Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland
Campbeltown across the loch on a calm day
Campbeltown, Argyll, Scotland
Founded in 1600, it became a royal burgh in 1700, and by the late 19th century was a thriving and prosperous community thanks to the successful coal, whisky and fishing industries.
Around the town are many fine examples of Victorian and Edwardian-built homes that have more than a touch of grandeur about them.
The mines at nearby Machrihanish were closed in the early 20th century, and by the early 21st century, the fishing fleet had been reduced to a handful, and all but one of the town's 34 distilleries closed.
The shipyard is not only closed now too, its building has been demolished and the site cleared.
The harbour is now home to pleasure yachts and the occasional transport ship instead of the nose to tail trawlers of the past.
Aquilibrium - pool, leisure centre, library
However, they have a brand new indoor heated swimming pool and fully equipped gymnasium, with adjoining cafeteria. The town’s library is now contained within the same building.
Outside the town’s museum, in a private garden, lies a statue of Linda McCartney, the much loved wife of Paul.
Memorial to Linda McCartney
The Wee Picture House - art deco
The town also hosts a museum, a heritage centre and one of Britain’s old cinemas housed within a beautiful art deco building on the harbour front.
The Wee Picture House, Campbeltown
The White Hart Hotel, Main Street,Campbeltown
Campbeltown also has one of the only three senior secondary schools in the whole of Argyll, the others being in Dunoon and Oban, and several primary schools.
It has a fine array of local shops and two supermarkets, many churches, and plenty of good quality hotels, letting establishments and restaurants.
The closure of the nearby RAF Machrihanish must have meant the loss of livelihood for quite a few businesses, pubs especially. The town used to be heaving with young men of all nationalities at the weekends when the dancing was on in the Town or Victoria Halls.
Sometimes it was filled with young men from visiting warships berthed in the harbour.
There is a NATO storage base in Campbeltown Loch and warships still visit, but lesser so. The world’s oldest paddle steamship, the Waverley, used to visit the town once a week to offer cruises down the Firth of Clyde, but that has stopped now also, likewise the car ferry linking Campbeltown with Co. Antrim on Ireland. The economic downturn has affected everything.
The Waverley - the world's last sea-going paddleship
The population is ageing, but still the schools are filled with children. If they want further education they have to go away to Glasgow to get it, some 140 miles away, and many do not return because of the lack of jobs in the area.
But despite everything, the people of this town remain upbeat and vibrant.
Factories open and close, people are in work and out of it, but this town has a strong community that pulls together for the greater good.
Pipe Band, Campbeltown
There is talk of the remaining whisky distillery expanding, creating more jobs.
For visitors, the town offers everything. Friendly people, fantastic scenery, beautiful sailing waters that are a lot cleaner now that they do not suffer diesel spillage from the working boats, good facilities, and easy access to the whole of Kintyre with its many historic churches, prehistoric sites of interest and fantastic beaches with soft pure white sand and crystal clear water.
Campbeltown Loch is also home to a little island called Davaar, accessible by a narrow causeway only at low tide, which features a 19th century painting of Christ in a cave.
The island, situated at the mouth of the bay, also has a lighthouse to warn the shipping traffic on the Firth of Clyde of their situation.
Davaar at Dusk
Campbeltown Palm Trees
Campbeltown is warmed by the Gulf Stream, and palm trees flourish along the sea front. It is a rare sight to see Campbeltown white with snow, as snow rarely settles on the town and frost is only ever light.
There is also a well-equipped and modern hospital in Campbeltown, though serious cases get sent to Glasgow byair-ambulance (the hospital has a heli-pad) only 20 minutes away by air.
The main street features a Celtic cross at the bottom, round which the Council gardeners maintain flowering plants, and further round the harbour there is a War Memorial, dedicated to the many lives lost in the Two World Wars.
The local dialect is unique. The word ‘wild’ is used to mean ‘very’. It’s not uncommon to overhear one person comment to another “ Aye, it’s wild and calm today”! Gaelic was never really a native language in this part of Scotland. It was always English but with some peculiarities that I have never heard elsewhere.
Burns Square, Campbeltown
Top of Main Street, looking down towards the harbour
Campbeltown Main Street, looking up from the cross
The town has an award winning Brass band, not forgetting the Campbeltown Pipe Band, which featured on the hit single, Mull of Kintyre.
But Paul McCartney was not the first artist to feature the town in a song. Many years before, people recognised Campbeltown because of Andy Stewart's song, "Campbeltown Loch I Wish you were Whisky".
Campbeltown also has its own weekly newspaper, the Campbeltown Courier, affectionately known as “The two-minute silence”, because of the time taken to read it cover to cover! However, it is a ‘must-read’ for locals, as it publicises what is on, and where, as well as listing all the hatches, matches and despatches in the locality and beyond.
Nearby Machrihanish, as well as being home to the commercial airport, also boasts a world-famous golf course.
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