A wee drive to Paul McCartney’s Mull of Kintyre

Mull of Kintyre — you either hate the Paul McCartney folk song, or you’ve never heard of it (in which case you can sample it here.) These may seem strange options for one of the biggest pop hits of all time. I should clarify that “Mull of Kintyre” haters are likely closet fans and self-loathing Brits, while those who’ve never heard it are mainly Americans.

Of course I’m conveniently ignoring the middle ground: the millions of us who love the best Scottish song not written by a Scotsman. Another admission: I briefly fell out of love with “Mull of Kintyre” after my grandmother bought the single—possibly the only music purchase of her life—and danced around the house. Not cool. But those bagpipes are like a siren, in the classical sense rather than the annoying sense.

Mull of Kintyre

Granny rock?

“Mull of Kintyre,” which Paul co-wrote with Denny Laine and is credited to their band Wings, replaced the Beatles’ “She Loves You” to become the biggest selling UK single of all time upon its 1977 release. It held the title until the Band Aid charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” came out in 1984. “Mull of Kintyre” topped the UK charts for nine weeks, and also went to No. 1 in such countries as West Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. Its charm was lost on those in North America, who preferred the flip-side, “Girls’ School.” Well, their loss.

I’ve made it my life’s work to travel to historical music sites around the world, including the Australian outback pub where David Bowie filmed his “Let’s Dance” video. The Mull of Kintyre has long been on my wish list, and I finally made it out there in June 2018 while touring the UK with Paul’s favorite group, the Rolling Stones. I grabbed a rental car in Glasgow and set off on my five-hour trip, stopping along the way for a tour of Inveraray Castle, the magical ancestral home of the Clan Campbell.

But first, what is a Mull and what is a Kintyre? A mull is a Scottish word for a headland or promontory, the latter word defined by Merriam-Webster as “a high point of land or rock projecting into a body of water. Kintyre is the name of a 30-mile-long peninsula in western Scotland. And the Mull of Kintyre is the most southwestern point of Kintyre. On a clear day you can see the coast of Ulster at County Antrim, about 12 miles away across the North Channel of the Irish Sea. I was fortunate to visit during a bit of a drought, so no “mist rolling in from the sea” for me.

After checking in at the excellent Ashbank Hotel in Carradale, I continued about six miles to Saddell Beach. This is where Paul, his wife Linda, and Denny filmed the “Mull of Kintyre” video with the help of the Campbeltown Pipe Band and assorted locals. It’s a beautiful location, but it’s nowhere near the actual Mull of Kintyre, which is about 26 miles and a good hour-long drive away. For my money the beach is a prettier site than the Mull. Approach slowly along the B842 as the entrance is easy to miss.

Saddell is a tiny settlement. Park where designated and walk the same trail to the beach as you see the locals doing in the video.

A screengrab showing Paul in front of the cottage and Linda walking towards him. The fence is no longer there.

The same cottage today.

Another screengrab shows the first appearance by the Campbeltown Pipe Band. Saddell Castle is in the background.

A similar perspective today

Saddell Castle today

Then it was off to the Mull itself along some mercifully empty, one-lane roads. The Mull of Kintyre is a large geographical area. It is not a specific spot or address. So don’t get paranoid that you can’t find the Mull. You’re probably already there. I took a million photos of this sign en route.

And here is the Mull, or the view from the Mull. A popular trail leads down to the lighthouse. I walked down a bit of the way, but was short on time, and the view was better from the top anyway. Click on the panorama:

Beatle fans guarding the trail at the Mull.

The thistle, the appropriate national flower of Scotland.

Car park at the top. The Kintyre roads are country lanes, and the road to the Mull is particularly tortuous. Pick a small car and drive slowly.

Campbeltown is worth a quick stop, but don’t expect to buy any Mull of Kintyre-related souvenirs. The quaint fishing village has completely missed the boat. You can visit a memorial garden dedicated to Linda McCartney. Click on the link for opening hours. I also took an informative tour at the Springbank distillery. There’s not much else to do.

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NOTE: My gossipy rock bio Strange Days: The Adventures of a Grumpy Rock ‘n’ Roll Journalist in Los Angeles is available here. For more info, go to strangedaysbook.com

Copyright © 2019 by Dean Goodman. PLEASE DO NOT CUT AND PASTE THE WHOLE THING.