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NS 16334 79178 – Arnadam Chapel is a good place to start your pilgrim journey because it’s easily accessible and is part of the Ardnadam Heritage Trail; so the route is clear, with a good deal of interpretation at the site. You can walk, or cycle from Dunoon if you have accommodation there, and there are plenty of parking options too. Expect to enjoy a pleasant half-hour walk from the car park to your destination, which is an old archaeological site (now somewhat overgrown). The walk is an undulating route, climbing gently at times, through woodland and crossing streams. The chapel foundations sit between two rushing burns, and is a treasure trove of mosses and bracken, with pleasant views over toward Beinn Mhòr; the highest mountain on the Cowal Peninsula.
Driving uphill on the A885, you’ll see a brown sign indicating a picnic area to the left (or to the right if you’re driving from Sandbank, or Holy Loch Marina). The turning you seek is a wee lane with poor surfacing, which appears at ///decency.liberated.centuries. Drive slowly to protect your suspension (or alternatively, leave your car in the business park opposite). There’s a bay where the road forks, at ///moment.idea.severe, which will take three cars, and there’s a bigger car park if you carry on ahead at that fork, then take the next right to ///sandals.declares.besotted. This area is out of sight of the main road and has a picnic table, so it may be a better place for bicycles and motorhomes.
If you’re on foot and intending to follow the Heritage Trail all the way back into Dunoon, then you may want to stop first at ///ledge.strikers.dealings, where there’s a neolithic burial cairn named “Adam’s Grave”. This involves backtracking to the first parking area, taking the fork running north, and following it for 10 minutes until you see some houses. At this point you can strike right (north-east) into the field, aiming for the cairn. There’s no path and the ground is rough going so it may be best to follow the fence lines. The stones can be seen from a distance, so should be relatively easy to spot.
Otherwise, the start of the walk is indicated by an information board just up from the turn-off for the main parking area, at ///future.yesterday.slightly. You can actually spend all afternoon exploring the heritage trail, which ascends the ‘camels hump’ to offer wonderful views over Dunoon, and can be followed southward into the town itself. The path is clear and easy to follow, although it can be boggy in places, and the wooden bridges, crossing the various streams you encounter, are in various states of repair. Dress sensibly and tread carefully.
Because it’s not far from the main access road to Dunoon, you will hear traffic noise, but it’s very easy to focus instead upon the birdsong, the breeze and the burbling of the brooks. The site of Ardnadam Chapel opens up to your left after about 20-30 mins walk. The first thing you see is an interpretation board at ///magical.marriage.crafts, and there are more at other corners of the site.
This is a deeply pleasant place to spend time (weather permitting); there are gnarled oak trees round about, stone walls dressed in vibrant coloured mosses, lichen making abstract artwork on the stones of the chapel ruins, and a strong flowing stream drowning out any other noise. So there’s plenty to see and do after reading the interpretation boards – including chatting to locals, as this is a popular dog-walking spot. The chapel foundations are still visible, although overgrown, creating the outline of a surprisingly small cell.