Fraser Smith lives in Dunoon and spends most of his free time enjoying the great outdoors exploring the hills, lochs and shoreline of Cowal. He’s been known to make a summit and return in time for work at 9am. He writes about it all in his blog www.explorecowal.com. In his posts he’ll share his knowledge about cycling, walking, kayaking and wild camping in Cowal.
Loch Eck is my all-time favourite place in Cowal. This fresh water loch, which is around six-miles long, is fed primarily by the River Cur on its northern perimeter and the outfall to the south becomes the River Eachaig as it winds its way through Benmore Botanic Garden.
The west and eastern shores are flanked by numerous summits, ready to be scaled by those who don't mind a bit of exertion in exchange for stunning views. Beinn Rhadh (664m), Beinn Mhor (741m) and Beinn Bheag (618m) are the best-known hills that surround Loch Eck. Of course, there are plenty of others in the area that all provide something different.
If the high tops aren't your thing, there are lower-level walks available around the Loch Eck area. Pucks Glen and Benmore Botanic Garden both offer fantastic walking, and there are numerous walks and cycling routes in Glenbranter.
If you’re feeling fit and like a wee challenge, the 21-mile circular route of Loch Eck is a must. The majority of this route is on forestry road, so navigation shouldn't prove problematic. The route is actually listed as a cycle route by Forestry Commission Scotland, and there are plenty of way-markers to keep you right. While the west side of the circuit is relatively flat, the east side allows for some elevation giving great views of Loch Eck. Benmore Botanic Garden, with its excellent café, is an ideal place to start and finish.
The east side of the loch is served by the A815. Dornoch Bay and Jubilee Point are brilliant places to stop for a picnic or barbecue - as long as you remember to tidy up afterwards! The western shores require a bit more work to access the remote beaches, but they’re well worth it.
Loch Eck itself provides the locus for many hours of exploring. If you’re fortunate enough to own (or borrow) a canoe or kayak you'll be the envy of every motorist traveling north and south as you paddle on the calm waters of the loch. The perspective of everything changes when on the water, and the surrounding landscape towers above. Discover remote beaches and stop for a picnic while taking in the impressive scenery around you – bliss!
The loch and its surroundings also provide a home for local wildlife. There are plenty of deer on the hills and a good population of birds of prey. Loch Eck is also home to the elusive Powan fish – which is only found in Loch Eck and Loch Lomond, although it’s now being introduced in other lochs.
So whether you spend an hour or a week at Loch Eck, there's no shortage of things to do.