Things to see & do

Discover Cowal

Cowal is packed with places to visit and things to do, and sailors, walkers, cyclists and artists are all drawn to this area for its natural beauty. The wild and rugged land (and sea) of Argyll can make the area seem like one big outdoor playground. Take your pick from walking, cycling, sailing, fishing, golfing, windsurfing and more. If you love nature, you’re in for a treat. You might see deer, buzzards, otters, golden eagles, red squirrels and even, if you’re very lucky, basking sharks while you are out and about. The whole area is steeped in Highland history and dotted with ruins, castles and ancient sites.

On the Water

Take to the water and explore the coastline of Cowal. With secluded beaches, white sands and deserted islands, this area is a paddler’s paradise. The Argyll Sea Kayak Trail passes through Cowal. Sea Kayak Argyll, based in Dunoon, provides kayak coaching and guiding for all levels, from day-courses for beginners to multi-day expeditions for more experienced kayakers. 

Wreckspeditions, The Majestic Line and DC Marine offer a variety of boat trips in the local area. You can even visit the local shipwrecks or take a trip to nearby islands. If you have your own boat, why not dock at either Holy Loch Marina or Portavadie Marina and explore the local area on land. 

Stepping ashore? Cowal offers world-class sailing and boating, with some of the most spectacular scenic coastline in Scotland. There are excellent marine facilities available, with plenty of opportunity for going ashore to enjoy everything that Cowal has to offer. Cowal is home to some excellent marinas offering purpose-built facilities. Stay afloat and then come ashore to discover great places to eat, drink and explore. 

Wellness & Relaxation

Needing to escape the hustle and bustle during your getaway to Cowal? Join a yoga retreat with West Coast Wellness to immerse yourself in the great outdoors and let go of any stress.

Visit Portavadie Spa & Leisure Centre for the ultimate wellness experience. The Leisure Experience offers indoor and outdoor pool fun and relaxation for all, featuring a 16 metre indoor pool, toddlers’ pool with water features, outdoor spa pools, Scandinavian sauna and we think the largest heated outdoor infinity pool in Scotland.

Arts, Craft & Shopping in Cowal

Cowal is a great place for interesting speciality shopping of local artists. Dunoon, the main town for the area, is still full of traditional-style shops such as Highland Stores, Juno Design Gallery and Purdie’s Scottish Soap. Specialist shopping can be found throughout the Cowal area. Shopping in Argyll’s Secret Coast is a relaxed affair. With lots of artisan producers in the area, don’t miss out on the opportunity to buy the local cheeses, meats, smoked fish and preserves. You’ll be able to pick up some fabulous local art, pottery or jewellery in the local shops.

Cycling & Mountain Biking in Cowal Peninsula

The quiet country roads and off-road forest tracks and trails of Cowal offer fantastic cycling and mountain biking opportunities. Argyll Forest Parks stretches across much of Cowal providing excellent cross-country mountain biking trails. There’s a whole network of trails from Ardgartan that make for a great day out. 

Dunoon is widely known as a destination of first choice for outdoor adventure on Glasgow’s doorstep. Whether you have an hour or a day to spare, there's a trail here to suit you. The forest rises high above Dunoon giving you fabulous views over the Firth of Clyde and Loch Striven, as well as a great chance to see local wildlife. The Corlarach Forest is situated to the south west of Dunoon and covers a large part of the Cowal Peninsula. Boasting hillside views over Dunoon and across the Firth of Clyde, you can cycle through Corlarach Forest, a place where local enthusiasts enjoy mountain bike trails that will build on Cowal’s increasing reputation for off-road/rough-ride and gravel biking trails.

 

Walking in Cowal

Cowal offers fantastic walking, from short strolls to epic routes. What better way to explore the lochs, hills and coastline of this beautiful part of the west coast of Scotland than on foot?  The landscapeof coastline, forest, hill and glen provides a huge range of varied routes of different lengths, suitable for all abilities.

The most famous walk is the long-distance Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, which begins at Portavadie in the south-west and ends at Inveruglas on the shores of Loch Lomond. Some sections are rough and boggy and you will require some navigational skills, but it’s well worth the effort. Why not plan your holiday to coincide with Cowalfest, a walking and arts festival that takes place every year in October.

Beaches, Gardens & Forests in Cowal

You'll find some truly magical beaches in Cowal, from the stunning sandy crescent of Ostel Bay with its glorious machair, to the wild and rugged Glenan Bay backed by ancient forest to the beautiful and family-friendly Ardentinny Beach. So pack a picnic and get ready to soak up the tranquillity, enjoy the unspoiled environment and be close to nature on our beautiful beaches. Collect shells, build sandcastles, paddle and enjoy the coastal scenery. 

Cowal Peninsula is woodland wonderland, with the Argyll Forest Park stretching across much of Cowal, pockets of ancient Atlantic oakwoods hugging the coast and treasures such as the giant redwoods at Benmore Botanic Gardens. But it’s not all trees. Glorious gardens await too.

Argyll Forest Park is Britain’s oldest Forest Park. It has so much to offer, from walking routes to cycling trails. You’ll find Atlantic oak woods with areas of old coppiced hazel. Over on Loch Fyne, Ardkinglas Woodland Garden is a great place to explore. The background of mountain and forest is spectacular and there’s a Gruffalo Trail and Fairy trail for youngsters. 

Castles & Heritage in Cowal

Cowal is rich in Highland history. It’s dotted with fascinating ancient sites and there are castles, historic houses and museums to visit. At the turn of the 19th century Cowal became a popular destination for rich industrialists and merchants to build second homes. Many are still private homes, such Ardkinglas House and others have found a second life as hotels or self-catering lets, such as Castle Lachlan.  You can always dig deeper by grabbing a map and locating the chambered cairns, standing stones and cup-and-ring marked rocks yourself. Take your own journey, let the history reveal itself and get closer to understanding the heritage of this fascinating corner of Scotland.

Nature & Wildlife in Cowal

The hills, forests, coastline and sea of Cowal are rich in rare and wonderful wildlife. From bellowing stags and migrating geese in autumn to shoals of mackerel and and red squirrels all year round. In the peak of the season thousands of porpoises and seals live in the Clyde and surrounding sea lochs.  You might also spot otters, basking sharks and even the occasional whale.  Bird life is everywhere because of the wide range of different habitats.

Cowal is the domain of birds of prey and wading birds, and many species may be spotted within the unspoilt Argyll Forest Park, part of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Walk around the coast and you’ll see a huge variety of seabirds. Whatever time of year you visit, Cowal will wow you with its wildlife.  

Inspiration

Cowal 8

There's something about Cowal

Robin McKelvie, Award-winning Travel Writer & Broadcaster says there's something about Cowal, whilst giving us insight into what makes Cowal so wonderful to visit all year round. Is it the Unique art of the Ark or is it the beautiful Cowal landscape, which makes Cowal a must-visit destination?

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Discover Cowal’s fabulous forests

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to woodlands in Cowal. Argyll Forest Park stretches across much of Cowal and there are precious pockets of ancient Atlantic oakwoods hugging the coast.

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