Four ways to enjoy the Cowal peninsula from the water!

Cowal is a beautiful peninsula flanked by Loch Long to the east and Loch Fyne to the west. Stunning stretches of water characterise the area’s magnificent coastline, from the sparkling sea lochs of Loch Goil and Loch Striven to the enchanting Kyles of Bute. Many visitors to Cowal will arrive by boat, ferried across the Firth of Clyde to the bustling town of Dunoon. But if you want to experience more of the Cowal peninsula from the water, there are plentiful opportunities beyond this ferry crossing. Here are four of them.

1. Set sail
Cowal’s coastline is world-class sailing country. Sailors flock to the area for the scenery and varied sailing grounds. A whole season could easily be spent exploring the area, with islands, inlets, quiet anchorages and pub moorings all adding to the magic. You’ll find marina facilities at Holy Loch Marina and Portavadie, Loch Fyne.

Fancy learning the ropes? Tighnabruaich Sailing School has been teaching people to sail in the sheltered waters of the Kyles of Bute for over 40 years. With dinghy-sailing courses for adults and children, beginners and improvers, you’ll find something to suit. If you’ve never sailed before, by the end of the week they’ll have you confident in your ability to manage a dinghy in reasonable conditions.

2. Get paddling
Kayaking is a brilliant way to explore the coastline of Cowal. With secluded beaches, white sands and deserted islands, this area is a paddler’s paradise. 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. There’s a range of tempting trips, including ‘Explore The Holy Loch’, ‘Castles of Loch Fyne’ and ‘Kyles of Bute’. Or how about ‘Kayak, Catch & Cook’, where you can try your hand at catching fish and foraging shellfish and edible seaweeds? You’ll then paddle to a scenic spot to light a drift wood fire and cook your lunch.

Another awesome option is to explore Loch Goil with Argyll Voyageur Canoes. The 26ft open Voyageur Canoe seats up to 10 passengers who paddle as a team, so it’s a great option for families looking for a fun adventure. There’s a choice of trips, from a three-hour jaunt to the head of the loch to a twelve-mile paddle to Carrick Castle and back. The trips all include going ashore for ice-cream, a picnic or a beach barbecue.

3. Take a boat trip
Climb aboard, relax and view the Cowal coastline from a completely different perspective. A boat trip is a great way to see the area and spot the local wildlife. Join ex-naval commander Donald Clark on board Morag, a refurbished fishing boat, for spectacular views of Argyll’s Secret Coast and the Kyles of Bute. Trips of over one hour include the opportunity to try your hand at fishing. The Morag operates from Tighnabruaich Pier.

If you’d rather be in the driving seat, then head for Lochgoilhead, where you can hire motorboats from Loch Goil Cruisers. They’re perfect for a day’s fishing, an afternoon picnic or a morning enjoying the beautiful scenery and watching the wildlife. You’ll be given full instructions before you cast off!

4. The Waverley
Paddle steamers used to bring throngs of Glaswegian holidaymakers ‘doon the watter’ to Cowal. Today, you won’t find any crowds, but you can still explore the Cowal coastline on board the PS Waverley, the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world. It’s been magnificently restored with towering funnels, timber decks, gleaming varnish and burnished brass. If you can drag yourself away from the views, then head down to see and hear the mighty engines. Trips run from Dunoon to Tighnabruaich, the Kyles of Bute, Carrick Castle and Loch Goil throughout the summer. If you head to Gala Day at Tighnabruaich Pier on 2nd July, you can enjoy an hour's cruise up the Kyle part of the day’s celebrations.

If you fancy exploring further afield, Argyll Cruising and The Majestic Line both operate from Dunoon and offer cruises to some of the most beautiful and secluded parts of Argyll & The Isles and the Hebrides.

Find out more about things to do and see in Dunoon and Cowal.