Four lochs in five days

Date published: 06 June 2018

Elaine Malone of Sailaway Scotland Yacht Charter enjoyed a meander around some of the Clyde’s sea lochs and islands.


It was early evening when we motored out of our base at Largs Yacht Haven. With a few free days we grabbed the chance to get some sailing. There was a steady southerly which would see us over to Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute in no time. Just as we were entering Rothesay Bay, we received a call from friends who were sailing to Holy Loch which is located further up the River Clyde, asking if we fancied joining them for dinner. Moments later with sheets freed off, our Bavaria 46 yacht Calico Moon was charging up river with both wind and tide in her favour.  In no time at all we had passed Toward Lighthouse to port and could see the handsome white washed Cloch Lighthouse standing out proudly against the hillside on the opposite shore. The wind was gradually building and now blowing a good 5 which created long rolling waves surging us forward with exhilarating speed!

By the time we were passing the Gantock Rocks off the pretty town of Dunoon, we gybed round and surged in to Holy Loch on a rolling swell.  Once in the Loch, the waters were calm and the magnificent hills surrounding us gave the loch an ethereal quality. So tranquil was the scene that we had to steal a glance behind us to convince us that there was indeed quite a large sea still running up the river!

After dinner, the skies cleared and as darkness fell there was much amateur stargazing to be had…


After a still night we awoke to blue skies, white puffy clouds and a visitor to Holy Loch in the form of the Saga Rose cruise ship. Her gleaming blue hull and white superstructure seemed to be enhanced by the majestic mountain backdrop. We popped up to the café for breakfast and as we made our way up from the pontoon, much to our surprise, we spotted a piper dressed in full Highland regalia and were duly piped ashore along with the happy chattering passengers from the cruise liner!

An hour later we slipped our lines and motored out into a sparkling Loch alive with the colourful spinnakers of a local regatta fleet. Since we were now up river, we decided to set a course for Loch Long and then on to Loch Goil with a detour to Knockderry House Hotel on the East shore of Loch Long, picking up one of their visitor moorings. Ten minutes later we were relaxing on the lawn of the stunning country house with a cold beer, taking in the view down river towards the islands of Bute, Cumbrae and Arran.

By late afternoon we had slipped our mooring and set a course for Loch Goil. A light breeze had filled in from the north and we beat gently up Loch Long before entering Loch Goil. Once in the loch the water was like dark glass reflecting the mountains, creating a scene reminiscent of some lonely Norwegian Fjord.  We passed Swine’s Hole (a beautiful quiet anchorage), Carrick Castle, and then the village of Lochgoilhead came into sight. Once there we picked up a visitor mooring and went ashore landing at the dinghy pontoon and enjoyed a relaxing meal while gazing out over the beautiful twilight loch.


After breakfast we motored back down Loch Goil and out into Loch Long where we picked up a steady north westerly breeze which would see us down to Port Bannatyne on the Isle of Bute. On passage we saw countless porpoises, and were treated to a spectacular show of gannets diving only a few boat lengths away! As we rounded Toward Point we passed the buoy and were met with cheery waves from a group of kayakers who had stopped to watch a couple of dolphins!


After a peaceful night at Port Bannatyne, we decided that our next stop would be Otter Ferry on Loch Fyne. We hoisted sail and reached through the magnificent Kyles of Bute which is the stretch of water which separates the Island of Bute from mainland Argyll. We marvelled at the ever changing landscape with its spellbinding islands, quiet anchorages and pretty villages. Once out of the West Kyle, we rounded Ardlamont Point and were soon beating up a glorious Loch Fyne passing Portavadie Marina to Starboard and spotting the fishing village of Tarbert way off to port. A couple of hours later we could make out the Otter Spit beacon. As we rounded the beacon, we headed in towards Oystercatcher pub and restaurant and picked up a visitor mooring for the night to sample some of its local ales and seafood.


With one night left, we took advantage of the wind and tide to sail back down Loch Fyne to Tarbert. Leaving the Otter Beacon astern, the little town of Ardrishaig came in to view reminding us that we hadn’t yet visited its new Yot Spot hub including café, chandlery and shop - so on another whim (in the name of ‘research’) we altered course for Ardrishaig, tying alongside the pontoon outside the sealock at the Clyde entrance to the historic Crinan Canal. After seeking permission from the lock keeper, we left Calico Moon there and popped over to the Yot Spot to enjoy fresh coffee and home baking not to mention the helpful staff sorting out our wi-fi for us! After a quick look round, we hoisted sail and enjoyed a lively beat up to the fishing village of Tarbert. Once moored in the marina we wandered round the bay past the shops, cafes and fishing boats to the pretty Shell Beach.


We left Tarbert and sailed down Loch Fyne into big skies and a freshening westerly. Our course this time was a more direct route back to Largs via Garroch Head, the most southerly point of Bute. We were soon passing Skate and Inchmarnock islands to port. As we rounded the Garroch Head, we were delighted to see the Grey Seals basking on the rocks, their watery eyes fixed on us as we surged by. Next, the pretty town of Millport on the island of Great Cumbrae came into sight and it wasn’t long before we were alongside our home berth at Largs Marina.

Sailing on the Clyde gives us stunning landscapes, rich wildlife and great sailing with endless options - you can even be like us and alter course on a whim to enjoy the next adventure…….

Elaine Malone

Sailaway Scotland Yacht Charter