Flanked by Loch Long and Loch Fyne, the Cowal peninsula is a rich landscape of contrasts, ranging from the dramatic peaks of the north to the mellow scenery of the south. There’s no better way to explore this undiscovered corner of Argyll than on foot. The Cowal Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails, runs for 57 miles (92 km) across the Cowal Peninsula, starting at Portavadie on Loch Fyne and ending at Inveruglas on Loch Lomond. The route makes use of existing footpaths, forestry tracks, hillsides, quiet roads and traditional rights of way.
The Cowal Way is known as ‘Scotland in 57 miles’. You’ll get a tantalising taste of everything the Highlands has to offer, from coastline to glen, forest to hill. You’ll also be treated to glorious scenery. The coastline along the first sections from Portavadie to Glendaruel is simply stunning. Enjoy views of the beautiful Kyles of Bute as you stroll along the coastal road through Tighnabruaich. Struth Ban Falls – between Strachur and Lochgoilhead – is one of the highlights. Ben Arthur, commonly known as The Cobbler, is another magnificent natural feature. It’s well worth a detour if you have the energy!
Cowal is rich in Highland history and the Cowal Ways passes fascinating ancient sites, ruined castles and historic houses. Look out for the ruined Ascog Castle on the shores of Ascog Loch. 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.
The coastal waters, woodlands, hillsides and rivers of Cowal are home some incredible wildlife. Look out for ‘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. In the woodland and field areas, you might see pine martens, badgers, barn owls, roe deer and red squirrels. While out on the open hillsides and moorlands of the northern sections of the walk, keep your eyes peeled for golden eagles, buzzards and other birds of prey. The open hills are also the domain of red deer.
It’s possible to walk all day on many parts of the Cowal Way and not see anybody! Compared to other walks such as the West Highland Way, this walk is very quiet indeed. The Cowal Way has recently been upgraded and is well way-marked. Most of it is suitable for cycling.
The official guidebook for the Cowal Way has been written by Michael Kaufmann and Jim McLuckie, and is published by Rucksack Readers. This trail guide contains all you need to plan and enjoy your walk.