Outdoor Adventures on the Cowal Peninsula

31 January 2017


The Cowal peninsula is an oft ignored corner of Argyll, when driving north from Glasgow or touring the islands of the west coast it is easy to bypass it all together. This is such a shame as this quiet corner of Scotland has stunning scenery and is like a massive playground for the adventurous with some of the finest opportunities for outdoor activities anywhere in the country.

The Cowalfest takes place every year in October. This small local event has grown to become the premier walking festival in Scotland. Over 10 days you can choose from more than 60 walks led by expert and knowledgeable walk leaders. All ages and abilities are catered for and the walks cover interests as diverse as wildlife, bird watching, heritage, folklore, tai chi and gardening. You also have the opportunity to complete over 6 days the long distance trail The Cowal Way. Raineachan is located on the coastline beside Strachur and makes a perfect base for exploring the surrounding area on two feet.  It also has amazing views over Loch Fyne for when you return and need to relax from your exertions having first paid a memorable visit to the world famous Loch Fyne Whiskies and selected a fine dram!

Billed as the World’s biggest highland games, the Cowal Highland Gathering will take place on the 25-27th August in Dunoon. Last year more than 23,000 people gathered to witness competitors from around the world take part in traditional events such as piping, highland dancing and a spectator favourite, tossing the caber. In addition to the competitions there are numerous demonstrations, child friendly activities, food stalls and a massive Gig at the Gathering to round things off. Highgate Lodge House is just over an hour’s drive from Glasgow airport but still only 10 miles from Dunoon where all the action is centred.

Smooth tarmac and quiet scenic roads have contributed to a huge increase in numbers of visiting cyclists to Cowal. To spread the word of this cycling nirvana, last year saw the first ever cycle sportive in the area, an event that showcased the areas sea loch scenery and alpine style climbs. It’s not all road cycling in the area though, for the first time in 2016 the Scottish Cross Country Mountain Bike Series comes to Dunoon. On the May bank holiday weekend the country’s fastest riders will battle it out over the natural and man-made trails through Auchamore Forest and Bishop’s Glen. If that’s not enough cycling entertainment for you then consider that Dunoon is also the venue for a round of the Scottish Enduro Series with bikers competing for Scottish series points the weekend of the 10-11 September. Kilfinan House features its very own hot tub, sauna and Jacuzzi, just what you need after a long day in the saddle.

If all that riding sounds like too much hard work then you could let the elements do all the hard work and learn to sail. The Kyles of Bute with their sheltered waters are renowned for all kinds of boating. You can rent a boat if you are experienced, or you could take lessons from one of the longest established sailing schools in Scotland. In addition Holy Loch Marina and Portavadie Marina have the best modern facilities on the west coast for anyone wanting to arrive for their holiday in style on their own yacht. Four wheeled enthusiasts need not feel like they are missing out, none other than Jeremy Clarkson has rated the road between Colintraive and Tighnabruaich as among his best ever driving experiences.

Strone House is technically located just outside the boundary of Cowal but still inside Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. From here you can easily access loads more activities on the peninsula. How about a day quad biking at Blairmore near Dunoon or paddling on the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail. This incredible new route hugs the coast of Cowal and is one of the most ambitious paddling projects in Europe. The entire trail is 150km along a coastline rich in wildlife, sheltered waters, islands, sandy beaches, caves and much more.

In addition there is world class fishing, on inland lochs, rivers and in the sea, there are shinty matches to watch and swamp football to take part in. For a gentler day outdoors how about a visit to the classic and historic gardens in the area such as Ardkinglas or Benmore Botanic Garden which has one of the finest entrances to any garden in the world - a spectacular avenue of giant redwoods over 50 metres tall. The Cowal Peninsula is truly an outdoor lover’s paradise, call LHH today to book your stay.