Tighnabruaich to Glendaruel
Distance 11 miles/ 18km
Mostly tracks and roads, with a 1.5 km stretch of rough woodland path
Mainly a low-lying gentle walk, with a short stretch of steep, difficult woodland
The majority of this section is easy walking on quiet public and private roads, broken up by a more challenging section of shoreline and woodland. This middle section has been recently upgraded to include new wooden walkways and steps, but should not be attempted during a particular high tide. (Check out the tide details on the App on this page, before setting off). Highlights of this stretch of the walk include a Telford bridge, Kilmodan Church and its historic carved stones, and the Lucknow Gates which are said to commemorate the 1857 Siege of Lucknow, India.
From the centre of Tighnabruaich, the Cowal Way follows the shore road alongside the Kyles of Bute, passing shops, cafés and the wooden pier. Follow this quiet road until the tarmac gives out then continue straight ahead, following the resulting stone track. The track passes through a boat yard, then skirts round the edge of the water. After about 1km the track forks. Bear left to head uphill through the woods behind the houses, passing a bridge and waterfall. Soon after this the track forks again, with the Cowal Way continuing on the main track which descends to the shoreline.
Continue along this track until Caladh harbour comes into view. A small white lighthouse is visible, with Eilean Dubh just behind it, and to your left are the remains of Caladh Castle which was requisitioned by the navy and blown up after WWII. Follow the track round the bay and then uphill into the woods again. Ignore the lesser paths signposted to your left, and the track down to the house on your right. Follow the track until the buildings of Caladh Farm come into view, then turn right just before the houses and follow the fence-line to turn left onto the shore. The next section of the route is far more rugged, and walkers should look carefully for the Cowal Way waymarkers along the route. The section may also be impassable at very high tide, so tide tables should be consulted prior to setting off.
Continue along the shore to the far end of the bay, and look for markers and cairns pointing to a narrow trodden path into the woods. The path winds through the woods above the sea for several hundred meters, before descending down to the shoreline again. The route continues along the beach to reach a large group of fallen boulders. Take the narrow passage between the boulders, or at low tide simply walk around them. Just beyond the boulders, signs to the left indicate where the route leaves the beach again. This section is challenging but has been upgraded to include new steps and new walkways. Follow the narrow trail as it rises through the rhododendrons for around 500m before descending down to Ormidale Lodge at the other side.
The route now emerges from behind Ormidale Lodge onto a quiet public road, marking the end of the difficult stretch. Head left along the shore road for 2km until you reach the junction with the busier A8003 by Shellfield Farm. At this junction turn right and follow the road for 3.3km. Just before the road bridge over the River Ruel, turn left on the small road signposted for Waulkmill. The route passes Waulkmill Cottage and then continues along the closed road to a broken stone bridge across the Bealachandrain Burn. Cross the new walkway bridge which takes you over and above the old Bealachandrain Bridge, and turn right onto the tarmac road. Turn left onto the verge by the main road for 300m, then take a left turn down the road signposted for Kilmodon Carved Stones and Clachan of Glendaruel.
The Cowal Way now follows the road past the Glendaruel Hotel (currently closed), with a small lane to your left offering access to the church and carved stones. At the next junction turn left onto the West Glen Road to recross the river by another Telford bridge, and then follow the road past some farm buildings and on up the Glen until you reach a fork in the roads in front of the historic Lucknow Gates. To reach the Glendaruel Camping and Caravan Park with shop, take the footpath to your right; alternatively continue along the Cowal Way by taking the left hand fork.
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During the section from Portavadie to Tighnabruaich, the Cowal Way descends onto the shore for brief stretch. This does not normally present a problem, however the route can become impassable during high tide. It is therefore very worth while to check the tide times before attempting this stretch. CLICK HERE TO SEE THE CURRENT TIDE TABLES