It may seem remiss of us to dangle such beautiful places of pilgrimage in front of you at this time, when we’re not to leave the house unless absolutely necessary. We have good intentions, however! Whilst the lock-down is required to prevent us becoming victims of coronavirus, it has the effect of leaving our bank balance and our mental health at risk of becoming victims instead.
However, a 2010 study (published in the journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life) showed that the only part of a day-trip or vacation guaranteed to boost happiness levels is the planning and anticipation!
The study showed that most everyone enjoys planning a trip and anticipating it’s arrival (much like we enjoy the build up to Christmas). It also showed that this mental boost is more stable than that derived from actually taking a trip; because the reality can be stressful or disappointing. Indeed, the data suggests that only a truly relaxing trip delivers the same level of happiness as can be achieved merely from the planning of such a break.
So, we invite you to consider using some of your time at home perusing the Faith in Cowal website, and planning trips to sites you’d like to visit. The best part about this is that all of our Places for Pilgrims are free to visit, so you don’t have to worry about money; all of them are in beautiful rural areas, so you’ll get the added mental health benefits of being outdoors in nature; and all are incredibly peaceful and relaxing places to spend time, so you should also benefit from enjoying the day-trip as well as the planning of it!
Perhaps, when the lock-down eventually passes (as has now started to happen in China), you’ll want to enjoy a long walk: you can do that between Kilmorie and Kilbride (via Castle Lachlan); between Inverchaolin and Ardtaraig (via Glenstriven); or between Kilmodan Church and St Modan’s Well (via Stronafian Community Forest).
Or maybe you’ve missed regular access to your place of worship and would like to visit some beautiful churches? In that case you can plan a drive from Kilmun Church to Kilfinan Church, stopping, perhaps, at Kilmodan on the way out, and Strachur on the way back.
Alternatively, if you’re looking forward to supporting local businesses once they reopen, then you may wish to visit the Church of the Three Bretheren, in Lochgoilhead, and take lunch at The Goil Inn; or enjoy a sunset from Cairndow and Kilmorich, then dine at The Stagecoach Inn, or Loch Fyne Oyster Bar.
If you just want to ease yourself back into the real world, post pandemic, then it might comfort you to visit Auchnaha Cairn, or Fearnoch Chapel. Both sites are not far from the roadside, yet manage to feel completely secluded, and both will remind you that people have lived, worked and weathered the changes in Cowal for hundreds of years.
The good thing about planning local trips like this, is that you don’t have to schedule exactly when you plan to take the trip. However, to get the full mental health benefits of anticipating a pleasant visit to a peaceful location, we recommend that you decide not only which date you intend to visit, but also what time of the day you’d like to arrive – some of our sites are more beautiful at sunrise, some need the sun to be high above the trees, and some are at their most photogenic at sunset.
Remember, this is just a planning exercise to boost your spirits; you don’t have to actually arrange anything! Local residents of Cowal might be able to incorporate some of these sites into their state-sanctioned exercise routine, however. If you’re Dunoon based, then you could walk over the camel’s hump into Ardnadam. If you’re down in Portavadie, you might be able to follow our route to Kilfinan, and there are other options in the Enjoyable Journeys section of our website – just please be safe, cautious and careful at all times.
We’ll be adding more information to the location pages during this down-time, as well as developing more walking routes between the sites. If you think you can help with the latter, please contact Dan Romani on firstname.lastname@example.org.
We urge you through these difficult times to have faith in a positive outcome, have faith in each other, and have faith in Cowal!