The land and sea of Argyll is one big outdoor playground. Take your pick from walking, cycling, golf, horse-riding, sailing, fishing, windsurfing and more. You might see deer, buzzards, otters, golden eagles and red squirrels while you are out and about. The area is also steeped in Highland history and features ruins, castles and ancient sites.
Winter Opening Times
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The Cowal Peninsula is full of fabulous walks. The most famous is the long-distance Cowal Way, which runs for around 90 kilometres. It begins at Portavadie in the southwest and ends at Inveruglas on the shores of Loch Lomond, passing through beautiful countryside (and a fair few bogs!). Some sections are pretty rough and you will require some navigational skills, but this epic route is well worth the effort. If hills are your thing, then head to the Arrochar Alps – by far the most spectacular mountain range in the southern Highlands. And if you want to make a week of it, why not plan your holiday to coincide with Cowalfest, a walking and arts festival that takes place in October.
Driving around the country roads is a fantastic way to appreciate the spectacular scenery. The writer Iain Banks reckons the road from Sandbank to Tighnabruaich is one of best wee roads in Scotland and Jeremy Clarkson rates the Colintraive to Tighnabruaich as one of best ten roads in Scotland. Ballachondrain linking Otter Ferry to Glendaruel is an extraordinary road – not for the faint hearted.
There are some spectacular family cycle trails on quiet country roads where traffic is light and the scenery spectacular. A ten-mile trail starting at Kames and heading round Ardlamont Point is just one of the routes that all the family can easily tackle. Tighnabruaich, Kilfinan, Otter Ferry, Bealachandrain Pass to Glendaruel returning to Tighnabruaich is another good route, as is Tighnabruaich, Kilfinan, Otter Ferry then along coast road to Lachlan Castle then returning to Tighnabruaich via Glendaruel.
At the height of the summer the fish around here are plentiful. Mackerel, pollock and cod are just some of the species you can catch. You can fish off the rocks, local piers or by taking a boat trip. The waters off the Kyles of Bute are sheltered and fishing tackle can be purchased locally. Langoustine, lobsters and scallops are regularly caught by local fishermen.
There are three well stocked lochs only five minutes drive from Portavadie Marina, all set amid wild and beautiful scenery.
Tighnabruaich Sailing School is a great place to learn to sail. The Kyles of Bute is perfect for dinghy sailing, with its sheltered waters and stunning views. Tighnabruaich is steeped in sailing history. The area has seen three prestigious Fife Classic Yacht Regattas in recent years. KoBSC has a calendar of racing events including the Round the Island race. The award-winning Colintraive Hotel, Tighnabruaich, Royal an Lochan and Kames Hotels all have dedicated visitors' moorings in the Kyles as does Creggans Inn at Strachur in upper Loch Fyne. Martin Lawrence, author of the highly regarded Imray Yachtsman's Pilots, recorded the Oystercatcher Inn at Otter Ferry as one of Yachting Monthly's Best Waterside Pubs.
During the season, there is some great game stalking to be had with Winston Churchill.
The Kyles of Bute golf course is a well-kept secret. This stunning nine-hole course has breathtaking views from every tee. Set in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the hill above Kames, the golf course offers panoramic views across the water to the Island of Bute. Watch out for wandering sheep!
This area is foodie heaven, with bountiful fresh fish and seafood from the lochs and delicious venison, lamb and beef from the hills. With lots of artisan producers in the area, don’t miss out on the opportunity to try the local cheeses, honey, cold meats, smoked fish and preserves.
You will find some great places to eat in Kames and Tighnabruaich. The Kames Hotel is a superb waterside pub and restaurant and does bar snacks, lunches and evening meals. The Royal An Lochan has superb seafood, good wines and malts –– everything that you would expect from a hotel on the west coast of Scotland. The Wellpark Hotel is a lovely spot to enjoy either elegant fine dining or delicious bar meals and you can get some tasty home cooking in the Burnside Bistro and the Barn at Millhouse. In the summer, Ardlamont Coach House serves up pies, pasties, quiches and cakes in quirky surroundings.
Further afield, your holiday won’t be complete without a trip to the world-famous Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, with its great food and views at the head of Loch Fyne. Inver Cottage is a restored croft on the shores of Lachlan Bay. It is the perfect place to unwind and sample some superb cooking based on local produce. The Creggans Inn offers true Scottish hospitality and the Oystercatcher is a perfect spot for a drink on a summer’s evening. The Colintraive Hotel does hearty portions of home-cooked, locally sourced food. It is just next to the Bute ferry, so why not combine lunch here with a trip to the island?
From ruined castles to botanical gardens, there are some great visitor attractions within striking distance of Portavadie. Benmore Gardens is magnificent woodland garden near Dunoon. Its 140 acres contain a wide collection of flowering trees and shrubs including over 300 species of rhododendron – quite a sight in summer. Ardkinglas Woodland Garden is open all the year round with an outstanding collection of plants and trees, including the tallest tree in Britain. There are walks throughout the gardens and the wider estate.
Bute is a gem of an island and home to Mount Stuart, the astounding Victorian gothic mansion. The grounds are well worth a walk around too. Don’t miss out on a trip to Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, or Inveraray Jail, a living museum and one of Scotland’s top visitor attractions. Step aboard the Waverley, the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world. You can take day, afternoon or evening cruises from Tighnabruaich.
Artists are inspired by our beautiful natural scenery and incredible light. You will find artists and galleries dotted all over the region. Look out for open studios weekends over the summer – they are a great way to meet artists and see their art. The small but perfectly formed Tighnabruaich Gallery lies in the heart of the village. It specialises in contemporary Scottish artists and hosts a series of exhibitions throughout the year so the walls are constantly changing.
As well as the events held at Portavadie Marina, there are festivals and events galore that celebrate the rich history, culture and fabulous food of this great Scottish region. The Brewin Dolphin Scottish Series in June is a firm fixture in everyone’s sailing diary. The Cowal Highland Gathering in Dunoon in August is largest and most spectacular Highland Games in Scotland. Walk wild and free with the annual Cowalfest walking and arts festival in October. Sample the very best of the west – good food, wine and entertainment – at the Fynefest in Cairndow.
One of the best reasons for coming here is simply to enjoy the silence. Slow down, marvel at the views, listen to the birds, enjoy the sunshine and the skies, star gaze and experience the beauty of the landscape.
You could try your hand at quad biking – it might not be peaceful but it is a lot of fun. Ardlamont House organises horse riding around the beautiful Ardlamont Point. They also do pony and trap rides.