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NN 198094 – Lochgoilhead Church is the perfect choice for those who prefer to travel off the beaten track; it’s in a beautiful village, which is hidden from the rest of the Highlands because there’s no commercial reason to go there, and the roads into Lochgoilhead are steep and twisty; one of them is unpleasant enough to be called Hell’s Glen! Despite this, it’s a stunning place to visit, with mountains cradling you on three sides, and Loch Goil stretching away to the south, where it joins Loch Long. Aside from the church, there’s also a decent public house at the head of the loch, and Carrick Castle is only a short distance away.
So; this is an isolated little village, with superb scenery, tucked away on a little visited peninsula. Hundreds of people drive over the Rest and be Thankful every month, yet never know what peace and tranquility they’re missing out on just down the (treacherously twisty) road. And, of course, that’s why it’s so tranquil and peaceful. This is the very definition of a hidden Scottish gem- and we haven’t even started on the church yet!
There are two roads leading into Lochgoilhead; the B828 peels off from the peak of the Rest and be Thankful as you approach Cowal from Arrochar and, if you’re coming from Cairndow, Strachur, or elsewhere in Cowal, you’ll want to turn off the A815 at ///nerd.advances.improves, then slalom down Hell’s Glen, eventually to be deposited at the head of Loch Goil.
The Church of the Three Brethren is on your right just before you reach the loch (at ///headstone.tradition.petty, but the car park is by the lochside, so proceed to ///grants.jammy.mount. Park up, and saunter back toward the church, taking in the views as you do so. The gates are found at ///suitable.noodle.succumbs. They appear locked at first glance, but this is not the case; this Church of Scotland place of worship is open during daylight hours, and welcomes pilgrims of all ilks – do sign the visitor book, and mention that our website brought you here.
Inside, Lochgoilhead Church is beautifully appointed. It’s a light, open space with a deeply spiritual atmosphere. The wings incorporate parts of the original thirteenth century church. The west wing houses a mezzanine gallery, and the east wing displays an attractive Latin cross formed of slate and stone. To the left of this, tucked away in the corner, are the medieval carved stones that qualify this site as a ‘tempting tangent’ for the Cowal Pilgrimage.
Outside, the graveyard surrounds the church, with ancient plots being closer to the building, and modern plots set a way back under the watchful eye of Ben Donich. It’s difficult to get a flattering photograph of the church from the entry path, so most people come round to the south side of the building to capture it. From here, you can see Cruach nam Miseag rising to the south west.
On the hillside above Lochgoilhead is a huge boulder, quite conspicuous in its exposed position at ///brings.ideals.origins (NN217025). It’s called Clach a’ Bhreatunnaich: ‘the stone of the Briton’. It may have gotten its Gaelic name from the fact that it was seen as a boundary marker between Cowal (part of the Gaelic territory of Dál Riata) and the neighbouring British (or Old Welsh) speaking territory of Strathclyde.
Lochgoilhead also lies in the midst of Argyll Forest Park, and the surrounding countryside is full of attractions for walkers, cyclists, birdwatchers and anyone who enjoys the wilderness. At this point we should point out that there is actually a beaten path that leads to Lochgoilhead; The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way passes through on it’s way to Inveruglas.
And finally, we’ve flagged this as a site the hardy pilgrim can walk to from Dunoon. This is because there’s a route from Ardentinny over to Carrick Castle, which can perhaps be preceded with a walk from Dunoon to Ardnadam, then walk, cycle or catch the 489 bus to Kilmun, following the ECHO trail to Blairmore Farm, and then following the road north, picking up the trail again at Ardentinny.