The Faith in Cowal Walking Trails
An extensive network of pilgrim routes across Cowal
Cowal offers a fantastic environment for those who enjoy walking in nature. The extensive network of Forestry roads, community woodlands, nature trails and core paths mean that getting around on foot is perfectly achievable with a little planning.
And Argyll’s signature mix of rugged shorelines, dramatic sea lochs, sublime inland lochains, imposing Corbetts, cascading falls, fertile glens and verdant hillsides mean that there’s always something to hold your attention. Our unspoiled Scottish landscape, abundant with God’s creatures, offers an immediate experience of the sacred and divine to even the most beleaguered pilgrim.
The walking routes below link up all fifteen pilgrim sites in Cowal. We have divided them into geographic circuits. They come in varying levels of difficulty; some are short loops on good surface, which can be enjoyed in an afternoon, others are long distance routes with a good deal of hill climbing and improvisation. Although we are members of the Scottish Pilgrim Routes Forum, these pilgrim walks must be considered “unofficial” as they’re still in development and don’t currently have any Faith in Cowal signposts or waymarkers. We’ve compensated for this by making the guides as comprehensive as possible, using what3words to give granular directions regardless of the terrain. We’ll be adding more route guides throughout 2020.
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Keep scrolling for maps and guides of each pilgrim route in Cowal, Argyll, Scotland
The Cowal Pilgrimage
The guides further down the page have been designed to create loops constrained to smaller geographical areas of Cowal. This is to cater to visitors who don’t have enough time for a complete tour of Cowal. You can combine the loops and trails in any way you desire in order to create your own Cowal Pilgrimage. For your convenience, however, we’ve collated three different itineraries that daisy chain some of the routes below into a pilgrimage that encompasses most of the sacred sites in Cowal. Each long-distance pilgrim route is based on a different entry point into Cowal. Click through to choose your Cowal Pilgrimage, or keep scrolling to view the shorter, geographically bound routes. These shorter circuits have been named after locally celebrated saints.
St Munn's Pilgrim Trails
This is a 50 mile ‘triangle’ between Kilmun and Strachur, by way of Lochgoilhead. The route is intended to start at Kilmun Church, and follows Forestry roads and core paths along the west shore of Holy Loch, Loch Long and Loch Goil. It meets the road near Carrick Castle and then follows these to The Church of the Three Brethren. From here you walk a section of The Loch Lomond Cowal Way, heading west through the glens towards Kilmaglash Church in Strachur. The return journey tracks the hillside Forestry routes along the east flank of Loch Eck, then takes in Puck’s Glen and Kilmun Arboretum before finishing on the banks of Holy Loch at Kilmun. Optionally, one could start at Kilmorich Churchyard in the north of Cowal and walk to Strachur, then down to Kilmun and back to Strachur via Lochgoilhead. This makes the route a 70 mile pilgrimage. We recommend enjoying this over 4 or 5 days.
34km / 21 miles. A truly stunning walk skirting three lochs. Fantastic views to be had despite not involving much hill climbing. Suitable for walking & cycling.
30km / 19 miles. The more strenuous of the three legs, but you’re rewarded with unparalleled views over Loch Eck, a real gem in Cowal. Walk or cycle.
St Brigit's Pilgrim Trails
Based out of Dunoon, the S.E. Loop is a 36 mile pilgrimage involving a mixture of Forestry roads, Heritage Trails and hiking. It starts from Kilmun, passes down though Puck’s Glen and then finds the hill path network behind Ardnadam Chapel. Leaving the Ardnadam Heritage Trail, you’ll walk on Forestry roads into Glen Kin, then follow a faded Coffin Trail over the hills and into Inverchaolain glen. From Inverchaolain Church you follow the east shore of Loch Striven along a spotty core path through two large estates to reach Ardtaraig Chapel. The final leg runs north alongside Tarsan Loch and loops down through Glen Massan, then retraces your steps through Kilmun Arboretum to reach the church. This can be done over 3 or 4 days in Cowal.
15.5km / 10 miles. A pleasant walk taking in Kilmun Arboretum, Puck’s Glen & Ardnadam Heritage Trail. Perfect if you’re based in Dunoon. Walking or cycling.
10km / 6 miles. A relatively straightforward walk at low level, following the shore of Loch Striven. A short section has become overgrown and difficult.
The Three Brethren Pilgrim Trails
Starting from Kilmorich Churchyard near Loch Fyne Oysters, this 35 mile route makes use of the new Clachan to Cairndow path, then follows the old road along the shoreline towards Strachur. There’s a short stint spent on the hills behind St Catherine’s, with a tricky burn crossing, but most of this is easy going on Forestry roads. The elevation over Loch Fyne provides panoramic views over toward Inveraray Castle before the path deposits you at the roadside 1 mile north of Strachur. From Kilmaglash Church, the route follows the 3rd leg of St Munn’s pilgrim trail part way, then strikes off over the hills following waymarkers (but no path) towards Lettermay and Lochgoilhead. The final leg of this pilgrimage follows The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way back into Strachur. If you wish to return to Kilmorich, then it must be done by following the 1st leg of this pilgrimage in reverse.
3.2km / 2.5 miles each way. A simple route, following the new Clachan to Cairndow path. Walk or cycle. Merged guide, read Stage 1 only.
20.5km / 13 miles. A strenuous, off-the-beaten-track hike, which rewards you with incredible views. Not suitable for cycles – or the faint hearted.
St Finan's Pilgrim Trails
Starting from Kilmodan in the clachan of Glendaruel, this pilgrim journey follows a well waymarked trail up to St Modan’s Well, and then strikes out into Stronafian Community Forest behind. It then makes use of old roads, Forestry routes and a rough hike along a waterway to reach Fearnoch Chapel & Well. When complete, we hope this route will call in at Kilfinan, then Auchnaha Cairn, before using The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way to come back in to Kilmodan.
16.6km / 10.3 miles. A relatively simple route, with some tricky off-road hiking sections. Suitable for confident walkers. No good for cycles.
3.5km / 2.2 miles. A short and simple route, following a quiet road for two miles, then striking out into the trees for a short distance.
St Modan's Pilgrim Trails
Starting from Kilmodan in the Clachan of Glendaruel, this pilgrimage begins with a steep hike over the hills, heading west towards Kilmorie in Strathlachlan. From here there’s a short but challenging loop passing Old Castle Lachlan and climbing up to Kilbride Chapel and Well. Next, follow the B8000 road north into Strachur to visit Kilmaglash Church. To close this “loop” the route follows The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way back towards Glendaruel, then hike back up into the hills once more, finding a Forestry road that leads back to Strathlachlan.
18.9km / 11.8 miles. An enjoyable, challenging hike making use of a woodland trail and forestry roads. Starts with a steep climb, so not suitable for bikes.
12.5km / 7.7 miles. An easy journey following quiet, lochside roads. With wonderful views over Loch Fyne. Suitable for walking, cycling or driving.