Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Cowal: yet another area that escaped my attention?

5th December 2008

A little while ago, the prospect of a sunny forecast for Argyll got me wondering about another journey up north and pouring over maps revealed north Cowal as a possible destination. The trip never got off the ground, so that idea is one that still remains on the shelf awaiting further examination. Even so, I thought that I’d share with you some of the possibilities that came into my mind.

Cowal Way Signage, Ardgartan, Arrochar, Argyll, Scotland

Casual inspection of OS Explorer mapping for the area will reveal the existence of the Cowal Way and it wouldn’t be the first long distance to reveal itself to me in such a manner. Starting at Ardgartan near Arrochar, it then continues to Lochgoilhead and Strachur before dropping south on its way to Portavadie. Taking on the whole trail would be a longer excursion than a weekend away, but looking along its length does reveal possibilities for future exploration. The only fly in the ointment for some might be the number of forest plantations passed along its length but it is promising otherwise.

For that abortive weekend outing, I confined my attentions to north Cowal and the area around Arrochar. One idea that appealed was an early morning arrival by coach at Tarbet followed by going around the head of Loch Long and then starting up Glen Croe. Much of this can be done on forest tracks, so road walking, never the best sort, could be kept to a minimum. From Glen Croe, crossing between The Brack and Ben Donich would take you towards Lochgoilhead from which bus connections return to more built-up parts again. What I find attractive about that plan is the variety of scenery encountered so it goes on file awaiting a suitable opportunity for setting it into action.

Other ideas then began to queue up in my thinking too. Some are centred on Strachur, which can be reached by bus from either Dunoon or Inveraray, with a linear hike to Lochgoilhead and various circular options becoming apparent. Linear treks taking two days joined the line and soon I was sat with a good number of ideas to explore. This is not the sort of thing that is needed in the days leading up to a departure because that’s a time for making up one’s mind about things but, away from any imminent escapades, it’s never a bad thing to be doing. After all, when an opportunity does make its appearance for a long weekend away, you might need to have more than one idea in mind. My trip to Cumbria at the start of November showed one advantage of this: some plans do fall by the wayside. As if to show another side to the proverbial coin, my Spring Bank Holiday weekend excursion to north Argyll left me feeling a little short on ideas after the longer walk from Inverarnan to Dalmally and I felt that to be a travesty with the perfect weather that I met while up there.

Cowal may not be that far away from Glasgow but, for whatever reason, it never dawned on me to go exploring the area; the lure of other destinations may have been to blame. I seem to have got a sense from guidebooks and so on that not many go past Dunoon to probe deeper into the area, so the omens are good for a spot of quiet walking; Arrochar and Ardlui are not so far from Glasgow either and quiet walking can be found in those places too, so my hopes are up. When it comes to a weekend visit, the fact that many bus services do not run on Sundays is a concern and, on other days, it is useful, but you do need to watch your times. Still, having a spot of hill country hiking and avoiding having to brave the possible A82 gridlock on a sunny bank holiday weekend seems good to me so I’ll keep the area in mind for when the occasion arises.


  • Paul Webster says:

    Hi John

    Yes, I’d never really given a glance to that area either, until recently – not sure why. Probably the lack of Munros and the forestry.

    More recently I’ve spent time there, doing the Cowal Way as well as numerous other walks, and despite the mixed weather it had lots of enjoyable walking. We’ve now added a Cowal section, and a guide to the Cowal Way, to walkhighlands.

  • John says:

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for coming. Cowal is one of those areas that you hardly hear mentioned and it’s so easy to be blinded by the sights of Lochaber and others. I admit to having a love/hate relationship with forestry but admire the work that is being done by the Forestry Commission when it comes to walking trail provision. It’s good to see more information on the Cowal Way on the web and I hope to savour some of the trail for real at some point.

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