South of Dunoon the main road down the shore of the Firth of Clyde passes through Innellan before turning west just north of Toward Point, which forms the southernmost point of this side of the Cowal peninsula.
The tip of the point is marked by Toward Lighthouse, built in 1812 by the Cumbrae Lighthouse Trust to help ease navigation between the Isle of Bute and the mainland. Today this is a private home and not open to the public. Two lighthouse keepers' houses were built nearby in the later 1800s. Another more unusual addition in the late 1800s was a white-painted building which sits on the foreshore close to the lighthouse. This looks very like a chapel: it is in fact the foghorn house. The foghorn itself was located on the roof of the tower, and the mechanism which powered it was housed in the "nave".
Standing next to the corner in the road through Toward is the Old Pier House. Overlooking the rocky shore to the east are a set of gates next to a building declaring itself to be Toward Pier. Today there is no pier here. One was built, in 1863, but it seems to have failed to attract the steamer traffic it was built for and it closed in 1922. On the main road just to the north of the village is Toward Church, built on a relatively modest scale in 1840. Nearby is a corrugated iron clad village hall.
The road along the south shore of this part of the Cowal Peninsula enjoys spectacular views over the Firth of Clyde to Ayrshire, Cumbrae and the Isle of Bute (and the mountains of Arran beyond it). Further interest is added by the steady stream of vessels passing through these busy waters: with a particularly good view afforded of the ferries between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. The shore itself is stony, but it does offer attractive bays well worth exploring.
Inland from the road it is possible to catch the odd glimpse of Toward Castle amid a dense covering of trees. This was built as a tower house by the Lamont Clan in about 1475 and later extended on a number of occasions. In 1646 the castle was besieged and destroyed by Campbells seeking revenge for attacks on them by Lamonts earlier in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (see our Historical Timeline). Today only ruins remain.
In 1821 a former Lord Provost of Glasgow, Kirkman Finlay, employed the architect David Hamilton to build Castle Toward on a site a third of a mile north west of the old Toward Castle. What emerged was a grand castellated mansion house, around which were planted some five million trees. In 1920 the house was purchased by Andrew Coates, the thread manufacturer from Paisley. He extended the house, and added many of the decorative towers which are such a feature of it today. Castle Toward is now used as an outdoor education centre run as a commercial venture in tandem with another centre at Ardentinny, north of Dunoon.
Both Toward Castle and Castle Toward are reclusive, hiding amid woods. Much more obvious is the estate's court of offices, built in a similar style to Castle Toward, but fronting onto the road itself. On the opposite side of the road is the Toward Sailing Club, whose 1973 clubhouse contrasts with the massive stonework of Toward Quay. From here it is possible to look right into Rothesay Bay to the town of Rothesay, whose centre is less than 2½ miles to the south east.
The public road turns inland at Toward Quay, and becomes single track, heading north before turning west past the fine mansion of Knockdow to emerge on Loch Striven at Port Lamont. Knockdow was built by the Lamont family in 1750 and later extended. Much of the appearance of the house today is due to a major renovation undertaken in the early 1920s.
Loch Striven is another of Argyll's many sea lochs. A very minor road runs up much of its eastern shore before petering out near Glenstriven. The loch occasionally features in the news when it is used as a sheltered anchorage for mothballed tankers or other large ships that are surplus to requirements.
At the mouth of the loch, on the south western tip of this part of Cowal and inaccessible by public road, is Ardyne Point. In the early 1970s a huge oil platform construction yard was built here. This built three platforms before changes in the wider economic circumstances forced it to close. Today there are plans for a marina, shops and houses on the site. Meanwhile, an area just to the north of the old construction yard is now used as a refuelling depot for NATO warships.
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