The Argyll's Secret Coast offers some of the most serene landscapes in Scotland. It's a place where you can escape from daily life and take time to slow down and breathe in nature.
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As this region of Argyll’s Secret Coast is very remote and off the beaten track of the tourists’ routes, you will enjoy it most at a slow pace. So, I tailored Argyll’s Secret Coast itinerary to those who are looking for a calming and relaxing break. It’s a rare place to be alone with nature.
There is a mixture of sightseeing spots, but Argyll’s Secret Coast is about nature, so walking in the forests, hiking or water sports are the main activities. There are also historic places, excellent fresh food and single track roads with the die for views.
With the diverse landscape ranging from mountains and moorland to the beautiful coast, this wild place is heaven for outdoor activities. But it’s not just about activities; there is plenty of wildlife to watch for, including deer, buzzards, otters, golden eagles, red squirrels and even, if you’re very lucky, basking sharks while you are out and about.
3 nights/ 4 days I think is enough to see a lot in Argyll’s Secret Coast, but certainly not everything. If you plan to do some serious hiking or forest bathing, I would recommend adding more days.
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Table of Contents
How to get to the Cowal peninsula?
The trip starts from Glasgow or Edinburgh, but obviously, it does not matter where you really start. There are few other options you can start the tour
I picked up the route from Edinburgh to Glasgow and via Loch Lomond and Rest to be thankful and then on the way back it will be via the ferry from Dunoon to Gourock. But you can also do it in reverse or take even more ferry hopping. The itinerary can be combined with mainland like Oban or islands like Bute or Arran, or Kintyre peninsula as they are well connected via a short ferry crossing.
From Glasgow to Kilfinian, 75 miles via scenic route (2h )
From Edinburgh to Kilfinian, 127 miles via scenic route (2h 50 min)
Ferry from Wemyss Bay (Glasgow) to Rothesay -Isle of Bute (20 min); and then Rhubodach (Isle of Bute) to Colintraive, Cowal (5 min). No need to book it in advance; turn up service
What to see on the way to Argyll’s Secret Coast?
If you travelling from Glasgow or Edinburgh I would recommend few stops:
Dumbarton Castle, which was known as Alt Clut (‘Rock of the Clyde’) and located on the rock with panoramic views overlooking the river Clyde, is one of the most picturesque castles in Scotland. You will be rewarded with spectacular views if you climb up a very long, steep, narrow and historic set of stairs. The castle is part of Historic Scotland.
Note – The castle site is very large, steep and rocky. Because of this, there are many steps to climb up and walk around the castle and it is not suitable for those with walking difficulties or using wheelchairs.
Loch Lomond Luss village
On your way from Glasgow to Loch Lomond, make a stop at the picturesque village of Luss. It’s located on the west shore of Loch Lomond with much of the village dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Wander the village, enjoy the bursting floral gardens, and soak up some nice views of the water.
Visit the Village Rest or the Coach House Coffee Shop for lunch spots in Luss.
Arrochar village sits at the head of Loch Long and is surrounded by the Arrochar Alps. Argyll Forest Park (Goil and Eck) is great for walking. Or drive up Glen Croe to stop at Rest and Be Thankful. Below you will see a military road built after the Jacobite rising to overpower the Highlands.
Day 1. Rest and be thankful to Kilfinan 56 min driving time without stops (33.0 miles driving distance) via A815 and B8000
Today, take the road less travelled towards the beautiful Cowal Peninsula, one of the most remote and at the same time underrated regions in Argyll.
The woodland, moor and coast-filled route along the single-track road takes you through remote places of natural beauty on the Argyll’s Secret Coast. I would recommend four stops at the most interesting points: Otter ferry, Lachan Castle ruins and Kilfinan village.
Otter ferry and The Oystercatcher restaurant. Delightful location, lovely view across the loch, peaceful and serving the best seafood. Outside seating has views of Loch Fyne. I would recommend combining a lovely coastal walk with lunch at The Oystercatcher restaurant (booking is recommended).
Old Castle Lachan ruins (free) – it’s a beautiful spot here and an easy walk. The walking route takes you through Kilmore Chapel, Lachlan Bay and Old and New Castle Lachan. The old castle was a fortress and was built in the 15th century. The Maclachlans were Jacobites who supported Bonnie Prince Charlie in opposition to the neighbouring Clan Campbell. The castle was abandoned after Culloden and it has deteriorated over time; now the conservation is run by the Lachlan Trust. In the 19th century the clan built a new castle and today the Chief of the Maclachlan Clan and his family still live in this stunning Scottish baronial castle. Good spot for a picnic. Around 1 hour. Print the walking trail here
Kilfinan village has a well-kept church dating from the 13th century and its graveyard is the burial place of the clan chiefs of the Lamonts. The ancient carved stones, some of which are thought to date as early as the sixth century, are very impressive.
There is also a lovely walk to the beach through a private estate. The place looks abandoned, but the walk is through ancient woodland, wild rhododendrons and ruins. Around 1 hour.
Overnight stop at the 300-year-old Kilfinan Hotel 3* the ancestral home of the Lamont and MacEwan clans. There are 10 ensuite bedrooms and food is freshly prepared and cooked to order using the best of local produce.
Day 2. Kilfinan to Tighnabruaich via Portavadie and Ardlamont Beach 49 min driving without stops (20.4 miles driving distance) via B8000
Glenan Woods and Glenan Bay are just around from the ferry terminal at Portavadie.
The path combines a woodland and beach walk and visits the abandoned village of Glenan. The path is not long; just over 2 miles, but it takes 1h -1h 30 min to walk the circular route. The paths are well connected but can be wet and muddy underfoot. Take the Forest Path first and come back via Glenan Bay beach. You can find a detailed walking map here
Hidden gem of Argyll's Secret Coast of Scotland- Walk to Ostel Bay Beach (Ardlamont)
One of the most beautiful and peaceful beaches I’ve visited in Argyll. When you reach the beach, you will not be disappointed; it’s beautiful, remote and unspoilt. The shallow and sandy water stays warm and you can walk barefoot for a few miles. This wild beach is backed by ancient woodland and has views to die for with Arran on the horizon. To get to the beach take the path just before the Boothy (coffee shop) and walk for around 20 minutes.
Parking unfortunately can be tricky. The beach is in Ardlamont and is not signposted, so to find it travel along the B8000 to Millhouse and take the single-track road towards Kilbride Farm. There is no designated space for parking so you just park along the roadside just before the farmhouse. On sunny days it is better to come early to find a good parking spot. The road is narrow so it might be difficult to navigate it with a bigger car (no turning point).
The Royal an Lachan in Tighnabruaich may be a typical village hotel but looking at spectacular views of the Kyles of Bute whilst enjoying a hearty breakfast is quite unusual. Book a sea view room for the best experience
Day 3. Tighnabruaich to Sandbank 28 miles including scenic road 23 miles, driving without stops 1 hour
Today you will take a scenic route along Argyll’s Secret Coast.
In the morning explore on foot the pretty coastal villages of Kames and Tighnabruaich.
Tighnabruaich Gallery – what a little gem in the secret coast! Beautifully curated, the gallery exhibits contemporary art and crafts. From drawing and painting to design-led jewellery, textiles, glass, ceramics and prints. A must visit!
Five West Coffee shop in the main street in Tighnabruaich serves one of the best coffees, Argyll Coffee Roasters, I ever had. The homemade soup was delicious too. Great views over the Kyles of Bute from the garden patio.
Stop at the viewpoint at Tighnabruaich (views over Loch Fyne and the Kyles of Bute).
Tighnabruaich Viewpoint is a scenic viewpoint overlooking Loch Riddon and the Kyles of Bute. There is a small parking bay to stop and take pictures of.
Drive the road A8003 from Kames along the coast and just after Ormidale, turn onto the A886 towards Dunoon. Following the B836, take the turn to Benmore Gardens, which are just a few miles from Dunoon
Take a forest bath in the enchanting Pucks Glen. A deep, woodland gorge with cascading waterfalls, quite strenuous in some places but well worth the effort. The circular walk runs through the beautiful ancient, Victorian woodland. The full walk is 3.5 miles and takes between 1 to 2 hours depending on the shorter or longer trail you choose.
The Pucks Glen walk can be combined with Big Tree Trail and Benmore Gardens. Prepare a full day to walk all trails.
Day 4. Sandbank/Dunoon - depart
This morning visit the remarkable Benmore Gardens which belong to the Royal Collection of botanic gardens including Edinburgh Botanic Garden, Dawyck and Logan. The garden has a world-famous collection of flowering trees and shrubs including over 300 species of rhododendron, but the garden is most famous for the Giant Redwoods. The impressive avenue of sequoias and the hilltop viewpoint are the top attractions that encourage hundreds of thousands of visitors to learn about its plantings and walk through beautiful landscapes.
Every year in August, Dunoon hosts the Cowal Highland Gathering, the biggest Highland Games in the UK and Europe that includes events such as the World Highland Dancing Championships (cancelled for 2021). The town is massively occupied and booked out well in advance. 23,000 visitors come here every year, so keep this in mind when travelling to the Cowal Peninsula.
Its time to leave Argyll’s Secret Coast, in the afternoon depart via ferry from Dunoon, Cowal to Gourock, Glasgow (20 min crossing, sailing every 15 min at peak season, no advance booking required) with Western Ferries