Walking The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way

The Loch Lomond and Cowal Way was first established in 2000 and is often known as ‘Scotland in 57 miles’ it covers beautiful coastline, some amazing heritage, some beautiful views of mountains along with woodlands and moors.

Running from Portavadie along the Cowal peninsula it heads North-Easterly finishing in Inveruglas on the shores of Loch Lomond. I began the Loch Lomond and Cowal way on the 15th of August 2021 and finished it the following day on the 16th of August 2021, I flipped the trail and started at Inveruglas heading South to finish in Portavadie and then head straight into the Kintyre way (see my Kintyre Way blog to read my adventure on the Kintyre peninsula).

Day 1

I began by parking my car at a campsite in Succoth and hitching a lift back to Inveruglas (mainly because I hadn’t booked a permit to park in the carpark at Inveruglas). From there I followed the road for a couple of hundred meters before heading up a forestry road and into the hills. There wasn’t too much ascent, and the trail began following a river before crossing over it and heading through a valley in between two steep hills. The views were already epic with mountains looming all around like something from a Lord of the Rings movie.

After a few miles, I arrived at Succoth where I had left my car, scored a burger at the campsite and carried on along the water’s edge before heading up into the hills once more. The views were absolutely amazing at this point and I was mesmerized looking across the water towards Tullich hill on the other side.

I carried on a Southerly course hiking through amazing forestry with some slight inclines along the way. I soon came out of the forested sections though and entered open moorland with a steep ascent around the North side of Cnoc Coinnich. The moors felt very remote and the views were stunning, next was a steep ascent through some woodland where I took a few tumbles on the slippery ground before heading into Lochgoilhead where I scored a can of cola and chilled next to the Loch.

Upon leaving Lochgoilhead the skies opened up in traditional Scottish fashion and I was soaked through to the bone before I could even get my waterproofs out.

I decided to just crack on regardless soaking wet through and up in the hills once more. After following a logger’s path for a few miles it ends and you find the path very exposed and not very well-trodden. There is a steep ascent up the side of a series of waterfalls here and it was definitely slippy going due to the onslaught of rain.

After ascending I managed to get some sunshine and chilled at the edge of the waterfall looking out across the beautiful Scottish hills for a while.

I planned on stopping near Curra Lochain but it was still a bit early and I felt fresh so cracked on along the water’s edge and back into forest (most has been logged but it’s still beautiful).

Following the forest paths and around the outside of Beinn Lagan and towards Glenbranter. I found an amazing spot about half a mile past the little village and pitched up in the woods next to a river. I managed to find a lull in the fast-flowing river and decided to take a dip and wash my already stinking clothes. I had basically just lied to myself at this point and hammered 26 miles instead of the 15 I had promised to myself, so I was almost at the halfway point already.

Day 2

I woke up nice and early, packed up my gear, and started crushing the miles ready for a big mile day as I had told myself I may as well just get it finished today.

The trail carried on slowly ascending the Western side of Creag Tharsuinn continuing along its South-Westerly vector before dropping down and following what in my opinion the worst section of trail I have ever come across. It was at least 15 miles of road walking with little in terms of views due to the trees,

If there was a bus, taxi or even cars I would have attempted to ditch the trail and get to Kames via those options.

Alas, there wasn’t and I plodded along for what felt like a year before being met with some rather treacherous cliff paths along the loch before Tighnabruaich.

Once I reached Tighnabruaich I feasted like a demon and treat my feet to a dip in the loch to cool them before powering on through Kames and across the moors towards Portavadie.

I reached Portavadie around 5pm and sat chilling watching the waves roll across the shores in a kind of stupor that I had finished the 57-mile journey so fast and feeling fresh as a daisy really.

Check out my blog on the Kintyre Way for the next part of my journey across remote Scotland.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and my rant about road walking hasn’t put anybody off from the beautiful Loch Lomond and Cowal Way. Peace Out.

Thanks to Hiiker for providing the amazing mapping to do this trail. If you want your hiking needs taken care of defo give their app a download.

Walking The Kintyre Way

The Kintyre way is a 100 mile thru hike starting from Tarbet on the Northern end of the Peninsula and zig zagging through beautiful scenery between the East and Western sides of the peninsula. It does this whilst ever heading in a southerly direction and finishing in Macrihanish in the South-West.

The Kintyre way has a very varied landscape with sections of road walking, huge pine plantations, open moors, and coastal paths. It offers remoteness for large sections of the walk but also has settlements every day or two (depending on distances covered).

I started the Kintyre way on the 17th August 2021 and finished it on my birthday the 20th August 2021. It took me around 3.5 days in total and I hiked from Macrihanish back up to Tarbet as it made more sense logistically for me.

Day 1

My first day started at around 1800 as it took me a while to travel down to my starting point and so I only covered about 3 miles into the open moorland on the South-West side of the peninsula.

Arriving in Macrihanish I was met with some strong wind which one would expect with the Atlantic Ocean directly in front. The next body of land if you look directly out from Macrihanish would most certainly be Greenland which is amazing when you think about it and daunting at the same time.

After a short walk down the beach and along the town’s main road, I headed up into the fog and my visibility became very limited. It’s a steady climb updawards along the road as you pass some of the working farms in the area and head into the untouched moorland of the Kintyre peninsula. There are signs along the way warning hikers not to underestimate these moors and once up there in bad weather I can tell you it is 100% savage up there.

Once you pass Ballygroggan the road finishes and it becomes pure moorland with the Kintyre way markers been very hard to spot in thick fog. The trail at this point appears to see very little use and is overgrown, boggy and the markers are mostly rotting adding to the isolation you feel up there.

After about 3 miles and just past ballygroggan I found a small wall on top of a hill that offered some shelter from the brutal onslaught of wind and rain, it was here that I decided to spend the night.

Day 2

My second day on the Kintyre way started very poorly in all honesty, the wind and rain had increased and it was practically gale force at this point. I managed to pack away my soaking gear and head out along the remains of the track.

My second day on the Kintyre way started very poorly in all honesty, the wind and rain had increased and it was practically gale force at this point. I managed to pack away my soaking gear and head out along the remains of the track.

After about 20m my feet were soaked through (I only really hike in trainers and shorts, so wet feet are part and parcel once its wet) and my legs were cold. Luckily my waterproof jacket is the bomb (Mountain Equipment Lhotse, for those who want a bombproof waterproof). The moorland was truly beautiful though and whilst I was miserable at the time due to the bad weather I look back with fondness and wish I was up there still. The weather really did hammer me throughout the next 4 miles of moorland, and I only covered a few miles in 4 hours. I hit a section where I was quite high up and could hear the Ocean hitting the cliffs that were close by, but I never once got a view of it due to low visibility.

After about 20m my feet were soaked through (I only really hike in trainers and shorts, so wet feet are part and parcel once its wet) and my legs were cold. Luckily my waterproof jacket is the bomb (Mountain Equipment Lhotse, for those who want a bombproof waterproof). The moorland was truly beautiful though and whilst I was miserable at the time due to the bad weather I look back with fondness and wish I was up there still. The weather really did hammer me throughout the next 4 miles of moorland, and I only covered a few miles in 4 hours. I hit a section where I was quite high up and could hear the Ocean hitting the cliffs that were close by, but I never once got a view of it due to low visibility.

Whilst on the moors the trail become barely visible at sections with no signage, and it was easily lost (which happened to me numerous times). I would recommend retracing your steps if you do the trail and lose the trail instead of trying to plough ahead like I did. The undergrowth is treacherous, and I nearly had some nasty accidents whilst making my way through the untouched wilderness.

After Hitting the summit of Amod hill the path becomes easier with the area being used as a working farm so it is easily identifiable, and you begin to head down into farm-land. Once out of the moors the trail follows roads to the coast. Once at the coast its worth a visit to see Kiel cave and St Columbus footprint as well as the ancient well. Its practically on the path.

This area is beautiful and the views out to sea are phenomenal (the weather cleared up once I was off the moors too, typical isn’t it). It’s worth looking back towards the moors that have just been traversed too as they offer some amazing views. Hiking along the road towards Dunaverty and Southend you can spot seals on the rocks chilling in the Sun.

This area is beautiful and the views out to sea are phenomenal (the weather cleared up once I was off the moors too, typical isn’t it). It’s worth looking back towards the moors that have just been traversed too as they offer some amazing views. Hiking along the road towards Dunaverty and Southend you can spot seals on the rocks chilling in the Sun.

Southend is a small village but does have a shop to stock up on some essentials, after this you continue along roads towards kilmashenachan where you head cross country again and can hike next to the sea. This section of the walk was an absolute foot breaker as all the way to Cambelltown is road walking (I hate road walking). Luckily the views are fantastic and looking out to sea is amazing. There are a few steep ascents along the road with one next to a hill apty named ‘the Bastard’ and it really is.

There are a couple of good spots just above the tide line off the road to pitch up for the night, but I felt fresh at this point and planned to power on past Cambelltown. Once I hit Cambelltown I sourced some food and headed back up into the hills chasing my biggest mile day ever.

Unfortunately, I was for the most part more road walking before heading into a large forest plantation around Lussa Loch. It was dark for me at this point, and I had to keep hiking to find a place to pitch. I managed to find somewhere right next to the trail and what a pitch it was. Perfectly flat with a bench and table and a note (that for some reason I didn’t take a picture of) saying ‘Don’t give up’. It was here that I pitched my tent and spent the night.

Also, I had covered a whopping 43 miles that day! Which beats my PB by 5 miles and considering the strain on my body, I felt fine.

Day 3

I woke up nice and early feeling fresh and packed up my gear, headed down the forest road that wound its way through the plantation, I noticed a caravan probably 500m from where I pitched. I assume its used by the loggers as a break room, it was open too! Seriously wish I had slept in there the night before.

I hiked through the forest for quite a few miles and the views of trees, hills and sometimes the coast were amazing. I love the forest and it’s my favourite place to crush miles. Eventually I headed down into Bridgend and found a post office where I could score some food for the next day or so. There’s a cheeky little café too which I waited to open and had a nice sausage sandwich.

The next section was totally amazing as I spent a lot of the day in the forest hiking along the forest trails and from Bridgend, I made my way North-West through them towards the West side of the Peninsula. The forests were so cool, and the miles literally flew by. Before I knew it, I was on the West coast again. The weather was pretty poor, and the wind and rain hammered me all day but because of it been big forests I wasn’t too wet or bothered as I was in my element.

Once at the coast I hiked along the beach for a little while in the rain before I made the decision to skip miles of road walking down the A83. So, I hopped on a bus and jumped back on the trail at Clachan and heading back into the hills. I had a couple of hours rest near Loch Ciaran and then continued on through some more forest and moorland where I could make out the Isle of Arran if the clouds broke enough. This was largely good hiking trail with some forest tracks and moorland walking.

Eventually I came back to the East coast of Kintyre and decided to crack on to Skipness and find a spot along the beach. After hiking down the beach road for a while I was beginning to think there wouldn’t be any good spots as campervans were literally everywhere. Luckily, I happened upon a spot and chilled out watching the sun go down. It was an amazing night there and I could see across to Arran whilst listening to the waves lap the shore.

Day 4

It was an amazing day this day, not only had I crushed the miles and was 11 miles of finishing. It was also my birthday so double points. I packed my gear and scored some water from a river before heading back up into the moors towards the finish line of Tarbet.

The weather was kind to me, and it was nice and warm with sunshine throughout. The moors were beautiful with the purple heather everywhere before they turned into a huge plantation for most of the remaining trail. It was amazing and the trail was laid out well too, so I could just relax, slay miles and enjoy the scenery.

Once I started the descent to Tarbet I was treated with amazing views across to Portavadie (where I had come from after finishing the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way) and could see for miles.

Before hitting the finish line, I made sure to have a look around Tarbet castle as recommended by a guy called Chris (he is walking the entire coastline his Instagram is @christhecoastwalker and he has a website by the same name, so check him out) I met about 10 minutes before. It is well worth having a look around and offers some amazing views.

Once I hit Tarbet I knew I had finished so the emotions came thick and fast, with the regret that I had completed too fast and that I wished I was still out on the trail.

I hope you enjoyed the read and its inspired you to hit the Kintyre way. Peace out