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.
See below for maps of each walking route for pilgrims in Cowal, Argyll
Explanation of symbols used:
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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.
15.5km / 10 miles. A well waymarked and simple route, winding through the glens between the two churches. Suitable for walking and biking.
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.
22km / 13.5 miles. A very pleasant jaunt along the shore of Loch Fyne, with a diversion through Ardnagowan forest. Optional extra leg; walk or bike it.
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 Glenkin, 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.
13km / 8 miles. An interesting hike over the hills between Holy Loch and Loch Striven, and offering wonderful views of both. Hiking poles required.
10km / 6 miles. A relatively straightforward walk at low level, following the shore of Loch Striven. A short section has become overgrown and difficult.
21km / 12.5 miles. An undemanding walk through two glens. Marred by one small section going blind. Alterations for cyclists (and wary walkers).
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 (or catch a bus).
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.
17.7km / 11 miles. A relatively simple route, with good surface, except for one small section off-road. Walking or biking. Merged guide, read from Stage 2.
20.5km / 13 miles. A strenuous, off-the-beaten-track hike, which rewards you with incredible views. Not suitable for cyclists or the fainthearted.
15.5km / 10 miles. A well waymarked and simple route, winding through the glens between the two churches. Suitable for walking or biking.
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.
From here the route tracks the road around the head of Loch Riddon to Ormidale, then folllows Forestry tracks to Kilfinan and Auchnaha Cairn. The final leg uses an old mountain pass road to return to Kilmodan.
24.8km / 15.4 miles. A straightforward route, mostly on good surfaces. Offering fantastic views. Off-road cycling is also possible.
15.8km / 9.8 miles. A relatively easy route for walking and cycling alike. Following quiet roads with good surfaces and great views.
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 hikes 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.
6.3km / 3.9 miles. A short, off-road hike over challenging surfaces to find a hidden chapel and well. Spectacular views. Not suitable for cycling.
30km / 18.5 miles. A cross country hike with a strenuous final section involving a gorge walk. Suitable for experienced hikers only.