7 reasons the K66 is Scotland's hottest new driving route

06 Jan 2022
Everyone knows about America’s famous Route 66, but how about Scotland’s brand new K66? Scotland’s newest driving (and cycling) route only opened in spring 2021, but already a sprinkling of savvy travellers are making a beeline for Argyll’s glorious wilds on spectacular roads less travelled.

The Kintyre 66 (to give it its full moniker) sweeps all the way from Tarbert on the northern fringes of this unique, scenic peninsula, right down the A83 - with its gorgeous views of the southern Hebrides - in search of the old whisky hub of Campbeltown. It noses down into the very southern reaches of Kintyre, deep into Paul McCartney territory (more on that crooner later), before sweeping back north up the seriously unspoilt east coast on the B842, where views of Arran across the water accompany you all the way back to Tarbert.

There is a great website detailing everything you need to know, with a downloadable map too. You can pick up a paper leaflet (with its own map) in Kintyre. Handily there are a trio of Scottish Hostels members to stay at en route, each a lovely base. Both Argyll Backpackers in Ardrishaig and Inveraray Hostel lie just to the north of the main K66 route. The former peers right out over Loch Fyne, while the latter is right at the heart of the Duke’s of Argyll’s bolthole town. Further south Campbeltown Backpackers is the place to stay in Kintyre’s main hub. I suggest staying at one of the first two hostels on your first and last nights, sandwiched with a couple of nights in Campbeltown in the middle of your trip.

It’s obviously a wonderful drive - given what a scenic part of the world it is - but I’ve put together seven reasons you just have to head out on the Kintyre 66.

Westport Beach (3) Robin Mckelvie

1. Great driving – This is the crux, of course, of any great driving route. Kintyre’s west is a land of long, straight stretches of road, accompanied by big skies and big views out across the Atlantic to isles like Gigha and Jura, which sparkle back in welcome across the water. The roads get snaky and fun south of Campbeltown as you eke further south to the very end of Scotland. On the east it’s another world again; sinewy single track stretches of tarmac burrow along the coast and around the east’s rich Gulf Stream kissed flora.

Driving The K66 (2) Robin Mckelvie

2. Whisky galore! – The days when it was said that Campbeltown’s Glebe Street flowed with more money than the City of London – as whisky pumped through the veins of over 30 whisky distilleries – may be long gone, but there are again serious bright spots for whisky fans. There are now a trio of fantastic whisky distilleries to augment the famous whisky shops and bars. One for me is a stand out: Glen Scotia, whose gloriously maritime, deeply favoured drams, excel. Indeed their 25-year-old single malt was voted the world’s best in 2021. As well as the distilleries don’t miss Campbeltown Picture House, a 1930s throwback that the community has fought hard to preserve, plus the vaulting Campbeltown Cross, arguably the finest Celtic cross in Argyll.

Glen Scotia (2) Robin Mckelvie

3. Top notch food – With active fishing fleets in Tarbert, Campbeltown and Carradale you’d expect the seafood to be good and fresh. And it certainly is. I’m a massive fan of Tarbert’s Starfish restaurant. Tuck into creative starters like spicy prawns, before treating yourself to a lobster to share on the money you’ve saved staying at a hostel. Number Forty Two in Campbeltown is a slick newcomer serving bright modern Scottish cuisine, while Carradales on the east coast offers goodies grown in their garden on their delicious set menus. Local beef stew with even more local wild garlic mash stars. For simple sandwiches and light lunches head to Kintyre Gin, who have a bright new café. Their award-winning gin is superb too. Just south of Tarbert another tastebud tingler is the Skipness Seafood Cabin, who smoke their own seafood.

Campbeltown Seafood Robin Mckelvie

4. Brilliant beaches – The beaches really are the stuff of glossy brochures in this life-affirming part of the world. The most famous Kintyre sands have to be in and around Machrihanish on the wild west coast. They are backed up by world-famous golf courses, but it is the sands I am more interested in. There is a fairly continuous ribbon of white sand most of the way down Kintyre’s west. Another stunner is Westport, where the locals from Campbeltown come out to walk their dogs. It will often just be you and the Atlantic glowering across a sea of unspoilt sand.

Westport Beach 6 Robin Mckelvie

5. Argyll’s forgotten coast – The single track road out east reveals a very different Kintyre. You have no choice but to indulge in slow travel here. It’s a lush oasis of towering rhododendrons, a sort of Jurassic Park - minus the dinosaurs - with all the vegetation bigger and brighter than you get in much of Scotland. Don’t miss the Antony Gormley’s solitary iron figure, GRIP, a sculpture that enjoys its own remote, empty beach. And the castle at Skipness. The haunting hills of Arran are a constant companion east across the wild, deep waters of the Kilbrannan Sound.

6. Gigha – You’re leaving the main circular route here on one of a half dozen ‘spurs’. It’s well worth the effort, which is no effort at all really as you ease across the water on the CalMac ferry. Gigha is a lovely wee community-run island that not only generates all its own electricity from green sources, but also sells the surplus back into the National Grid. The island also produces top class milk that goes into Kintyre’s cheese, and also the gorgeous Gigha Halibut you find on menus around Kintyre and much further afield. A necklace of cotton wool white sandy beaches tempts too.

Gigha Halibut In Campbeltown Robin Mckelvie

7. Walk the walk – Driving routes are great fun, but if you want to really get stuck into Kintyre you really need to get amidst the Great Outdoors too. That is where the 100 mile-long Kintyre Way comes in. This long distance hiking route handily intersects with the Kintyre 66 at many points (check the online K66 map) so you can join it for a stretch or two. I thoroughly recommend the northeastern part from Tayinloan to Kennacraig, where you walk along the beach and dunes gazing out to the Hebrides. The sections around the Mull of Kintyre offer a taste of wilder walking. Singing McCartney’s syrupy ditty as you wander is optional.

Gormley Sculpture (2) Robin Mckelvie

Blog by our travel writer, Robin McKelvie

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