North of Dunoon, an "A" road follows the north shore of Holy Loch past Kilmun before turning north to follow the shore of Loch Long through Strone and Blairmore. At the north end of Blairmore the road becomes unclassified and single track before continuing a further three miles to the small coastal village of Ardentinny.
North of Ardentinny, the minor road turns inland at Finart Bay and follows the River Finart north-west up Glen Finart where, after a climb and descent, it meets the A815 on the shore of Loch Eck. This means that anyone wanting an interesting alternative to the main road north-west from Dunoon can take a fascinating and beautiful detour along the shore of Loch Long via Ardentinny.
The presence of a route along Glen Finart helps explain the origins of Ardentinny, which became established to service traffic using a ferry which crossed Loch Long to Coulport on the opposite shore. Used in conjunction with ferries across other Argyll sea lochs, this brought parts of the Cowal peninsula and Argyll more widely much closer to lowland Scotland for those who had to travel overland.
It is possible that this led to the name of the village, which translates from the Gaelic for "hill of fire" or "beacon hill". The ferry was apparently based on the Coulport side, and anyone wanting to use it to cross from Cowal would light a signal fire. The presence of a ferry meant that Ardentinny became a focal point for travellers from across Argyll: including the Dukes of Argyll en route from Inveraray Castle to their second home at Rosneath Castle, and Highland drovers taking huge herds of cattle to markets in Crieff or Falkirk. The Dukes and the drovers would have taken the ferry, probably a small rowing or sailing boat, while the cattle would have had to swim across the beautiful mile wide loch.
The ferry has long gone, but indications of it still remain. One is the lochside presence of Ferry Cottages, built in the early 1800s. Another, nearby, is the Ardentinny Hotel. Parts of the building are said to be over 400 years old, but most of what you see today dates back to the 1700s when it served as an inn, with later additions.
At the mouth of Glen Finart stands a stone tower. This is all that remains of Glenfinart House. Built in about 1840 and extended in 1896, the house was destroyed by fire in 1968 and, apart from the tower, subsequently demolished. Today the tower stands in the midst of a caravan park, looking rather forlorn. A little further up the glen is the Glenfinart Hotel, while where the River Finart flows into Finart Bay is one of Cowal's few sandy beaches.
In 1973, Renfrewshire County Council built an Outdoor Education Centre at Ardentinny. This has since provided a welcome boost to the local economy and provides a range of outdoor activities, especially water-based activities on Loch Long, for children aged 8-16. This closed as a local authority run centre in 1996, but has since reopened as a private business venture, run in conjunction with another centre at Castle Toward, near Toward, south of Dunoon.
Today's Ardentinny is home to around 150 people, with many employed by the Forestry Commission in the surrounding Argyll Forest Park, or in the hotels, caravan park or outdoor centre. There is also still one fishing boat based in the village, which trawls for prawns. Loch Long is a truly idyllic place, though the natural beauty is occasionally punctuated by the comings and goings of warships to and from the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport, on the opposite shore of the loch.