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A week on the Cowal Way

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2018 8:02 pm
by Glynnyth

This is not a walk report from start to end, but a comment about my experience on the Cowal Way which I walked last week.
By the way, I just found out that they changed the naming from Cowal Way to Loch Lomond and Cowal Way while I was there ;-)
I have to say, I leave this long distance walk with ambiguous memories, and even if it is ranked as one of Scotland's most scenic long distance routes for its views and remote stretches, here are some points which make me think:

1.Street walk:
Indeed, there is lots of street walk. First from Kames to Port Driseach, then from Craig Lodge the WHOLE way to Galvie Farm (except of 400m before entering Glendaruel), then from Glenbranter Foot the WHOLE way to Succothmore, then again to enter Lochgoilhead and finally the last part to Inveruglas. Totally more than 20 miles which is more than 1/3 of the Way!
2.Long stretches:
There are several long stretches which didn’t give me much to see and which were lacking of interest. Glendaruel, a part from a short sidetrip to Kilmodan church, seems to me to be just a ‘’connection’’ between Ormidale and Galvie, a necessity for the continuity of the way. Another long stretch is the one in Strath nan Lub ( to Glenbranter). The area is more remote and the views are much better than in Glendaruel, even if at some points the forest is too dense to see far. But with the track curving left and right, up and down, it is a long stretch to walk before reaching the final descent to Glenbranter.
3.No areas to have a break:
There are very rare points to sit down and have a break. I mean, I don’t expect picnic tables on a remote moorland section like west or east of Lochgoilhead, but at least a bench somewhere in Glendaruel! In Strath nan Lub we eventually finished by sitting down on the earth for lunch as there wasn’t even a tree trunk to use.
4.Public Transport:
It would be easier if the end point would not be Inveruglas, but Arrochar or Tarbet. Inveruglas is not really on Cowal after all, isn't it? (Maybe that’s why they changed the name to Loch Lomond and Cowal Way recently?)
It is not easy to leave the car at the start point, walk the way and go back to the car by public transport (or leave the car at the end point, take public transport to the start and walk back to the car). Between Portavadie and Inveruglas this is nearly impossible and includes long waiting times between the busses. I finished up leaving the car in Tarbet, taking the Citylink to Tarbert and the ferry to Portavadie. From Inveruglas there is a bus 3 times a day back to Tarbet, so be careful to arrive on time if you don’t want to wait too long.
5.Tricky and wet passages:
As I do wild camping, I have all the gear with me in a 60l trekking rucksack. Some parts of the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way are tricky with this, especially the stretch between Upper Caladh and Craig Lodge, which includes some scrambling over rocks and boulders and leaping over boggy areas. Also, some parts are VERY wet, as the just mentioned before and also around Curra Lochain where we found dryer ground off the path.

BUT: There are some parts I really loved: As we arrived in late afternoon in Portavadie, we just walked a short distance and pitched our tent near the ruins of Asgog Castle, on the shores of the loch. Great sunset there and even views to Arran just before heading down to the loch!
Also, the views over the Kyles of Bute around Tighnabruaich are really good. Further on, the first part of Strath nan Lub and later a short detour to the waterfall in Glenbranter.
Later, the views from the pass down to Coilessan (a welcoming reward after the pathless section) and also the unexpected views of Ben Lomond when heading down to Inveruglas.

In its total the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way is a fine walk and if it weren’t for the Glendaruel stretch I think I would do it again. If one day they would use tracks on the upper slopes east of Glendaruel, in Glendaruel Forest, I think that would be more interesting than the whole crossing of the glen on the tarmac road passing the farms.

Oh, yes, and I forgot: Great Fish&Chips, friendly staff, warm fireplace and cheerful athmosphere in The Goil Inn in Lochgoilhead!


P.S.: I'm searching my camera for 3 days now, if I eventually find it, I'll post some pictures.

Re: A week on the Cowal Way

PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:27 pm
by Glenshee
Thanks for the report; useful in that I was looking at this or the Kintyre Way. I was hoping to use public transport to get back to my Berlingo Micro camper each day; it seems that is not on. I had spotted the amount of road walking.

Re: A week on the Cowal Way

PostPosted: Fri Jan 18, 2019 7:50 pm
by Glynnyth

If you rely on public transport, I made the experience that it is better to park your car in the morning at the end point of your day walk, whoch you chose close to a bus station. You take the morning bus to the start point and have the whole day to walk back to the car.
So you can walk as fast or slow as you want, have photo stops, take shelter if you are surprised by rain...without the problem that you might miss the last bus.