Location: Castle Dounie, Argyll

Grade: Moderate forest walk

Distance: 4 miles/7km

Time: 2-3 hours

THIS fine walk begins at Crinan Harbour, one of those places that makes most Scots think “never been there but perhaps one day.” It should be on your wish-list because the whole area of Crinan and Knapdale is fascinating – geologically unusual and littered with ancient artefacts, standing stones, forts and duns. Castle Dounie, the focus of this walk, is an Iron Age fort that straddles a high ridge with sumptuous sea views across to Jura and Scarba, two islands separated by the notorious Corryvreckan and its whirlpool.

Crinan Harbour lies just west of the tiny village of Crinan where the eponymous canal empties out into Loch Crinan. There is a sizeable car park here, just beyond the first few houses as the road turns right into Crinan Harbour. From the car park return along the road, past the junction to a white cottage. In front of it a signposted waymarker points out the route, along a shingly foreshore for a short distance.

Another sign indicates where the path leaves the shore and runs parallel to it for a while through a lovely grove of oak trees. Shortly after a wooden bench the path veers slightly left and begins to climb what appears to be a firebreak through the woods. There is another bench halfway up the hill which may offer a bit of relief.

Enjoy your break, and the views that are now opening up, because you won’t see many more views for a while, and there’s more climbing to be done. At the top of the steep path turn right onto a forestry track and enjoy easier walking to another junction and bench. Turn left here and climb a little more gently now to another, narrower, path that runs off to the right.

I got quite excited at this point for at last we were away from broad forestry tracks and among native trees with views beginning to open out across Loch Crinan towards the sea. A narrow pass took us to another rest stop. Not a wooden bench this time but a full-blown picnic table. It seemed a little churlish not to use it.

After lunch we carried on over a rise, along a slight descent before reaching another junction. Our descent route went to the right but before that we wanted to climb to the castle viewpoint and were delighted to actually reach the viewpoint by climbing through the ancient dun’s entrance.

There are enough fortifications still in existence at Castle Dounie to give you a pretty good idea of what it must have been like. It was a great spot to linger awhile in the sunshine. I took my boots off, lay back against one of the retaining walls and simply gazed across the vast area of sea towards the island of Scarba. Away to the north the peaks of Cruachan stood proud, but the best of the view was to the north-west towards the high hills of Mull. What a spot.

It took a lot of effort to put my boots back on and begin the descent, back to the last path junction where we simply walked on straight ahead, steeply downhill to another junction with a forest track. We turned right onto the track and what do you know? It began climbing again, a long haul up to another viewpoint and wooden bench. I was beginning to grow quite fond of these benches.

Back on the path we still hadn’t finished climbing (I thought we were meant to be descending). We returned to one of the benches we passed earlier and then we were homeward bound. Back to the top of the steep climb, down the grassy slopes of the steep climb to the bench by the shore and then the woodland path back to Crinan Harbour. I was ready for a brew.

Cameron McNeish


Map: OS 1:50,000 Landranger sheet 55 (Lochgilphead & Loch Awe); 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 358 (Lochgilphead & Knapdale North).

Distance: 4 miles/7km

Time: 2-3 hours

Start/Finish: Car park at Crinan Harbour (GR: NR784942).

Public transport: None to the start.

Information: Oban TIC, 01631 563122, www.visitscotland.com/info/towns-villages/crinan

Route: Leave car park and turn L onto shore road. Pass road junction and look for direction post. Follow sign along shingle shore to another sign that points out a path through the trees. Follow path to a bench and turn L to climb steeply to meet a forest track. Turn R and continue to another junction with bench. Turn L here and climb gently for about 400 metres until a sign points out path on R. Follow this path through the woods, descend slightly to a picnic table, turn L and descend slightly again to meet another forest track. This is the start of the descent route. Continue ahead to climb to Castle Dounie. Return to the junction and turn L to descend to another junction. Turn R and continue along the track which climbs gently. Reach the bench and signposted track junction from earlier in the walk. Go straight on here to reach top of steep grassy path that comes up from the shore. Descend to bench by shore, turn R and follow path back to Crinan Harbour.