The Cowal Peninsula is found in the Argyll and Bute region of the Scottish Highlands. The peninsula is surrounded by lochs and mountains, making it a spectacularly scenic and fairly remote area of the country and a great introduction to Scotland’s Western Highlands.
The peninsula is bounded on the west by Loch Fyne and on the east by the Firth of Clyde. The north of the peninsula is mostly comprised of the Argyll Forest Park and the southern area separates into three forks. Sea lochs surround the south and northeast sides of the peninsula and offer a wealth of wildlife and opportunities for outdoor recreation, such as coastal fishing and sailing. Much of the area feels pristine and undiscovered – indeed, South West Cowal is known as the ‘Secret Coast’.
A mix of outdoor activities, arts and culture opportunities and historic attractions exist in the Cowal Peninsula. The pristine surroundings make the area a nature lover’s paradise, and outdoor pursuits include hill walking and climbing, golf, horse riding, cycling, sailing and fishing. The more adventurous can try quad biking, archery, gorge walking, rock climbing or hiking in the Arrochar Alps. Local outdoor centres at Benmore, Ardentinny and Ardroy offer courses, both on a residential basis and more generally to the public. The landlocked Loch Eck is the perfect place for peaceful walks or loch fishing. The nearby Isle of Bute contains beautiful beaches and green hills and can be reached by ferry from Colintraive.
The local villages and hamlets deserve a visit. Lochgoilhead offers a lovely Victorian town feel next to excellent walking country while at Tighnabruaich and Kames you can enjoy water sports and experience pleasure cruises along the west shore of the Kyles of Bute. Portavadie sports a marina and sailing centre, excellent restaurants and a ferry point Dunoon is the peninsula’s main town and access point via a ferry to Gourock. With a population of 8,000 residents, Dunoon contains art galleries, craft shops and cruises around the breathtaking scenery of the Firth of Clyde. The local landscape has inspired a number of artists and craftspeople and traditional music concerts are also a highlight of the region.
Other local adventures on offer are sampling the famous oysters on the Loch Fyne shores or strolling through Kilmun Arboretum or Benmore Botanic Garden’s ‘avenue’ of redwood trees. The Strachur Smiddy (in Strachur, a village on the shore of Loch Fyne) is a fully restored blacksmith’s shop that demonstrates the life and work of a blacksmith in the 18th century. The 15th-century Castle Lachlan and Toward Castle ruins are also worth a visit. Accommodation can take the traditional form of hotels or B&B’s or you could opt for a cruising holiday with one of two companies that operate out of Holy Loch Marina and explore Cowal’s beauty and communities from the sea.
The Cowal Peninsula can be easily accessed by car or ferry from Gourock, which has regular train service to Glasgow and is also just an hour’s drive from Glasgow Airport.