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East Cowal Heritage Outdoors

Welcome to the ECHO Trails project that highlights and showcases the rich heritage and spectacular scenery of the east Cowal peninsula.

Bounded to the north by a section of the Cowal Way and to the south by Holy Loch and Loch Long, the ECHO Trails encompass the Shore Villages of Kilmun, Strone, Blairmore and Ardentinny as well as Glen Massan, Lochgoilhead, Inverchapel and Loch Eck.

The ECHO Trails feature hundreds of miles of walking and cycling paths in and around the Argyll Forest Park, the UK’s oldest managed forest and the stunning Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. Click through for information about a few selected walks and trails

Download the ECHO Trails Leaflet:

From exploring the enchanting Puck’s Glen and Glenbranter to discovering all about the Clan Campbell and medical pioneer Elizabeth Blackwell, there’s so much to see and do in this small corner of Argyll including superb food and drink venues and a geocaching trail. Head to our landmarks page or regularly updated information about key places of interest.

Accessed by car and passenger ferries from Dunoon or via road through the breathtaking Rest and Be Thankful mountain pass, the ECHO Trails are just 90 minutes from Glasgow and represent a true gateway to the Scottish Highlands.

You can find out more about the history behind the many ECHO Trails landmarks, walks and paths by downloading the free “ECHO Trails” app from the Apple app store or Google Play store.

Become an ECHO Trails blazer today and uncover over 3000 years of human history as well as some of the most impressive vistas on Scotland’s west coast!

The Cowal Peninsula

Cowal is a small peninsula in the west of Scotland. It is part of Argyll & Bute in the Scottish Highlands. Bounded on the east by the Firth of Clyde and on the west by Loch Fyne. Cowal is only 90 minutes travel from Glasgow.

The Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park extends into the northeast of Cowal, and Argyll Forest Park covers much of the north. The south of the peninsula is divided into three prongs by way of two sea lochs (Loch Striven and Loch Riddon), and the Isle of Bute is clutched in between the outer prongs.

The biggest town on the peninsula is Dunoon, in the south east. Dunoon has been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times, and the grand architecture and stately houses attest to this.

Cowal (highlighted) with Loch Lomond (right) and Glasgow (bottom right) for context.
Click to enlarge.
Loose delineation of 'East Cowal'.
Click to enlarge.
SS Fairy Queen seen on Loch Eck.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums

East Cowal

There’s no formal designation of boundaries between east, west, southeast or northwest in Cowal. Our project focuses on the area between Loch Eck & Glen Massan to the west, and Loch Long, & Loch Goil to the east. You might mark Holy Loch & Ardtaraig as the southern border and Invernoaden & Lochgoilhead as the northern limit.

These are very much ad-hoc boundaries, however, designed to make sure the ECHO project has a manageable focus to begin with. If it makes sense to extend our trails to heritage hotspots slightly outwith these bounds in the future, then so be it!

Historic Kilmun

The largest community in this area is ‘The Shore’, which runs along the northern shore of Holy Loch, from Ardbeg right round to Ardentinny. The most active heritage site in this area is Historic Kilmun, which started out as the restoration of the Campbell mausoleum attached to what was Kilmun Church in 2010.

Nowadays, Historic Kilmun manage the whole site; mausoleum, church and visitor centre. The layers of history on that one site alone have earned the reputation of ‘a potted history of Scotland’. Enriching this already fantastic offering, they partner both with us at the ECHO trail and with Faith in Cowal, a pilgrim project that spans the whole of Cowal.

The result is that Historic Kilmun has become a thriving heritage hub, with many walking trails starting or ending there, and inside, amongst the historic stained glass windows and ancient carved stone, is a huge touchscreen information point with information about all three projects.

The Visitor Centre there is also where you’ll collect printed maps of our trails, so it really is a must! (Maps can also be collected from Bookpoint, the local independent bookstore in Dunoon).

Historic Kilmun in winter.
Credit: subtle sensor
Touch screen information point at Historic Kilmun.
Glenfinart House photographed in the 1950s. Only the tower survives today.

Getting Here

If you’re coming to Cowal by public transport from Glasgow or the central belt, then we recommend getting a train to Gourock and then using the Calmac passenger ferry to reach Dunoon. From there, the 489 bus runs a regular service toward Kilmun and Ardentinny, some of which make extra stops at Puck’s Glen and Benmore Gardens.