Walk one of Scotland's Great Trail: The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way
The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way - one of Scotland’s Great Trails – runs right across the Cowal Peninsula, starting at Portavadie on Loch Fyne and ending at Inveruglas on Loch Lomond. Much if it is in Loch Lomond & Trossachs National park. The route is known as ‘Scotland in 57 miles’, because you get a tantalising taste of everything the Highlands has to offer. The Cowal Way passes through richly contrasting landscapes, from mellow coastline to dramatic mountain scenery, using footpaths, forestry tracks, hillsides, quiet roads and traditional rights of way. There’s no better way to explore Cowal, an undiscovered part of Scotland.
Here are ten reasons why you should dust down your walking books and walk the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way.
1. Discover Argyll’s Secret Coast
The start (or finish!) of the Cowal Way is at Portavadie. This undiscovered corner of Cowal is a cracker. The views of Loch Fyne are stunning and you’ll be treated to incredible views of the Kyles of Bute as you stroll along the coastal road through Tighnabruaich. You’ll also pass the lovely Tighnabruaich Gallery. It’s well worth popping in for a browse if you have time. Historical points of interest in this section include the ruins of Asgog Castle, the remains of a gunpowder mill, and a World War II tank landing slip. Fancy a dip? There’s an infinity pool overlooking Loch Fyne at Portavadie.
2. Explore Magical Glens
There are some wonderful wooded glens along the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, and one of the most tranquil is Glendaruel, a lovely spot at the head of Loch Riddon. Bats, red squirrels, otters and golden eagles can be spotted in the area. Check out Kilmodan Church and Carved Stones. This group of fascinating historic west Highland carved grave slabs are exhibited in a burial aisle within Kilmodan churchyard. There is also the option to take a short side-trip to the Dunans Castle Heritage Trail, which includes woodland gardens, a Telford bridge, and views of Dunans Castle.
Loch Riddon Bothy is a fanstastic accommodation on the shres of Loch Riddon.
3. See the falls
There are many beautiful waterfalls to look out for along the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, but the highlight must be Sruth Ban Falls on the Strachur and Lochgoilhead section. Some walkers have been brave enough to shower in them! On the Allt Robuic gorge on the Glendaruel to Strachur section, you’ll also find some spectacular waterfalls.
The Sruth Ban Falls. Credit: Loch Lomond & Cowal Way
4. Meet ‘Scotland’s Big Five’
Cowal is home to an incredible range of wildlife and you have good chance of spotting ‘Scotland’s Big Five’ – the otter, red squirrel, Golden eagle, common seal and red deer – as you walk the Cowal Way.
In the coastal sections, look out for porpoises and a huge range of seabirds including oystercatchers, herons and cormorants. In the woodlands you might see pine martens and red squirrels. And when you’re up on the hills look out for golden eagles, buzzards and other birds of prey, as well as small herds of red deer. The coastal waters, woodlands, hillsides and rivers of Cowal are home to an incredible range of flora and fauna.
5. Climb the Cobbler
On the final stage of the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way from Lochgoilhead to Inveruglas, you have the option to climb The Cobbler, one of Scotland’s most iconic – and best loved – peaks. Although not part of the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, you could stay overnight in Arrochar, climb The Cobbler in the morning, before rejoining the route onto Inveruglas. At 884 metres (2,900ft) in height it's only a Corbett, but it still has an impressive summit and the views are spectacular from the top.
6. Heady heights
Even if you don’t climb the Cobbler, there are some fabulous ascents along the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way that afford magnificent views. The Strachur to Lochgoilhead section includes some challenging uphill terrain. The rewards are the rugged scenery, a remote hilltop loch, and dramatic views. The final section of the Cowal Way from Lochgoilhead to Inveruglas includes the highest climb of the route. In clear weather, you’ll be treated to breathtaking mountain views ahead to the Luss hills and Ben Lomond, with Ben Bheula behind and the Brack to the left.
7. Immerse Yourself in Rich heritage
Cowal is rich in Highland history. It’s dotted with fascinating ancient sites, ruined castles and historic houses, many of which the Loch Lomond & Cowal Way passes. Look out for the ruined Ascog Castle on the shores of Ascog Loch. It dates back to the 15th century and was the ancestral home of the McInnes Lamonts. There’s not much left of the castle today, but it’s a beautiful, haunting place.
The Kilmodan Stones, a group of fascinating historic west Highland carved grave slabs exhibited in a burial aisle within Kilmodan churchyard near Glendaruel, are also well worth a visit. Strachur Smiddy is another highlight. This old smiddy was worked by four generations of blacksmiths and has now been converted into a museum and craft shop.
The Kilmodan Stones. Credit: Historic Environment Scotland
8. Excellent eateries
There are some great cafés, hotels and pubs along the Cowal Way. You have cafés at both Portavadie and Inveruglas (Café Lochan), so you can start and finish your walk with tea and cake! Other highlights along the way include Five West in the village of Tighnabruaich and Creggans Inn in Strachur. There are sections of the Cowal Way without cafés and shops, so do plan ahead and bring a packed lunch if needed.
The Creaggans Inn.
9. Cracking accommodation
Whether you want to stay in a friendly B&B, camp, glamp or have a night in a hotel, there’s something for you on along the Cowal Way. Many walkers choose to stay in B&Bs and there’s a good selection to choose from, including The Hollies and Carry Farm in Tighnabruaich. Kozy Cottages offer a range of self-cattering accommodation along the Loch Lomond & Cowal Way. At Glendaruel Caravan Park you can pitch a tent or rent a camping pod. Or how about bedding down at Campbell Cottage in Arrochar?
The Drimsynie Holiday Village is another fantastic accommodation along the way.
This is a remote, undiscovered part of Scotland. Many people come here to escape the hustle and bustle of life and experience the beauty of the landscape. It’s possible to walk all day in many parts and not see anybody! Compared to other walks such as the West Highland Way, this walk is very quiet indeed.
Never stop exploring
At Portavadie, there are ferry links to the Kintyre Way, so you can do an epic route from Cowal to the Mull of Kintyre! And at Inveruglas, enjoy the stunning viewpoint looking down the Loch and to Ben Lomond, plus there's the option for boat trips on the UK’s largest freshwater loch.