road, Kilkerran Cemetary, Kilkerran’s Church, St Ciaran’s Church and St Ciaran’s Cave (at Achinhoan Head), and in the original name of the town Kinlochkilkerran and Loch Chille Ciaran as Campbeltown Loch was once known.   St Columba  landed near Southend in 563 and there are several sites associated with him there: St Columba’s Chapel, St Columba’s Footprints, and St. Columba’s Well.

The following 1000 years is a story of invasion and conquest all along the West Coast of Scotland.  While the small fishing village of Kinlochkilkerran, tucked away in its harbour, quietly grew, in the 5th Century the Irish settled and established the Scottish Kingdom of Dal Riada which included the whole of Kintyre.  In the 7th Century the Vikings invaded and settled, and after a period of  upheaval, Kintyre came under the rule of the Lordship of the Isles, founded by the great warrior king Somerled in the 11th century.  The fiercely independent Lordship persisted in relative calm until the end of the 15th century, when the Scottish Crown felt it could no longer tolerate such a large, expanding territory of dubious loyalty within its kingdom.  John Macdonald, Lord of the Isles forfeited his titles and estates to King James IV of Scotland.

The fall of the Lordship of the Isles produced a power vacuum which led to over a century of turbulence, and the powerful and rapacious Clan Campbell, casting an eye towards MacDonald, held Kintyre.  In 1607 the Campbells were successful, King James VI granting Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl of Argyll, a charter to the lands of Kintyre.  The old name Kinlochkilkerran was changed to the Burgh of Lochhead.  In 1700, the 10th Earl was granted a charter to erect a royal burgh, the purpose of which was to ‘improve trade and commerce’ in Kintyre and, as the most westerly burgh in Scotland, to become a trading hub for northern Europe and America.  The Earl, quite logically, changed the name from the Burgh of Lochhead to Campbeltown.

The King’s intention to create a commercial centre in Campbeltown because of its superb harbour was well-founded.  As early as 1688 the herring fishing industry was so successful that it justified a tack for Campbeltown in the Assize of Herring. By 1772 the fishing, boat-building and associated industries were well-established and growing, and herring were being exported to many counties in Europe and as far away as America and the West Indies. The many fine homes in Campbeltown, designed by famous Glasgow architects, are testament to the wealth generated by the sea.  Sadly, however, Campbeltown also became a major port of embarkation for emigrants from the Highlands and Islands.

Of particular importance for today’s Campbeltown, the distilling of whisky was well established by 1609 when the then Earl of Argyll gave a licence to John Boyel to distil aqua vitae.  So widespread was the practice of distilling that by the 1680s whisky was a major growth industry.  In 1823 the distilling of whisky was legalised and by the 1844 there were 25 named distilleries in Campbeltown and Dalintober increasing by the end of the century more than 32. From the end of the 19th to the early 20th century Campbeltown was the unofficial Whisky Capital of the World until high taxes, WW1 and American prohibition caused the industry to collapse.

Sadly, the great fishing fleets are gone and the sound of ship-building no longer rings over the quays.  But the beautiful harbour is here, dotted with yachts and soaring seagulls, and the encircling hills are green and inviting. Campbeltown is a wee bustling town of fine, welcoming hotels and restaurants, museums and playgrounds, golf courses and shops and pubs, and the oldest continuously working cinema in Scotland.  And Campbeltown is once more producing world renowned single malt whisky.
History section provided by Cindy Bryne & Graeme Baird from The Old Bookshelf, Campbeltown.