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NS056826 – Ardtaraig Chapel is nestled in a clutch of trees on the estate surrounding Ardtaraig House. We know it was a medieval chapel, but that’s all we know! It’s situated inside the Ardtaraig Estate, so you must park on the road outside, and walk down the long drive into the estate. It’s a short walk, with good views over Loch Striven, and a wee bridge over Glentarsan Burn. Only the footings of the chapel and it’s enclosure remain, but there’s also a standing slab carved with a simple Latin cross (found at ///plastic.galloping.shots) – which is what makes these ruins more photogenic than some others in Scotland.
The site is on farm land; there’s a stile at the northeast corner crossing into the field, which will lead you in via the carved stone under the oak tree. There’s also a gate if you carry on up the drive to the northwest corner, so this is still a very accessible pilgrim site. Sandwiched between the manor house and the head of Loch Striven, with mountains rising up on three sides, and the loch stretching away to the south; this is a stunningly beautiful location. Alas, it’s also on a working estate, so you’ll hear the industrial refrigeration units of the nearby salmon farm as well as the bleating of sheep and the sounds of pheasant hunting or deer stalking.
Driving out from Dunoon you’ll pass the entrance to Ardtaraig estate, on your left, at ///medium.insisting.streak. There’s a narrow lay-by just opposite the entrance where you could squeeze a car in next to the industrial sized wheelie bins, but it’s better to follow the road round to ///alerting.creamed.proposals, where you’ll find a much larger parking bay; big enough for a minibus or motorhome. If you have mobility issues, you may be lucky enough to find parking near the grand seventeenth century manor house, but this is private land: they don’t mind pilgrims visiting these sacred remains on foot, but cars might need permission.
After parking, head back up the road, turn right onto the estate and walk for 3 – 5 mins down the drive. It twists and turns, then straightens up as it approaches the house. The remains of the chapel are on the right-hand side at ///increases.posting.trousers. Due to the height of the hills around you, it’s best to view this site in the late morning or early afternoon; while the sun is higher in the sky. The views over the loch are very pleasant, and the house and grounds are very photogenic. The trees surrounding the chapel ruins are beautiful at any time of year; even in the winter you’ll see fronds of lichens and mosses draped from the branches.
We’ve flagged this site as one you can walk to from Dunoon because there’s a trail through Glenstriven Estate, which connects Ardtaraig and Inverchaolain Church. It would still be a long days walk from Dunoon to Inverchaolain, then Ardtaraig and back, even if you took the Coffin Trail across the hills rather than follow the road around the headland. But you can shorten this walk by driving to Glenstriven (you can park at ///crucially.jump.announced), getting the 489 bus from Dunoon to Toward, or getting the 478 bus from Dunoon to Ardtaraig.
Near the head of Loch Striven, at the outflow of the Glentarsan Burn, there once stood a small loch-side chapel. Nothing is known of its history, nor can we find any saint associated with it – so this entry is more brief than most!
The foundations survive, however, and the footings of the surrounding curved enclosure are still visible . The building was oriented nearly East-West, as one would expect of a medieval chapel site., Most interestingly, beside it, under an oak tree, stands an early medieval cross-slab carved of mica-schist. The carving is of a simple Latin cross, apparently open at the bottom.
The slab has been broken, in the past, along a line that had probably been weakened during the carving of the lower edge of the arms of the cross. But it has been repaired reasonably well. It stands in a break in the line of the chapel’s enclosure. Perhaps it marked the point where a path led visitors from the loch to the chapel, and as they entered the sanctuary through a narrow gateway it reminded them that they were entering a holy place.