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The Cowal Way - A Summer Solo Hike

The Cowal Way - A Summer Solo Hike


Postby Contours » Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:20 pm

Route description: Loch Lomond and Cowal Way

Date walked: 01/06/2017

Time taken: 4 days

Distance: 92 km

Ascent: 500m

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* no photos posted as moderation wont allow newer folk like myself to put up photos/urls*

MODS - if this changes can i add my photos in due course? thanks


So I set off to Portavadie, on the Argyll coast, to begin my first long distance trail.

TRAIN : Paisley - Gourock £4.00

FERRY: Gourock - Dunoon £4.50

BUS: Dunoon - Portvadie £3.70


From Dunoon onwards, torrential rain greets me to the Cowal Peninsula. The bus driver offers me the tempting suggestion of dropping me off in Kames (my first nights stay) instead of Portavadie which would save me a 2.5mile walk in the downpour. After some contemplation I resist this sensible offer and begin my adventure from the Portavadie Marina at 5;30pm. An hour or so later and reach my first nights accomodation, the Kames Hotel, soaked and hungry. A great start to my first long distance trail :)

DAY 1 - KAMES to GLENDARUEL (12miles)


A really beautiful start to the day by walking along the shoreline northwards past Tighnabruaich and the vibrant rhododendrons which engulf every hillside and woodland.


The coastal path in the Ormidale area was one of the highlights of the trail. In the greenest season this route becomes almost like a micro tropical rainforest with an array of mosses, waterfalls, streams, crooked old trees and carpets of bluebells bursting with colour when the sun reaches through the woods.



This 1.5km stretch will certainly slow down your walking pace but when enjoying such an enviroment it really doesnt matter. Be sure to pass through the 2 huge boulders on the rocky shoreline - the official path bypasses them but if the tide is out then its a fun challenge. Look for the rocks with the spray paint white arrows which someone took upon themselves to do!

One draw back of this long distance trail is the numerous sections of public road which have to be walked. Thankfully there are grass verges to step onto when traffic comes but you really do need to have your wits about. 2km takes you from the shore of Loch Riddon up the River Ruel towards the lush green Glendaruel.

Stopping for a break at Kilmodan Church

Below is a photo of the beautifully crafted stones from the Loch Awe School of Carving which date back to the 14th Century.


My 2nd nights accomodation was at Glendaruel Caravan Park. If you are staying here then pay a visit to the Watermill House (beside the walkers entrance to the caravan park.) They have a great wee homecrafts shop which is very well priced and have eggs available to buy. They also provide B&B.

The Glendaruel Caravan Park is a well loved site and i can understand why. I choose a micro-lodge for the night (£25) which had everything i needed. The facilities on site were functional and clean (camping spots available too). The small shop/office has a selection of food, snacks, and practical supplies like batteries & midge sprays! Very handy considering its 16miles away from the next village on the trail.




DAY 2 - GLENDARUEL to STRACHUR (15.7miles)


If you are staying at Glendaruel you'll need to provide your own meals / breakfast. I definitely recommend staying here and you're guaranteed a friendly welcome and atmosphere.

Looking back, this section of the Cowal Way was the least enjoyable. After seeing the derelict Dunans Castle from a distance (as it was closed to public) it was time to gain some height on farm tracks by the Garvie Burn.
Then came 6miles of straight forestry tracks which saps legs of energy and the mind of inspiration. As i was solo walking this was a lonely place to be , especially when the rain & hail (yes hail in June!) came down with rumbles of thunder in the distance.
The final descent at the other end down through Glenbranter was a welcome one. Keep an eye out the the first cottage on your left side whilst arriving at the Glenbranter Estate , as a kind lady provides simple refreshments and snacks whilst you enjoy a rest in her garden. If your fortunate you may even spot a red squirrel!



The day ends well with a sunny walk from Glenbranter to Strachur, a welcome change from the bleak scarred forestry landscape behind me.


My acommodation in Strachur is the fantastic Balliemeanoch Farm B&B which is right beside the Cowal Way route.
The only place to eat out in the area is the Creggans Inn on the shores of Loch Fyne.




DAY 3 - STRACHUR TO LOCHGOILHEAD (8.7 miles)

The shortest day of the trail but definitely one of the most rewarding. The day begins heading east from Strachur, up farm roads and more forestry track, which i groaned about at the time but it was actually a lot more enjoyable today. I guess this is down to the fact that the landscaped really opened out and the views were dramatic as the sunshine came and went amidst the rolling dark skies.

When the tracks end the boggy pathless section begins but soon came the isolated Curra Lochain which is a peaceful place to rest and enjoy the moment.



1/2 mile onward, as you begin a boggy descent towards Lochgoilhead, you'll see the stunning Sruth Ban falls.



Away in the distance is Lochgoilhead, drawing me in with its promise of hot food and a fine ale.


In typically Lochgoilhead fashion the heavens open and the midges are out in force. This only quickens my pace for my evenings retreat at the Goil Inn on the shore of Loch Goil.


DAY 4 - LOCHGOILHEAD - INVERUGLAS (15 miles)

The final stretch heads towards the shores of Loch Long to Arrochar then northwards through Glen Loin to Inveruglas on the shores of Loch Lomond.

The day begins with a tough descent up to 500m over mostly pathless and boggy ground. Follow the white posts on the open hillside until you reach the cairn (which i never found in the mist). Thankfully my map-reading got me down the otherside safely and I rejoined the "path" and waymarkers.
The descent through the Coilessan Glen was on more forestry track but as it was topped with sand and not chunky gravel it provided a welcomed cushioned surface to walk on (especially when it's moist).

The wet and tiring morning had left me with sodden boots and in low spirits. As I dropped lower and lower to the shoreline of Loch Long and Ardgarten the sun was burning through the clouds and lifting my mood.




Arrochar beckoned at the far end of the loch. Eating in Arrochar for lunch takes you past the route but when your sitting outside enjoying a salmon sandwich and coke whilst looking up the jagged edges of the Cobbler then it was worth the extra walking.

So onwards for the final few miles along Glen Loin, a lush green glen which is unfortunately also occupied by numerous towering electricity pylons. Dont get me wrong though, this is still a great end to the trail, especially as your peer up towards Ben Vane & A'Chrois.


Inveruglas, the end of the Cowal Way. I'm delighted to have completed it, especially as it was my first long distance trail and done by myself.





Thoughts on The Cowal Way.

I choose this trail as the distance was achievable for myself and i wanted to enjoy a quiet route. Apart from the towns/villages I only met about 9 people over the 57miles (and 6 of them were in a group). If you want to do a route away from the crowds then this is the one to try.

The other reason was for the variety of landscapes which the Cowal Way provides. From the flat shorelines at Tighnabruaich, to the lush pastures of Glendaruel, to the isolated hills & waterfalls above Lochgoilhead, it really is "Scotland in 57 miles"

If you are planning on doing the Cowal Way then i recommend purchasing the A5 guidebook made by Rucksack Readers as well as the trails official free App (just search Cowal Way)

The trail has really been upgraded in the past year or so with new waymarkers and improvements with footpaths.

The Cowal Way has now wet my appetite for doing more long distance trails around Scotland. :clap:


PS - if you have any questions about the trail feel free to reply below
Contours
 
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Joined: Feb 22, 2015

Re: The Cowal Way - A Summer Solo Hike

Postby nick70 » Tue Nov 21, 2017 11:50 pm

Hi there. I really enjoyed reading your report. This would be a walk that I would consider doing in the future.

Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?

The bus from Dunoon to Portavadie, how regular is it? Is there one for when ferry docks?

I would be planning on wild camping for duration of route, do you know if there are any suitable wild camp spots near towns/villages?

Also did you use any particular map or guidebook and if so which one would you recommend?

Once again, a very enjoyable report and very informative and congratulations on your first long distance walk :)
nick70
Walker
 
Posts: 109
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Joined: Apr 9, 2017
Location: East Kilbride

Re: The Cowal Way - A Summer Solo Hike

Postby Contours » Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:51 pm

nick70 wrote:Hi there. I really enjoyed reading your report. This would be a walk that I would consider doing in the future.

Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions?

The bus from Dunoon to Portavadie, how regular is it? Is there one for when ferry docks?

I would be planning on wild camping for duration of route, do you know if there are any suitable wild camp spots near towns/villages?

Also did you use any particular map or guidebook and if so which one would you recommend?

Once again, a very enjoyable report and very informative and congratulations on your first long distance walk :)



Hi

Apologies for the slow reply.

For buses check out "westcoastmotors" website (sorry not able to post links yet :? )

I waited about 45mins? for when my ferry docked. Weather was horrible so just sat in Ferry Cafe which did the trick.

I used the Rucksack Readers Cowal Way Book. Very comprehensive.

Im sure there are lots of wild camp spots but i can really specify on spots. Glendaruel has a campsite if youre struggling. Plenty of land south and north of Lochgoilhead as well as through to Arrochar/Inveruglas.

I've posted a video below which might give you a flavour of what to expect.

Look forward to reading your report
Contours
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Feb 22, 2015

Re: The Cowal Way - A Summer Solo Hike

Postby Contours » Wed Dec 27, 2017 6:52 pm

Cowal Way 2017 Video

https://vimeo.com/248641403
Contours
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Feb 22, 2015

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