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Cowal Way in August 2020 (Part 2)

Cowal Way in August 2020 (Part 2)

Postby Boris_the_Bold » Sun Oct 18, 2020 11:30 pm

Date walked: 20/08/2020

Time taken: 1.5 days

Distance: 32 km

Ascent: 600m

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This was the 2nd half of a week's family holiday walking the Cowal Way. The first half was done north to south (Arrochar to Garvie Farm/Dunans Castle (on the A886), via 4 Corbetts (see my earlier Long Distance Routes report and 3 x 1-day Corbett Walk Reports for details) and the 2nd half was done northbound, from Portavadie back to Dunans Castle.

My long-suffering wife provided invaluable logistical support throughout the week, driving me between the CW and our overnight accommodation when necessary, so that I could do each day with just a day-sack.

We spent the Thursday morning doing a lovely leisurely circular walk from Portavadie down to the double beach/ isthmus at Low Stillaig (with a refreshing swim in the shallow sandy western bay) (see WH Route 'Portavadie and Low Stillaig' for details), followed by a lovely sea-food lunch in the Portavadie marina, so it was after 3pm before we set off on the CW, from the car park close to the Portavadie ferry terminal.

After a false start, following a path from the north end of the car park, before realising our mistake and returning to the car park and setting off up the 200m of road from the ferry terminal, past the obvious CW way marker which we had somehow failed to spot to the left turn on a good path into the woods.
Proper start of the route - doh!

Past a standing stone (with nice views over a little lochan to Loch Fyne beyond), a easy-to-miss right turn off the forestry track onto a narrow path through high bracken to the old ruined castle on the west side of Asgog Loch and a short slightly-boggy climb across a field to reach the B8000 (with nice views across to Bute) and a short section of road walking (with little or no traffic) past the old gunpowder factory & workers cottages at Millhouse (and the cannon which was apparently used to test the product).
Standing stone & a 'Fyne' view

Asgog Castle - it has seen better days!

Cannon for testing the Millhouse gunpowder

Soon the CW leaves the B-road to head across country to reach the Kyles of Bute Golf Course and a pleasant descent through woods & rhododendron etc to the shores of the Kyles of Bute, south of Kames. Note that this adds a somewhat gratuitous extra 2.5km to the route that could be easily avoided by just following the B-road down into Kames.

We then followed the shore road (with a pavement all the way) from Kames to Tighnabriach (2.5hrs from Portavadie), for the 2nd of 3 extremely enjoyable nights of semi-luxury in (and great views from) the Royal an Lochan hotel.
View south from Royal an Lochan Hotel

On the next day (Friday) a group of four of us walked from the end of the road near the Tighnabruaich boat year to Garvie Farm/Dunans Castle. (NB I mopped up the missing section along the Tighnabruaich waterfront between the Royal an Lochan hotel and the boat-yard on the Saturday morning, which helped to take some of the 'sting' out of Friday's walk)
Looking north from TignaB

The off-road coastal section of the walk from the boat yard to Ormidale/ Craig Lodge along the shore, past the very-scenic Caladh harbour, under and round massive rock-fall boulders at the foot of the rhododendron and Scots Pine-covered cliffs and great views across the Kyles of Bute was beautiful/ spectacular/ memorable and great fun. Slow-going and a bit slippy in places, so not suitable for anyone who prefers pavements to paths. We were at the bouldery section a couple of hours before high tide and had no trouble following the low tide route, though we did need to get our feet wet crossing a large stream at the top of the beach at one point, which might have been easier if less of the beach had been under water. Certainly worth making sure you can go by the low tide route if you can, cos it's brill!
Looking back to Tighnabruaich - Scottish summer at its best!

Caladh Harbour

Rough going in places!

... but worth it!

We eventually rejoined the main road (A8003), past Meckans (Viking) Grave (though not much to see, unless we missed it?), lunch on Telford's bridge over the river Ruel and a pleasant stroll along the road to to the Clachan of Glendaruel.

The Glendaruel Hotel was still closed, but appeared to be being renovated, so might re-open sometime soon (Covid19-permitting?), which would provide a convenient alternative over-night stop when tackling the Portavadie to Strachur section of the CW, particularly for those who don't have an obliging chauffeur and want to avoid carrying camping stuff.

We didn't have the energy/ enthusiasm to make the short diversion to visit Kilmodan church and its carved stones (though we called in to see these on on our way home on the Saturday).
Kilmodan Church

The 2nd day's walk finished with a not-particularly memorable trudge along the unclassified (and almost-entirely traffic-free) road which runs parallel to the main A886, playing 'I Spy' types of games to take our minds our feet's attempts to persuade us that we had walked far enough for one week. We managed to walk past the back of the Glendaruel caravan park without seeing any signs to/of coffee and cakes, much to the annoyance of those who have been looking forward to a sugary &/or caffeine treat ever since lunch-time.

Eventually (coming up for 7 hours after leaving the TignaB boat yard and about an hour after all our group-chat had dried up) we reached the junction with the A886 (just south of Dunans Castle) and 5 minutes later my lovely wife turned up in the car and drove us back to the Royal an Lochan hotel in TignaB for a well-earned pint.

I'd highly recommend the southern section of this route (eg as far as the head of Loch Riddon) as a great 1-day walk, but I have a few reservations about the long road and forest track section between the Clachan of Glendaruel and the nice woods in Glen Branter, which might be more fun (and a lot quicker) on a bike.

NB During the week we met just two other groups walking the CW, so if you're as anti-social as me, its a great alternative to the more popular long distance routes like the West Highland Way.

And when you get to Portavadie, why not catch the CalMac ferry across Loch Fyne and keep going south (on the Kintyre Way) all the way to Campbeltown/ Machrihanish?

All-in-all the CW provided us with a great week's family 'staycation', despite the Covid19 restrictions.

Check it out!

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