THE Campbelton steamers generally go by the kyles of Bute, and the north end of the island of Arran. Crossing the mouth of Loch Fyne, from Airdlamont point to the point of Skipness in Kintyre, a distance of 12 miles, a fine view is obtained of the loch, bounded on the east by the hills of Cowal, and on the west by Knapdale and Kintyre. In the far north is seen the gigantic Ben Cruachan; and on the left are the granite peaks of Arran.
From Skipness to Campbelton, passing up the sound of Kilbrannan, is a succession of very interesting coast-views on either side. The kirk of Clunaig, Corsaig house, Cour house, Barmolloch manse, Carnadale house and kirk, Torrisdale castle, Saddale house, and Ardnacross, appear successively on the mainland; on the left are the varied shores of Arran.
Campbelton, anciently called Ceannloch, that is, 'the Head,' or 'End of the loch,' and sometimes Kilkerran,--is pleasantly situated near the southern extremity of Kintyre, on a fine bay, popularly called Campbelton loch. "Fertile as is the west coast in harbours, there is not one that excels this; which, besides being spacious enough to contain a large fleet, is perfectly land-locked, easily entered, and has the best possible holding-ground. The high and bold rock, Devar, covers it from the sea completely: being attached to the land on the south side by a spit of shingle, which has probably, in later times, rendered that a peninsula which was once an island. The rock produces some beautiful varieties of green, as well as of brown porphyry, easily wrought, to be obtained of any size, and extremely ornamental when polished, but as yet neglected. To the south, the harbour of Campbelton is bounded by the high and bold mountain-land which forms the mull of Kintyre; but, northward, the country is merely hilly. This latter boundary is bare and without beauty; but the southern one is not only bold and various, but is tolerably wooded, in a country where much wood is not expected. The burying ground of Kilkerran, named after Saint Kiaran, is a very pleasing, and not an unpicturesque spot. The castle of Kilkerran, which once stood here, is said to have been built by James V.; but it is imagined that there was a castle long before that, which was taken by Haco in his expedition already mentioned. Some caves along the shore are pointed out, where St. Kiaran is reported to have lived the life of a hermit: and Kilhouslan here also preserves the traces of its ancient burying ground and chapel. Campbelton, with Stornaway and Inverlochy, is one of the three boroughs erected by James VI. with the professed view of civilisng the Highlands. It is a place of considerable but variable commerce; as that commerce consists in the herring-fishery, itself unfortunately too variable. It occupies the end of the bay on both sides, and is a town, not only of a very reputable appearance, but of considerable extent and population. Some extensive piers serve for receiving the smaller class of shipping; and as it is always swarming with fishing-boats and vessels of different kinds, it forms one of the gayest and liveliest scenes imaginable. Detached villas and single houses, scattered about the shore and the sides of the hills, not only add much to the ornamental appearance of the bay, but give an air of taste and opulence to the whole. A more picturesque and beautiful situation for a maritime town could not well be found; and, from different points, it presents some fine views,--uniting all the confusion of town-architecture with the wildness of alpine scenery, the brilliancy of a lake, and the life and bustle and variety incidental to a crowded harbour and pier. There is a very beautiful and perfect stone cross at the market-place, which, popular report says, was brought from Iona at the reformation. The sculptures are as fresh as if but just executed, and consist of various foliages and Runic knots, designed and wrought with great taste, together with some emblematical figures of demons and angels, to which the same praise cannot be assigned. It is not difficult to perceive, on examining the land round Campbelton, that the sea once flowed between the harbour and Machrihinish bay on the west coast, so that the mull of Kintyre was formerly an island. Much of that tract has lately been drained and cultivated. Through this flat, a canal leads to a coal mine, situated near the bay; the produce of which, though not of a good quality, serves for the consumption of the town. The bay itself is wide, open, sandy, and shallow, producing a great surf in west winds; nor is there any thing picturesque in this quarter, unless it be under the high cliffs. The same may indeed be said of the country in general round Campbelton; although it is pleasing, and, were it better wooded, would even be beautiful."1
The parish of Campbelton is about 11 miles in length, from north to south. Its population is above 9,000. This district was anciently in possession of the Macdonalds, the descendants of the Somerleds. It was granted to the Argyle family for expelling the Macdonalds. The highest land in the immediate neighbourhood of the town is Bengullion hill, from the top of which are seen Islay, Jura, and Gigha, to the northwest; Ireland, with the isle of Rathlin, on the south-west; and Arran and Bute on the north-east. From Campbelton to Southend is a fine drive of about 10 miles. The distance from Southend to the Irish coast is 23 miles. Nine miles from Southend is the Mull lighthouse, on the extremity of a ridge of heathy hills, some of which rise to the height of 800 feet. It is a circular tower 40 feet in height, and 240 above the sea. The distance from this to the nearest point of Ireland, Ballycastle, is only 18 miles. No tourist should spend a day in Campbelton, without crossing to Machrihinish bay, which opens upon the Atlantic, and receives the full swell of the ocean waves.
Campbeltown is 73½ miles from Inverary by the land route.
Ailsa craig is distant from Campbelton about 22 miles, and about 9 from the bay of Girvan in Ayrshire. It is a rock nearly perpendicular, of the height of 1100 feet. Its circumference at the base is about 2 miles. The only beach is on the north-east side; upon the west side there are stupendous ranges of precipitous basaltic rocks, which are seen to the greatest advantage from a ship or boat at a little distance. The rock of Ailsa assumes a variety of picturesque forms, according to the point from which it is viewed. It is covered with myriads of sea-fowl, whose discordant screaming is deafening and incessant. There are also goats and rabbits upon it. The proprietor, the earl of Cassilis, lets Ailsa--from which he takes his title as a British peer--to a tenant for L. 30 per annum; and this rent is paid from the young gannets which are taken for the table, and the feathers of the numerous birds that frequent Ailsa.
Near the beacon, on the east side, are the vestiges of the huts of fishermen. At a great height are the ruins of a square tower or chapel. By whom it was built or inhabited is altogether unknown. A few yards from it is a fine spring of water.