Faith in Cowal | Pilgrim Trails

Explore Scotland's Early Christian Landscape

Ardnadam to Ardtaraig

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The route from Ardnadam Chapel to Ardtaraig Chapel takes in two of our sites and much of the countryside of south east Cowal. It’s not an official part of the South East Loop, however. Much of this route is spent away from any sort of track, so this one is reserved for the particularly adventurous pilgrim. Although, once the main ascent and descent is complete the remainder of the route runs close alongside the B836, so it’s possible to follow a less arduous version of this pilgrim trail by making use of the road.

There is no way to cycle or mountain bike along this route. Cyclists must be content with following the A815 and B836 in both directions. Once arrived at Ardtaraig, those on foot could return via Inverchaolain, walking the 3rd and 2nd legs of the St Brigit’s Trail in reverse. This forms a smaller loop, one that will put your hiking poles to good use, which could be hiked over two days (or perhaps one long summer’s day).

This trail actually starts at Adam’s Grave, the neolithic chambered cairn situated just near Ardnadam Chapel, at ///ledge.strikers.dealings. It then follows Ardnadam Heritage Trail past the chapel and to its intended conclusion; the viewpoint at ///soggy.lined.relief. There’s a track leading down from the western flank of the viewpoint, leading you through the trees toward a radio tower at ///golf.cork.darkens whereupon you can pick up the forestry tracks leading you to the Glenkin junction.

The route then follows forestry roads as far as the old Abernethy Bunkhouse, then strikes off following power lines and fence lines over the hill into Clachaig. A brief stint on forestry roads guides you round the back of Garrachoran Farm and into Corrachaive Glen, whereupon you follow the aqueduct for Tarsan Reservoir, and a clearway for pylons down into Glentarsan Burn. Here the route picks up an old ATV track running into Ardtaraig Estate, where the chapel can be found.

13.39 miles | 21.54 kilometers | Mixed Surface | Steep Hills
Suitable for:
Hiking - rough/steep ground, hiking poles recommended
Stage 1: Ardnadam to Glenkin

If you’ve visited the page dedicated to Ardnadam Chapel, then you’ll have been made aware of two places to park. The beginning of this pilgrimage is a short backtrack from the parking area to a neolithic chambered cairn nicknamed Adam’s Grave. It can be found in the middle of a field at ///ledge.strikers.dealings. There’s no path to get there, so it’s a fitting start point for this route. Head out of the field and back toward the parking areas, meeting up with the start of Ardnadam Heritage Trail near ///future.yesterday.slightly. Follow the trail through the woodland, and over some wooden footbridges, for approximately 20 minutes. The first sign of reaching the chapel is the presence of interpretation plaques at ///magical.marriage.crafts and ///

After enjoying the sights and sounds of Ardnadam Chapel, continue south along the trail, crossing the burn at ///given.handrail.responds and taking a flight of steps through a break in the dyke there. The trail continues through the woodlands, crossing more bridges in various states of repair. The bridge at ///enjoyable.scrambles.spicy is a particularly interesting one to traverse. Eventually, you come in sight of a wide, hardcore Forestry road. The trail appears to continue alongside this road, but actually it peters out into nothingness shortly after. So aim to join the road as soon as you see it; there’s a desire path leading by ///happily.geologist.conspired, where you will join the road just as it performs a bend. A sign on that bend, at ///signs.swept.roaming, directs you uphill towards the Camel’s Hump viewpoint.

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Dunoon to Ardnadam_1585834515804 - Faith-in-Cowal ©subtlesensor2020

The path guides you uphill with Loch Loskin on your left. It snakes right and then left again until, just before the incline starts to level, there’s a track leading off to the right (west). The signpost at ///overtones.outfit.florists directs you, once again, toward the viewpoint. It’s a 5 minute climb up a steep and often muddy hill to reach the top. The view looking east from ///soggy.lined.relief is spectacular. On a clear day one can see across the top of Dunoon and away down the Clyde as far as Erskine Bridge. Turn to face west, and and there’s a faint track leading down off the hill and into a clearway through commercial Forestry land.

This clearway bears roughly west from ///seagulls.tent.pebble, and leads you to a radio tower near ///seriously.coast.curbed (photograph looks back down the track from the tower). Turn left here to reach a junction at ///chain.skims.costumed (photograph looks back down toward the tower), where you’ll turn right. Follow this road up through ///baker.conqueror.before and on toward ///firming.wagers.nicely (this section does not currently appear on any maps or satellite imagery). There’s a junction here, signposted for Sandbank or Dunloskin (the signpost is slightly hidden near ///bolts.objective.strays) and you want to follow the fork right (north) toward Sandbank. This path leads down through ///human.parkway.informer to a junction at ///unframed.stand.snowstorm

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If you were to continue on your bearing (due east) at this junction, then you’d be taken back to the start of the Heritage Trail and the car park. Instead, take the left fork, heading northwest via ///strike.discloses.redeeming. Follow this track northwest for about 2 miles. You’ll pass a junction with an elevated hunting hide near ///possibly.splinters.opposites. Keep to the left, maintaining your northwesterly bearing. As the path begins to bear west, there’s another junction, near ///hairpin.promotion.storeroom, with another signpost.

The sign is unhelpfully hidden by a bush, so it might be easier to keep an eye out for a wooden structure, which looks like a wee bus shelter, in the middle of the junction. If you find the signpost, you’ll see that it offers directions to Sandbank (back the way you came), Glenkin (uphill to the left) or B836. It’s this last option we want to take, keeping the wooden ‘bus shelter’ on your left as you continue in a northwesterly direction.

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The path continues northwest for some time and then begins to bear south. As it does so, there’s a gate to cross at ///painting.followers.diver, followed immediately by a junction at ///settle.beanbag.perkily. If you were to switch back here, you’d reach the B836, but we’re going to bear left and continue southwards.

This routes you past some residential properties, bearing right (west) across a bridge behind those, at ///fluffed.deduced.teaspoons. The road then winds westwards for a brief spell and you reach a fork near ///tiling.dorms.less. Take the right fork, signposted Abernethy Bunkhouse and heading northwest, and you’ll shortly arrive at ///riots.gangs.recapture with the bunkhouse ahead of you.

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Stage 2: Glenkin to Clachaig

Skirt the buildings via the left hand side. The building to your left faces east, and there’s a gangway entry jutting out from its rear (facing west).  Head towards that but keep to the left of the fence at ///downs.button.himself. There’s a track between the fence and the stone wall. This only goes a short way, to the northwest corner of the property at ///dart.downsize.attends, where there’s a faint track leading off to your left (west).

Follow this track uphill. It passes between a stone wall and a telephone pole (number 39) near ///posts.woke.conspire, then bends right following the power-lines uphill. The track (and the power-lines) intersect with a Forestry path at ///brief.proposals.shed and continue on uphill. Should you wish to take a break, there’s a picnic table just a short way down the path to your left at this point, near ///prevented.essays.complies. Otherwise, continue on uphill past pole number 35, following the trail northwest.

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Eventually, the power lines diverge away from the trail, which now follows the edge of a fir plantation up a muddy path from ///eclipses.insect.form, through a field at ///wallet.annotated.mainly, to a gate near an old, isolated tree at ///slicing.believer.denim. This section follows a quad track but can be incredibly muddy.

Cross the gate and make your way northwest, still climbing, through the field. There’s no real path at this point but there may be some sheep trails you can follow. You’re aiming for ///expecting.breathy.hospitals, where a low fence at the apex of this climb, can be easily surmounted. Don’t forget to stop and look back though; the views into Glenkin are stunning in the right light.

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After crossing the low section of fence you should see a line of old fence posts continuing on over the hill ahead of you, in a northwesterly direction from ///walked.simmer.subtitle. Keep to the right of this fence line and follow it via ///materials.tidying.overgrown, over uneven, tussocky and marshy terrain, to ///deodorant.grudge.craft. From here, looking downhill into the the Clachaig valley, there should be a Forestry track snaking down the hill on a more northerly bearing, starting near ///goodness.roaming.recliner and eventually reaching a junction near ///folders.coolest.musically.

This section doesn’t appear on any maps or satellite imagery and, at present (April 2020) it’s just a dirt road. It may or may not be properly surfaced at a later date. It may also be over planted and non-existent! Unfortunately this is a real ‘feature’ of Forestry roads. There will likely always be some route off the hill; it’s just that finding it can be challenging. If the hillside has been planted, it’s usually not to difficult to make progress through the orderly rows of trees.

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The bottom of this steeply descending, twisting dirt path connects with a gravel road running left to right (SW-NE). Turn left toward ///rebounds.toads.alienated, heading southwest, and this road circumnavigates the valley below you and the farm estate of Garrachoran. Currently none of these Forestry roads appear on a map, but you can see where the track joins the road in the distance, and this is where we are aiming for.

There’s a junction at ///unlisted.mindset.flown; take the right fork, heading downhill. This quickly bends to the right through 180 degrees so that it faces northwest. Ignore any paths branching off to your left and follow the main track. It circles around the back of the farmhouse, then heads north toward the road, with the house on your right. By the time you reach ///join.engages.gladiator, you have a clear view of the B836 ahead of you. The track finally starts to correspond with maps again near ///broccoli.pixel.braked as it approaches the road.

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Stage 3: Corrachaive Glen to Glen Lean

You have a choice now; if you’d like to make things easy for yourself, then follow the track until it joins the road by ///horn.event.currently, and turn left, following the road west. You’ll shortly reach a lay-by on your left near ///skin.faced.punters, peel off over the scrub toward Little Eachaig River. Alternatively, you could head down to the river before ever reaching the road and follow it as it meanders west.

This latter option is slower but more interesting than taking the road. In either case, you’re aiming to have crossed the the south bank of the river as you approach its head. If you took the road, then expect to cross at ///makeovers.waking.pounce. If you followed the river, you’ll have had to criss-cross at various points anyway. In both scenarios, the rusted gate by ///grape.corals.overpower is your intended destination.

Pass through this gate and follow the fence line to your right (heading west). Stay close to the fence (on your right) and in short time there’s another gate to cross, at ///emporium.prepares.extremely. Ahead of you, the river appears to curve in to the left, cross your path, and begin to head south. In actual fact, you’re looking at where Corrachaive Burn merges with the start of Little Eachaig River.

On the other side of the burn, near a section which is easy to ford, there’s a padlocked gate. However, we’re not going that way. Just before you have to cross the burn, an old Forestry road peels off uphill to your left (south) and runs parallel with the Corrachaive (///storage.clings.baseless). Take this turning and follow it for some time as it bears southwest, climbs gently to an elevation of 180m, levels out, then bends right (northwest) near ///revival.height.stripped.

As the track bends right you’ll see the burn crossing underneath you. We want to leave the track here, keeping the water to the left, and follow the bank of the burn in a northeasterly direction. It’s not easy to see where to depart from the Forestry road (especially in summer when the greenery grows thick and lush), but there’s a desire path that leaves the main route between two trees to your right near ///multiples.wager.rail.

Push through the fern and trees and you should be presented with a verdant clearing and the faint hint of a track. Follow this in the same direction as the water is flowing; the track is sometimes just a narrow muddy channel between the bank and the burn. It should lead you in short time to another lush green clearing, at ///guesswork.reboot.somewhere, from whence you can see a concrete bridge with metal railings. The trail leads to raised, stony ground which curves from ///perused.weekday.jubilant to the right hand edge of the bridge near ///manifests.delivers.limelight. Cross the bridge and the faint track continues north easterly toward the start of an aqueduct at ///hairspray.shorten.knee.

This is an easily identifiable concrete channel set into the hillside on the west bank of Corrachaive Burn, the start of which is marked by a sluice gate with a control wheel. There’s a service track running alongside this channel, which can be followed for almost 4 miles (6.5 km). It is fairly easy going, maintaining a steady elevation of 150m, occasionally switching sides (by way of handrail bridges), and fording burns beneath the channel by way of steep steps cut into the sides of the crevasse (examples depicted below).

The water conduit ends and a gravel path follows on seamlessly from ///loved.winks.expressed. This track will take you all the way to the B836, which you can follow round to Tarsan Dam, then pick up our route again should you wish. If you’re willing to take a more difficult, off road route, then follow the gravel track until it crosses a bridge over Allt Ruadh, and keep an eye out for the next wee stream coming down the hill on your right.

You’ll know it because there’s a metal grate on the path beneath your feet, marked as number A8(10) near ///economies.pave.validated. The route we’re taking from here is largely off-road, with few paths, trails or tracks to follow per sé, but it kisses the road at least three times, so there’s always the option to take it easy on the tarmac should you wish to.

Stage 4: Glen Lean to Ardtaraig

Looking uphill to your left (due west) from the grate  – A8(10) – at ///economies.pave.validated, you can see the stream coursing between the trees. Follow the right-hand (north) bank of the stream uphill. There is a faint track if you look carefully. We’re only going a short way upstream of this point, climbing maybe 20m. There’s a steep section near ///weary.goats.physical and then we bend right (northwest) toward ///fortnight.amount.climate. It’s hard to see in the photo (and indeed in real life) but there’s a trail, running northwest of this point, which picks up an old, overgrown Forestry track at ///curly.savings.lung.

This track runs for around half a mile, maintaining an elevation of approximately 170m, and then it begins to drop towards the road. Before that happens, it intersects with the power lines at ///townhouse.monopoly.barmaid. To the right of the track is telephone pole number 99, and there’s a wide clearway cut through the trees to your left as the cables run parallel with the road in line with the south shore of Loch Tarsan (albeit not visible from here).

Again, you could follow the track onward down to the road and then turn left on the road. To keep things off-road, however, we’re going to follow the treeline left (southwest) toward telephone pole number 100 at ///detection.fades.derailed. Just after this point there’s a mound of earth to circumscribe, then a boundary fence blocking the way. If you follow the fence line back up to the trees, you can cross it under the tree canopy near ///cheat.securing.pelt. In general it’s best to stay near the edge of the forest so as to keep out of the weather.

The ground ahead is uneven and difficult, but it’s usually more manageable near the trees. After a short stretch of this there’s another option to join the road. Cut right toward the lower tree line and down a hill towards /// Here there’s a dirt track leading either to the road, or uphill toward the telephone poles. At time of writing, this is an unfinished, dirt road and is very muddy. You may find it in better condition.

Assuming you choose to take the dirt road rather than the tarmac, then it rises to meet the pylon lines near ///revamping.merchant.shaver, where it currently ends in a bog. Pick your way around the bog and back up to the trees on your right, then continue to follow the clearway southwest for a short while. By the time you reach telephone pole 109, at ///multiple.prowl.crackling, you should be able to see the B836 again, as well as a service track running into Tarsan Dam in the valley beyond the road.

You should also see two separate U-shaped sections of fencing protecting familiar looking concrete water channels. Pass between these, then turn left, keeping this new section of aqueduct on your left as you follow it in a south-southwest direction. Shortly you’ll arrive at ///enjoys.rucksack.embedded, where a quad path dips to a point at which to ford a burn, then lifts back up depositing you on a gravel path. This path then bends right and leads to the road at ///begins.keen.clarifies, giving you a nice view of Tarsan Dam.

From here, we have no choice to but to take the road. You do, however, have a choice as to how long to follow the road. For instance, you could follow it to the start of the Glenstriven Heritage path (///fled.musician.bandaged), which drops you into the top of Ardtaraig Estate, or you could follow it all the way to the driveway into the bottom of Ardtaraig Estate (/// Our pilgrim route, however, follows it only a short distance, to ///smiling.recliner.wasp, where it picks up a quad path off to the left of the road leading southwest once more.

Although slightly overgrown, the path is easy to discern as it passes through an open field. Turning to look behind you near ///cubed.widgets.engulfing affords pleasant views over Tarsan Dam and into Glen Lean. The track brings you in good time to a metal gate in a stone wall, near ///crumb.saints.roses, followed immediately by a three-way junction. The quad-path leads off to your left, heading south and uphill; there’s a single track leading off to the right (west); or there’s a big wood & wire gate directly in front of you. Pass through the gate, heading southwest and making sure to secure it behind you. You are now entering controlled farmland around Ardtaraig Estate.

You’re lead downhill promptly to another gate of similar construction near ///idea.roadshow.magazines. Passing through that gate, the path becomes less distinctive, but if you follow on the same bearing (roughly west) with Loch Striven ahead of you – through ///dislodge.defeat.finishes – then you’ll pick up another well-used quad path winding through the gorse bush. It bends around to face north, near ///waltzed.towel.sober and you can see a cottage below you. Further round the corner, Ardtaraig House looms as you pass through a metal gate and head downhill toward the junction at ///nuzzled.chap.gurgling (our photograph looks up towards the gate from this point).

At this junction, continue straight ahead (north) and thread yourself between the barn with big green doors (on your right) and the other outbuildings (on your left). Once you’ve passed the buildings, turn left, following the driveway through ///pile.fewer.spill to a metal stile near ///energy.evolution.brush. Cross the stile and Ardtaraig Chapel is found in the copse of trees immediately to your left. There’s a carved stone under the bough of an oak tree, which is the perfect place to give thanks for a safe arrival.

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