Wild About Argyll Trail – Helensburgh to Portavadie

Section 1 – Helensburgh to Portavadie

  • Total ascent: 4,665 m (15,305 feet)
  • Length: 199 km (124 miles)
  • Max elevation: 373 m (1,224 feet)
  • Min elevation: 1 m ( 3 feet)

Easy accessible with frequent trains from Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Wild About Argyll Trail starts in Helensburgh. A graceful town with wide elegant tree-lined streets, a long promenade and attractive parks and gardens, it is also the start (or finish) of the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail and the John Muir Way – and is home to a masterpiece of the internationally famous Scots architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, the Hill House.

Climbing out of the town, the trail follows the Three Lochs Way on the line of an ancient coffin road, known locally as the Highlandman’s Road, which brings you into the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. After crossing the A814 it continues on a quiet single track road called The American Road, which services the southern part of the Ministry of Defence’s Garelochhead Training Area. You are welcome to cycle through, but very occasionally the MOD may require to close the training area. Information can be obtained by calling 01436 810369 in advance. If the training area is closed, the best alternative route is along the A814, which is very scenic in its own right. If you continue on The American Road, the route takes a left at Glen Douglas to join the A814 into Arrochar, where places to stay and eat can be found.

Now in Argyll Forest Park, the first ever Forest Park designated in the UK, the route continues from Arrochar through Succoth, and the trail then joins the Glen Loin Loop for a short section and continues on a forest road. On the right a walking track (not recommended for cycling) climbs up to the Cobbler, one of Scotland’s most recognisable peaks in the Arrochar Alps. The Wild About Argyll Trail continues on the forest road, and shortly afterwards on some great singletrail switchbacks to Ardgartan, with a car park and toilets. From here it follows the Cat Craig Loop first, passing Forest Holidays, and then continues on the very scenic Ardgartan Peninsula Circuit with views over Loch Long. Mark Cottage, a MBA bothy, is situated off the route on the shore of Loch Long. This section is also part of the Cowal Way, and after a perfect spot to stop at Corran Lochan you can soon enjoy the great views over the hills and Loch Goil on the Dukes Path, including a downhill section that might test some riders.

Lochgoilhead has places to eat and stay. From here the route follows the quiet road for a bit. Soon after Carrick Castle the road ends and a track follows the shores of Loch Goil, and later joins a good forest track into Ardentinny. The route passes Ardentinny Bay picnic site and the longest beach in Cowal, and then follows another quiet road for a bit and climbs towards Loch Eck on a gravel road to join the Loch Eck Circuit on the east side of the Loch. The wide track turns into a singletrail and back into a wider track, passing Benmore Botanic Garden with its magnificent Redwood Avenue, before reaching the top of Puck’s Glen, one of the highlights of the trail. This is a hike-a-bike section and a very popular walking route, but worth the effort. A tumbling burn, criss-crossed by bridges, Puck’s Glen is a deep gorge enclosed by rocky cliffs, heavily hung with mosses and overshadowed by dense trees. The alternative is to head down to Benmore Garden and join the A815, where the route re-joins at Uig Hall. From here the route follows the A815 to join National Cycle Route 75 into Dunoon, the main town on the beautiful Cowal Peninsula and maritime gateway to the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. It is served by two ferries to Gourock, which makes it a good alternative start or finish point.

From Dunoon the route climbs up a gravel track with great views over Holy Loch to cross the B836, and the follows a quiet road along the Little Eachaig River and River Massan. After passing Benmore Botanic Garden a gravel track follows the shore of Loch Eck all the way to Glenbranter, where the route re-joins the Cowal Way shortly afterwards. After a great cycle through the forest the views opening up towards the west are spectacular, and after a short section on the A886 the trail follows a quiet road to Clachan of Glendaruel. Shortly afterwards the route climbs up on a forest track heading south, with more great views across to the north. After this section on a well-maintained timber logging route, the Wild About Argyll Trail re-joins the B8000 before Millhouse. From here the route follows the cycle route to Kames, which offers accommodation and a shop, and is very close to Tighnabruaich, with even more places to eat and stay. The final section to Portavadie offers great views across the stunning Kyles of Bute. From here a ferry runs across to Tarbert, Loch Fyne, with frequent daily services.

Further information:

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Argyll Sea Kayak Trail

John Muir Way

Helensburgh and Loch Lomond

Three Lochs Way

Argyll Forest Park

Cowal Way

Cowal

Dunoon

Argyll’s Secret Coast

Portavadie

Mountain Bothies Association