155. Auchenbreck to Portavadie

Only a single walk on this visit, due to the next section of the walk having some dificulties around public transport that I need to work around.

It has been a good 5 weeks since my last visit to Scotland, partly due to finding a suitable weather window, but principally due to the fact that I have taken up wood turning again (last done when I was at school!). The local electricity power supplier had recently chopped down a number of trees which had encroached near to power lines. I managed to retrieve some of this wood, mainly oak, from a brook where it had just been dumped – it weighed a ton! So I had been very busy preparing the wood by removing the pith and rough-turning it into bowls before laying the wood up for 6 months to continue drying.

I found at least a couple of good weather days in the Cowal area, but did not bank on the bad weather while driving up to Scotland. Driving over Shap Fell on the M6 through a snowstorm was horrendous, I could not even tell which lane I was in, the snow being so intense. Because I was doing a single big day, I had also decided that with the travelling up overnight and the tough walk I would need a good rest, so I decided to stay the night in Dunoon.

I drove to Portavadie, making use of the Gourock – Dunoon ferry which knocks about 50 miles of the northerly approach via Arrochar. Pre-buying ferry tickets for two journeys also means it only costs about £8.50 each way.

Not any more!
Luing cattle feeding on the shores of Loch Riddon

I park in a Forestry commission car park close to the marina development. Portavadie is a rather strange place, besides being a ferry terminal for the short hop across Loch Fyne to Tarbet, someone had the idea to develop the site with luxury apartments. I catch the 9:35 #478 bus heading to Dunoon, but I will get off at Auchenbreck. I leave the bus and begin my walk at 10:10, far later in the day than I normally start walking. I set off north back down the A886. I am heading for the first bridging point over the River Ruel which feeds into Loch Riddon / Ruel. I arrive at the junction with the A8003 which runs south alongside Loch Riddon. Traffic along the road is light. A short distance along the road I am joined by the Cowal Way, which I last walked along near Arrochar. The road snakes and winds itself close to the River Ruel and it is a lovely spring-like morning with the sun out.

The view south from the road (taken earlier in the morning)
Steep sections on the Cowal Way

I pass a sign for Mechan’s Grave. Mechan was a Norse warrior, who was killed on his way to the battle of Largs in 1263. Some time ago, the grave location was examined but no remains were found.  Shortly afterwards I follow the Cowal Way which now leaves the main road and continues alongside the Loch towards Ormidale Lodge. This marks the end of the public road and where the Cowal Way must climb high up the hillside to pass above and around Sron na  Carraige, a steep rock outcrop. For the next couple of miles the Cowal Way is certainly inventive and makes good use of rock ladders to get along the steep and forested hillside. The rhododendrons have been cut back giving a wide path, that the path also uses wooden walk ways over some of the more steep ground.

At Glen Caladh the path joins a dirt track access road to the small settlement of Caladh, with its sheltered harbour guarded by the small wooded island of Eilean Dubh.

While the majority of the Cowal Way runs close to the loch, the A8003 climbs high and unseen up the hillside. At a couple of places there are observation points which offer stunning views south down Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute. I had taken advantage of such views earlier that morning on my drive down to Portavadie.

Looking back at Tighnabruaich

After rounding Rubha Ban I can now see the strung out settlements of Port Driseach, Tighnabruaich and Kames hugging the shoreline. I love the delightfully sounding name of Tighnabruaich pronounced Tine-na-brew-arr-rich. At this point I have passed out of Loch Riddon and into the western Kyles of Bute. I pop into a spar and stock up a couple of items to supplement my meagre lunch. As I sit down to tuck into my lunch of oatcakes and squirty cheese, the wind gets up and these north-easterlies bring a very cold and chilly feel. I’m soon on my way with about 5 miles of road walking ahead of me.

Looking south from Ardlamont Point across the Sound of Bute to Arran
Phyllitic mica-schists on Ardlamont beach

I’m now heading to Ardlamont Point and must leave the public road at the turning for Point farm. I pass the farm negotiating a digger blocking the lane to keep livestock in place. The view from the Point  across the Sound of Bute to the snow-capped peaks of Arran is breath-taking and I wish I had a camera to do the view justice. From this point on I will be walking westwards and having to make my own way around the coast over rough ground. I could take the road inland, but much prefer finding a way myself. Most coast walkers appear to miss out on this section of the coast which is a pity as it contains some really quiet and lovely beaches. I find remnants of an old footpath that passes beneath the small cliffs of  Creag Mhor. As I enter Ardlamont Bay I see that I am also entering Loch Fyne, the last of my Clyde Sea Lochs. I hug the shoreline walking on both the rough grass and the barnacle encrusted rocks close to the shore-edge. I make good progress and emerge into the delightful Kilbride Bay with its lovely white sands.

You tell me! Probably Second World War
Kilbride Bay

The next section of the walk would involve crossing a largish burn, which I did by a small footbridge and entering a forest section. I had examined satellite images, but am only to aware that these images are quite old and these forests grow quite fast! Sure enough, the firebreaks had long since disappeared. However, I managed to find the forest road I was looking for by using my compass. Although the road stopped short of the shoreline I could easily see the outline of Asgog Bay.

Ferry from Tarbet arriving at Portavadie (taken earlier in the day)

By this time the light was beginning to fade and I was not so sure of the route along the coast for the last couple of miles. I decided instead to head inland a short distance along a dirt track to the public road which would lead me down into Portavadie. A good days walk with some stunning views and some interesting terrain west of Ardlamont Point. The walk took 8 1/2 hours.


NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:



Distance today =   23 miles
Total distance =    2611 miles