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CowalFest - these boots are made for walking

CowalFest - these boots are made for walking
CowalFest gets underway this Friday (3rd October). This ten-day annual walking and outdoors festival is just fantastic, with over 80 walks led by local experts. And these aren’t just any old strolls, they cover areas of interests including wildlife, folklore and even tai chi. On top of that, there’s cycling, watersports, horse-riding, running and a wide-range of musical and arts events to enjoy.

There’s a great selection of walks taking place in Argyll’s Secret Coast as part of the festival, so we’ve pulled together the highlights. With so much to choose from, the only question is: where to start?

Day 1 of the festival kicks off with this fabulously scenic four-hour forest and coastal stroll from Millhouse to Portavadie on Friday (3rd October). It really is a stunning route with gorgeous views of Loch Fyne and Arran. You’ll walk along Auchadalvorie Muir forest trail towards Kilbride Bay (also known as Ostel Bay), continuing by deer track through birch wood to Ascog Bay. This is a gorgeous spot. A narrow isthmus separates two shallow bays, which are both great places to beach comb at low tide. Eilean Aoidhe peninsula is joined to the mainland via the isthmus. Finally, you’ll cross the headland at Lower Stillaig, past two standing stones, to Portavadie.

If you fancy something a bit less energetic, there’s also a tour of Ballimore House on Friday. This stunning estate house in Otter Ferry was built in the early 19th century and was owned by the Campbells of Otter. In 1899 the MacRae Gilstraps bought Ballimore and engaged Leiper to enlarge the house in the Scottish Baronial style, and a year later Mawson to lay out a formal garden.

The five-hour walk on Sunday (5th October) from Portavadie to Tighnabruaich (the first stretch of the long-distance Cowal Way) is a cracker. This is the land of the Lamonts and the walk takes you through forests, by the shores of a lochan, past the ruined Castle Ascog, through Millhouse with its fascinating old gunpowder works and on to Tighnabruaich.

Another option for Sunday is to explore the lovely valley of Glendaruel. In the morning, take a four-hour walk through Glendaruel’s hills and woods to a cairn marking an ancient burial chamber in the company of local wildlife expert Authur French. In the afternoon, walk and talk about the history of one of Argyll’s lost mansions with Anne Craig. This one-mile amble will take you through part of the arboretum past some handsome trees to the Lucknow Gates, stoppng at St Sophia’s Chapel to view the stunning stained glass windows.

You can do the second stretch of the Cowal Way on Monday (6th October). This six-hour walk is well worth the effort, taking you from Tighnabruaich to Glendaruel alongside the beautiful Kyles of Bute and Loch Riddon. The first stretch is a lovely forest road that winds through woodland and along the shore side. There is a rough stretch that continues up through dense woodland.

Or how about exploring Strathlachan? This two-hour walk takes place on Monday (6th October) and Tuesday (7th October). It’s a short route but it’s packed with great things to see, including Kilmorie Chapel, burial place of Maclachlan clan chiefs, and the ruined medieval fortress of the Old Castle Lachlan. There’s also the fantastic Inver Cottage Restaurant for coffee and cake! The views of Loch Fyne are fabulous.

On Wednesday (8th October), there’s a five-hour walk through Glenan Woods near Portavadie to the abandoned village of Glenan. This is a truly lovely walk through ancient oak woodland and along rocky shorelines. The abandoned village is a haunting place.

And finally, this gentle two to three-hour walk around the Colintraive area on Sunday (12th October) rounds of Cowalfest nicely. Local guide Authur French will point out the history and also tell you about the area’ bird life. There’s also the chance to visit the ruins of an old chapel.

Of course there’s loads more going on right across Cowal, from seasonal suppers to cosy ceilidhs, epic hikes to relaxed rambles. It’s all at www.cowalfest.org. What’s keeping you?

Visit: www.cowalfest.org
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