Rhubaan to Caladh Walk
This is a lovely, all-ability walk for the family. Children could cycle this one if they wished to. It’s part of the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, a 57-mile long-distance walk which runs the length of the Cowal Peninsula.
Park your car on the road at Rhubaan at the far end of Tighnabruaich and head off on foot past the boat yard. The road is a rough but clean track. The road undulates along the side of the water with clear views out across to Bute for the first half mile. The sound of rushing water will fill your ears as you start to climb uphill. At the top of the rise your efforts are rewarded with the sight of a waterfall that rushes into a deep pool then gushes off under a bridge down to the sea. After a heavy shower of rain the waterfall can be quite spectacular.
There’s another gentle rise. At the top beside the sign post to Hill Cottage, there’s a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the Kyles across to Bute, the Burnt Islands, Colintraive and the Maids of Bute. It’s hidden through a gap in the rhododendrons There’s a bench so you can pause for a while and enjoy the scene opening out in front of you. It’s a fantastic spot to watch passing yachts and, in the summer months, a magic place to catch the sound and sight of the PS Waverley passing on her way down the Kyles on her summer cruises.
At this point you have a choice – the easy option or the hard one. You can continue on downhill on the road to Caladh Harbour or you can fork left up the hill towards Hill Cottage and take the footpath signed to Glen Caladh across the hill on what is a fairly rough track. The path can be quite slippery if wet. In places the track falls steeply away so caution is advisable. However it is a lovely walk and worth the extra effort – but you will need walking boots for this leg. The path rises gradually then drops steadily down through the rather ghostly trunks of the towering pine trees.
Your path drops down to a T-junction where a second path rising up from the road so, again, you have a choice. Left and you can walk on uphill to the old lily pond which was part of the water supply that provided water for Caladh Castle. The pond is smothered in water lilies and is stunning, flowering from early spring until late in the summer. The path continues up and it used to be possible to walk up the path to join the New Road but, unfortunately, the path has subsided in places and, although passable, it is quite a scramble and definitely for the sure footed. However the path downhill wends its way back to join the original track.
For those who opted to remain on the main track, all your uphill walking is rewarded with a long downhill stretch and a chance to glimpse some of the varied wildlife that abound in the woods here. Red and roe deer are plentiful in the woodland and are often seen. You have an ever-changing view that gradually opens up as you progress along the track towards Caladh. As you turn the last corner there in front of you is the beautiful Caladh Harbour. A natural sheltered anchorage popular with local yachtsmen and with visiting boats, it’s also home to a wide variety of wildlife. There’s a small white pillar set on a rock to mark the entrance to the harbour with the island of Eilean Dubh just behind it. Sea otters can often be found playing on the rocks and grey seals regularly feed in the bay. Cormorants abound and gannets dive like forked dinners into the cool waters. Red squirrels are plentiful in the trees.
Caladh Castle is no longer there, having been demolished in 1960 when it rendered unsafe through advanced dry rot. The castle was requisitioned during World War 2 and was used as a training establishment by Combined Operations, becoming the Beach Pilotage School from 1942 until 1945, and as a military headquarters for units stationed in the area. The property was renamed HMS James Cook, and undertook the task of training the operators of troop landing craft to land their cargoes safely. The harbour provided a convenient location to carry out training practice and the unit also extensively used the gently shelving sands at Ostel Bay, another of our recommended walks, for landing craft practice.
The castle has had a number of owners, including George Stephenson, nephew of the famous railway engineer and designer of the steam locomotive Rocket, George Stephenson (1781 - 1848). Latterly owned by the Ingham Clark family, the nearby island of Eilean Dubh is their family burial ground, with eight gravestones recorded from 1937 to 1999. It’s possible, with a dingy, to visit the island and the graveyard.
It is possible to walk on through West Glen as the remaining track forms part of the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way but it is a long way and, if the kids did bring their bikes, they cannot cycle this section! Turn around and enjoy the walk back along the track to the boatyard.