Cowal

Loch Riddon, Cowal Peninsula © D & G Clark


Cowal forms a penisula between Loch Fyne to the north-west and Loch Long to the south-east. It has an extensive coast line, rocky in most parts, but with important mudflats and salt marsh vegetation at the head of the sealochs of Loch Riddon, Loch Striven and Holy Loch. The largest fresh water body is Loch Eck, lying in a large U-shaped valley between lochs Long and Fyne. There are also numerous hill lochans. The area is more mountainous towards the north and east, with the highest summits just under 3,000 feet. The scenery towards the south and west is of more rolling hills. The areas contains extensive conifer forests, the establishment of which started in the 1920s. There are also substantial areas of native broad leaved woodland, principally of oak, birch and hazel. The moorlands areas are important for a range of upland birds, including Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Raven and Red-throated Diver. Ericacious vegetation develops well when grazing pressure is light, but generally, overgrazing has resulted in many moorland areas becoming grass-dominated.

  • Ordnance Survey Landranger Series Maps (1:50,000) numbers 55, 56, 62 and 63
  • Ordnance Survey Explorer Series Maps (1:25,000) numbers 362, 363 and 364
Tignabruaich, Kyles of Bute and Loch Riddon from Colintraive © D & G Clark

Where to watch birds

Benmore Garden (NS1385, NS1386)

Habitat: Botanical garden, with an impressive collection of conifers (with some very large trees), rhododendrons, etc.

Birds of interest: Goosander, Common Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Woodcock, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Common Redstart, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper, Common Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Common Crossbill, Bullfinch.

Firth of Clyde-Dunoon to Toward Point (NS17, NS16)

Habitat: Road along the coast passing through various habitats, and with good views over the Clyde estuary.

Birds of interest: Common Eider, Manx Shearwater, Shag, Ringed Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Turnstone, Black Guillemot.

Holy Loch (NS1681, NS1581, NS1582, NS1682)

Habitat: Large sea loch with extensive mud flats at low tide.

Birds of interest: Common Shelduck, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Turnstone, gulls, Kingfisher.

Loch Eck and Glenbranter Forest (NS19, NS18)

Habitat: A large fresh water loch, extensive conifer forests with some large oak woods on the lower ground and heather and grass moorland above the trees.

Birds of interest: Mandarin Duck, Goosander, Mallard, Grey Heron, Golden Eagle, Common Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Peregrine, Woodcock, Common Sandpiper, Common Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny Owl, Grey Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Common Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Wood Warbler, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper, Raven, Eurasian Jay, Common Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Common Crossbill, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.

Loch Long, Ardentinny-Strone Point (NS18)

Habitat: Sea loch with shingle and rocky shoreline.

Birds of interest: Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Sandwich Tern, Common Swift, Magpie.

Loch Riddon (NR97, NS08)

Habitat: Estuary and sea loch with extensive mud flats at low tide and salt marsh at head of loch.

Birds of interest: Mute Swan, Common Shelduck, Mallard, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, gulls.

Otter Ferry (NR9184, NR9284)

Habitat: Shoreline with long sandy and rocky spit stretching out into Loch Fyne.

Birds of interest: Common Shelduck, Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Diver, Black-throated Diver, Great Cormorant, Shag, Hen Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Peregrine Falcon, Common Guillemot, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Turnstone, Northern Wheatear.

Tighnabruaich, Kames and Kyles of Bute (NR97, NR96)

Habitat: Coastal area with woodland (broad leaved and coniferous), golf course and unimproved wet grasslands/peatlands.

Birds of interest: Manx Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Red-throated Diver, Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Kestrel, Sandwich Tern, Common Sandpiper, Eurasian Curlew, Common Snipe, Common Cuckoo, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper, Raven, Eurasian Jay, Common Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Common Crossbill, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting.

Head of Loch Striven (NS0583, NS0582)

Habitat: Estuary and sea loch with mud flats at low tide and salt marsh at head of loch.

Birds of interest: Mute Swan, Common Shelduck, Mallard, Eurasian Wigeon, Eurasian Teal, Red-breasted Merganser, Oystercatcher, Eurasian Curlew, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, gulls, Peregrine, Raven.