Faith in Cowal | Pilgrim Trails

Explore Scotland's Early Christian Landscape

Kilfinan to Kilmorie

Kilfinan Church:
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OS Map
Kilmorie Ruins:
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OS Map

The way from Kilfinan to Kilmorie is along a narrow quiet country road (B8000) through hills and forests and along the east shore of Loch Fyne. It is about 20 km (12.5 miles). If you have come from Portavadie to Kilfinan in the morning, this would be a good bracing afternoon’s walk. Otherwise you might like to treat it as a single day’s walking in a more leisurely way. This journey connects two important medieval churches, but has some other interesting sites to see on the way.

Kilfinan itself sits in a valley whose northern margin has a dense cluster of cup-marked or cup-and-ring-marked rocks. Have a look at your OS Explorer map (sheet 362) to see where they are. They are evidence of presumed Bronze-Age occupation of the area (c.2300 BC to c.700 BC).

Suitable for:

Leave Kilfinan on the road going north. It’s an attractive road, in spite of the large areas of industrial forestry plantation which takes away some of the delight. If you have time, stop at the roadside and leave your bike at NR931914. You’ll see a wall going up the hill to your right. Follow that wall through the forestry (on the left side of the wall going up) for 190m. When you come to a wide passage cleared between the trees to your right and left, go left and continue another 190m along that passage. Then, hidden among the trees on the right (NR932816), you will Auchnaha Chambered Cairn.

After this little diversion (which is described in more detail as part of the South West Cowal pilgrim route), return to the road (and your bike) and continue north. About 5km on, you’ll come to Otter, where there used to be a ferry across Loch Fyne. Otter is from Gaelic oitir ‘rocky or sandy point jutting into the sea’ – a very obvious feature of the coastline here.

It’s a lovely spot and a good place to stop for lunch. The highly commended Oystercatcher pub may serve your needs. There is also a wee shop where you might find food and drink to eat as a picnic on the beach.

The Oystercatcher - a delightful pub and a welcome break on the road. Photo by Elliott Simpson (Geograph, licensed for re-use under Creative Commons license)

The oystercatcher (the bird rather than the pub) is one of the most attractive species on these shores, with her distinctive carrot-beak and her red legs, and her instantly recognisable cry. In Gaelic her name is gille-Brìghde, ‘servant of [Saint] Brigit‘.

Gille Bride bochd,
Gu dé bhigil a th’ort?

Little servant of Brigit,
what is this cheeping of yours?
(Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica i, 171)

Leaving Otter behind, head north along the coast. After 7.9km, at Lephinchapel there are the remains – pretty minimal – of a chapel (NR966906), but it is thought to be of no great antiquity. Its ruins sit within an enclosure wall on the land beside the shore, on the left side of the road.

From Lephinchapel there remains an easy 7km along the shore to Kilmorie, the medieval church of Strathlachlan parish, now abandoned and turned into a mausoleum for the MacLachlan family.

Nearby attractions include Old Castle Lachlan and Inver Cottage Restaurant (both a ten minute walk away). Various properties may be rented by the week nearby, providing a good base for exploration of the area.

Old Castle Lachlan, abandoned after goverment warships shelled it in 1746, was the medieval seat of Clan Lachlan lords.