Argyll Sea Kayak Trail – our guide to this excellent kayak trail


In our popular guide about Argyll and the Isles, we mention that this part of Scotland is excellent for outdoor activities, particularly activities on the water. The sea and lochs in and around Argyll are among the most popular parts of the UK for kayaking, and the area attracts thousands of kayakers from across the country every year.

The Argyll Sea Kayak Trail is a popular trail which kayakers can follow if they want to take in some of the most beautiful and enjoyable areas around Argyll. We wanted to publish a guide about what the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail is and how to follow it for anyone planning to follow the trail in 2023, let's get into it:

Where does the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail start and end?

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The trail is around 150km miles in length and is typically followed North to South. To complete the route it will probably take you a total of between 30 and 40 hours depending on your ability and how fast you paddle. If you plan to tackle the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail then we'd obviously recommend taking regular breaks, we've highlighted areas where breaks can be taken in the sections below. The initial version of the route which was created by Argyll & Bute Council 10 years ago started in Ganavan, but the newer version of the trail typically starts in Ellenabeich, as we've chosen in our version of the trail.

What sections are there?

The Argyll Sea Kayak Trail is typically split into 8 different sections, with each section offering something different. Here are the 8 sections:


Ellenabeich to Arduaine
Arduaine to Crinan
Crinan to Ardrishaig
Ardrishaig to Tarbert
Tarbert to North Bute
North Bute to Toward
Toward to Dunoon
Dunoon to Helensburgh
Now let's get into a more detailed breakdown of each section:

Ellenabeich to Arduaine - 11km

At Ellenabeich, get onto the water at the natural rock slipway and paddle around the ferry terminal, keeping an eye out for traffic. At the terminal, pass through Easdale Sound and head southeast, following the rocky coastline round to Henderson’s Rock. Keep heading south until you reach the entrance to Cuan Sound. This is another area where you need to be careful as the water can be choppy and there can be traffic. Pass through The Sound until you're out and have Torsa ahead of you. Pass the remains at Caisteal nan Con, and then head down to Degnish Point. There is another route around the southern end of Torsa which takes you between Torsa and Luing, but we'd recommend following the route around the top. Paddle around the headland into Asknish Bay and then paddle across to the access point at Arduaine.

Arduaine to Crinan - 19km

Head south down the coast towards Craobh Haven, and feel free to grab a stop at one of the bays along here. Keep heading down to Eilean Ona and past Achanarnich Bay and Loch Beag. If you keep following the coast you'll eventually reach Craignish Point, and the amazing Dorus Mòr will come into view. The stretch of water after Dorus Mòr is tough and should only be crossed by confident kayakers. Once you've passed this section of water, head towards Liath-sgeir Mhòr, then pass between Eilean nan Coinean and the mainland. Keep paddling into Loch Crinan, going past Rubha Garbh-ard, Rudha na Mòine into the mouth of the River Add. From here you can head north into Crinan to the main access point by following the canal to the north, and getting out at the trail landing area.

Crinan to Ardrishaig - 13km

Leave Crinan Basin along the
southern edge of the locks until you reach Lock 14. You then continue along the woodland path to the purpose-built landing area, from which point you follow the canal towards Crinan Bridge. Leaving from Crinan Bridge, you head up the slipway from the River Add where you access the canal to the south of the swing bridge (it's easy to do so from the purpose-built jetty on the east bank).
Head south along the Canal until you pass Bellanoch Marina, and then Bellanoch Bridge. Keep going towards Dunardry, at which point you'll reach the lock that kayaks are not allowed to cross, so you'll have to walk. Once you're back on the water, keep following the canal until you reach Oakfield Bridge, where you can stop to visit Lochgilphead if you like. There is a slipway which leads to Loch Fyne after this section, and then to Ardrishaig.

Ardrishaig to Tarbert - 19km

Be careful as you leave the slipway in Ardrishaig and head south, as you might well find some traffic coming in and out of the canal system. Once you're past any traffic and any boats moored in the bay, you follow the coast down to the next access point. Once you pass Inverneill everything becomes steeper at Creagan Beag for about 4 miles, but flattens out as you pass Sloc nam Feàrna, and on around Barmore Island (pictured). Once you're past the two islets at Sgeir Port a´ Ghuail, you'll see Tarbert. Continue until you are opposite the ferry terminal, and then disembark when safe to do so.

Tarbert to North Bute - 29km

This is the longest section of the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail, so it's good to start early in the day and bring supplies with you. From the access point, paddle around the yacht club towards the ferry terminal. Once it's safe, pass the ferry terminal and paddle along the shoreline past Mealdarroch Point (pictured). You will need to paddle across Loch Fyne towards Port Leathan on the Cowal Peninsula, there are a few options for crossing but the point at Rubna Clach an Tràghaidh is the shortest crossing at around 3km.
The trail continues past Kilbride Bay and across Ardlamont Bay, before taking you up the west Kyle of Bute until you reach Carry Point. Keep paddling up the western side of the Kyle, where you can stop at either Kames or Tighnabruaich if you need supplies. Paddle past the Maids of Bute and around Buttock Point, and you'll soon see the North Bute access point after the wooded area.

North Bute to Toward - 13km

Keep heading west along the coastline until you reach Ardyne Point (pictured) – this is the site of a former oil rig construction yard, and is strangely beautiful and worth a look if you have the time. After exploring, you can make the crossing to Bute via Undraynian Point. Once you pass Ardmaleish Point you're into The East Kyle, with Strone Point directly to the north at the mouth of Loch Striven. Keep an eye out for sailboats as this is a popular place for sailing. Paddle along the Bute side of the loch (or the Kyle side, whatever is easiest) until you reach Colintraive. Keep an eye out for the Rhubodach ferry which regularly crosses here. When safe to do so, paddle towards the Burnt Islands, and then to Toward.

Toward to Dunoon - 13km

As you leave the Quay at Toward, head for Toward Point and the Toward Point Lighthouse (pictured). Although you've just started this section, definitely take time to admire the lighthouse - built by Robert Stevenson in the early 19th century, the lighthouse is quite amazing to see up close. Once you've moved around the point, keep following the coastline north until you reach the shallow area at Newton Park. Keep following the shoreline until you reach Innellan, where you can stop if you like, or keep moving along the trail to Bullwood Quarry. You'll soon see Dunoon, which has a large beacon next to it.

Helensburgh to Dunoon - 16km

The last section starts from Helensburgh and follows the Firth of Clyde down to Dunoon. You paddle across the mouth of Gare Loch towards Perch Rock and Culwatty Bay, and then follow the coastline around to Rosneath Point. After that, head towards Portkil Point, passing Meiklross Bay and Portkil Bay. As you keep moving along here you'll approach the eastern end of Kilcreggan, which is where you'll need to be aware of the ferry terminal and traffic. Once you arrive at Barons Point in Cove, you will need to take your kayak across the mouth of Loch Long to Strone. After that, paddle across Holy Loch. Once you've gotten past the terminal, keep following the coastline south past the East Bay of Dunoon, and finally into the Dunoon Ferry Terminal.

What should you be aware of before heading along the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail?

As you can see, the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail is very long and should only be attempted by confident kayakers. If you're new to kayaking then we'd advise against following this trail, but if you're very keen to follow the trail and you're not very experienced, then you can travel with a kayak tour company based in Argyll. There are many companies like this so we won't recommend one specific company, if you search online you'll find them!
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to get into a kayak and follow this excellent route. We've also got guides about routes in England like the Coast & Castles route, the Borders Abbey Way and the Exe Estuary Trail.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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