Cowal and Bute are areas blessed with so much glorious scenery- seascapes, mountain and loch, forest and farmland. You can also catch glimpses of some of the most iconic creatures to be found in these islands. We can personally attest to having seen- otters, badgers, deer, golden eagle, basking sharks, dolphins, porpoises, even a hump backed whale. None of this is really a surprise- we are on the West Coast of Scotland after all. Check out the links to the tourist sites on the left- particularly Visit Cowal.
However, rather than point you to the places the tourist sites are already highlighting, we thought we would describe to you some of our favourite places. This will give a better flavour of what Cowal is like. Because it is a place of wilderness, much of what we know and love is not well signposted, and not geared up for bus trips.
Firstly- a couple of beaches
Ardentinny beach. A strip of sand in the middle of a forest. We used to stay a couple of hundred yards from here, so it will always be a special place for us. It is sometimes busy- but all these things are relative in this quiet part of the world.
Ostel Bay Beach, Tighnabruaich. This is harder to get to, involving a drive along some single track roads, and a half hour easy walk. But a more special beach would be hard to imagine. Soft sand, clear blue green waters, and the mountains of Arran in the distance. There are some photos here of one of our visits.
Next, some hidden (and not so hidden) gems.
Glen Lean Gunpowder works- a relic of our industrial military past- a ghost of Empire. What is left is the overgrown remains of old stone buildings, like an Aztec temple in a rain forest.
The paper caves. These are hard to find without someone to carefully guide you- and harder still to get into. But if you go with someone who has been before, they are magical. They are a few miles along Loch Eck up from Benmore, then up the hillside through the forest. Reputedly used by Clan Campbell to hide papers during some of their skirmishes.
Strathlachlan castle- a ruined castle located on the shores of Loch Fyne, covered in Ivy, but open to intrepid explorers- complete with dungeon. Take a torch and wear waterproof shoes. The lovely Inver Cottage restaurant is close to hand too.
The woods above Colintraive- ancient birch and oak forest- pretty much as all of Scotland used to be. And the higher you climb, the more the views over the Kyles of Bute open up.
St Blane’s Chapel, Isle of Bute- the site of a ruined medieval chapel in the midst of a much earlier Celtic monastic site. All still visible in the thin soil. Walk up into the bowl of the hills and it is possible to imagine a different life…
The hills above Loch Eck. Take the well marked path that climbs up the spine of A Cruach. It will make you sweat, but once up high you will look down over Lock Eck and the whole world will be at your feet.
Canoeing/camping on Loch Eck. Loch Eck is possibly the most beautiful loch in the whole of Scotland- quite a claim- but go see for yourself. Steep mountains, still waters and gentle paddling.
The shore just in front of Sgath an Tighe. It is a fairly unremarkable bit of shore line really- until you start to look closely at the rock formations, the shells and the pebbles, and all those lovely creatures under the rocks- anemones, shrimps, rock fish, starfish, crabs. While the ships go by. It is lovely too when the waves are crashing.
Michaela’s favourite view- over Loch Fyne from Strachur. Stop at the Creggan’s Inn for a pint, or to the Bay Tearooms next to the post office for a cup of steaming tea.
Blairmore Gallery- take a look at some lovely art, eat a cream scone, then walk one of the last steamer piers on the Clyde.