(scroll to the bottom of the page for map links to Ardtaraig Chapel)
6.19 miles | 9.96 kilometers | Mixed Surface | No Hills
This route follows a designated Argyll & Bute Council core-path all the way from Inverchaolain Church to Ardtaraig Chapel. Theoretically, this should mean it’s an easy path to follow. The largest part of the core-path is actually just the Glenstriven Road: a single track road, which sees little traffic and is poorly surfaced in places. However, once you’re through Glenstriven Estate, the footpath quickly disappears and has been thoroughly reclaimed by nature. There’s a dotted line representing the path on OS maps, and if you doggedly follow this line you will see occasional glimpses of the original track, several streams have to be forded however, so pick a safe route through this section.
It may be better to follow the actual shoreline as far as possible, for example, thereby avoiding the streams. Either way, this is slow going and you’ll need to wear sensible shoes. Take your time and consider taking hiking poles with you. The tricky midsection means that it can take longer than the recommended 3 hours to complete this route. Once you reach the back of Ardtaraig Estate, the path becomes an old quad track, then quickly turns to rough surfaced road, gradually transitioning into tarmac surfaces as you get near the main house. Ardnadam Chapel is a short walk down the drive from the main house and is accessed via a metal stile. This forms the 3rd leg of the South East Cowal pilgrim Loop.
Note: Both Glenstriven and Ardtaraig are shooting estates. Shooting season is usually between the beginning of October and the end of February. It’s best to double check dates with the estates before waking on their grounds.
Stage 1: Inverchaolain to Glenstriven
Leave Inverchaolain Church via the gate at the back (///tangling.simmer.flick) and turn left to follow the Glenstriven road. This is an unremarkable journey along the road, which undulates gently, but mostly remains at the same, low level. This is the official core-path and the recommended route for this section. However, should you wish to take advantage of your right to roam and make this section more interesting, then below is an alternative route suggestion, which enjoys spectacular views over Loch Striven (where the famous WWII ‘dam buster’ bouncing bombs were tested).
Almost as soon as you leave Inverchaolain, there’s a junction on your right leading up to Stronyaraig farmhouse. As you get closer to the house you’ll see there’s a junction; left to the house or right to Inverchaolain Burn. However, there’s also an old quad path leading off behind the barn toward Sron Dearg, at ///emblem.alarming.variously. Take this option and the track bends left behind the house, then heads north and begins to peter out. As it does so, begin to climb up toward the pylon line and you’ll see a tall fence with a wooden gate at ///commended.surprised.advantage. It’s worth turning around here to enjoy the view back toward Inverchaolain.
Pass through the gate (make sure to secure it behind you) and continue to follow either the faint desire paths or the utility poles in a northerly direction. The overhead cables are going to the same place we are, the Glenstriven Estate, so it would be ideal to follow these all the way. However, the terrain doesn’t always allow that, and the faint tracks leading over the hillside are a better guide for where to cross any fences that appear. There’s a gap in a fence at ///hurry.fruit.carpentry, for example, which is more easily reached by following the tracks. These tracks are sometimes nothing more than sheep trails, however, and they have a tendency to climb off into the hills. We don’t really need to go any higher than 100 meters, so try to strike a balance between making progress over the steeply sloping, uneven ground, and staying close to the telegraph poles.
When you reach ///rely.dispenser.regal, you should be able to see a small, triangular promontory with a concrete jetty, on the shore ahead of you. There’s a gate in the fenceline hear the northern corner of that triangle, so prepare to start descending soon. It can be quite difficult to find a way down (and planned fence work may make that more so) but it is possible. Aim to be level with the power lines by ///sensual.craftsmen.swaps. You’ll have over-shot the exit a little but this affords the opportunity to zig-zag down the steep slope toward ///lads.obstruction.tribal, where you can drop to the fenceline and backtrack toward the gate at ///expensive.hoaxes.shunts. When you hit the road turn right (north) and it’s a short distance to the entrance for Glenstriven Estate (at ///friction.ignites.squashes).
Incidentally, there are two access routes into the estate, marked on 2019 OS maps and visible in satellite imagery, which enter at 60m and 110m on the hillside, so you may be tempted to press on at a height and find one of these. Don’t give in to the temptation. Aside from the fact that this is a shooting estate; so it’s dangerous to enter anywhere other than the main gate, these old quad paths are now completely overrun with rhododendron, and it’s not possible to get back to the road after this point, so you’ll only have to backtrack.
Stage 2: Glenstriven Estate
There are two options here, you can take the cobbled road past the lodge house into the estate, or you can pass through the gate to the left of the red telephone box. If you choose the latter, you’ll be following a muddy, overgrown and neglected path, which follows a dyke. This has the benefit of being the traditional route, and it runs directly to ///unhappily.speaking.stint with no junctions to worry about. It’s muddy in places but relatively easy to follow. Otherwise, follow the cobbled path into the estate. It leads gently up toward a junction at ///talkers.name.skid, whereupon you take the left fork, which leads downhill and then bends right at ///unhappily.speaking.stint. Here the cobbles end, and you’re following a rough dirt track northward.
Follow this path until you reach a junction at ///tingled.disprove.sounding. Take the low road here, passing Pier House holiday cottage (on your left) and continuing on past a more modern cottage near ///slopes.ripen.trailers, where the road is tarmaced for a brief stretch. At this point the path bends right, crosses a bridge, then bends left and climbs toward a junction at ///until.geese.unfair. Take the left fork, heading downhill once more, and the path bends to face northwest as it follows the shore for a stretch.
Eventually you come to another junction, at ///found.sleeps.tastes, where you’ll take the right fork (the left fork dead-ends at a nearby cottage). This track climbs steadily but not too steeply, then eventually starts to double back on itself. At ///hopes.maybe.supposes there’s an old, stony quad path on your left, which continues to climb and push northwest. Ignore the overgrown track heading off to your right at ///duet.smarter.singers and push on toward ///coconuts.sizing.staging. Here take the left fork, which heads downhill on loose, stony tracks to another junction near ///pronouns.mute.sailed. Branch right, maintaining your northwesterly bearing, and the path descends at an even steeper angle toward ///ogre.dancer.escalated.
Here you have a kind of choice. The path switches back southward and downhill toward the shore, but a close look at the OS map shows that the old bridle path continues north. If you navigate to the apex of the turn here, you’ll see from ///closes.likening.lollipop that there’s a track through the woodland. It even has a marker of some kind but it’s actually quite a way down, at a steep angle over loose ground, from the path. It’s likely that these tracks in the hinterland of Glenstriven Estate are still under development (at the time of writing: 2020), and perhaps a set of steps will be added here at some point.
So, the choice is to leap from the track down to the woodland footpath, or to follow the track to the shore and double back once more in order to pick up the trail. It depends how much of a purist you are. The woodland path starts off reasonably well defined. It follows a dyke near ///denim.fizzle.difficult down toward the shore, where another marker post can be found near ///canal.passwords.schools. Following the track on a northwesterly bearing (albeit difficult to identify in places) will bring you past an abandoned farmstead at Bot nan Creagan; a reminder of why this path exists – there used to be settlements here. The track is still visible here as it wends past ///clinic.goal.vibes and heads once more into natural woodland.
It enters the woodland at ///cornering.scale.hint and is discernibly following an ancient terrace as it passes ///keen.zooms.stability and ///jumbled.gazes.forest. In places the path fades away, or a deer trail feels more inviting, making it difficult to stick to the official route. Usually both options will guide you to safe places to ford the many streams that intersect your route. The first can be crossed near ///juggles.thinker.juggled, the next at ///duos.shopping.stressed.
How ever you pick your way through the woods and navigate the stream crossings, the track becomes much more recognizable again at ///tables.trickled.heartened. It crosses another burn at ///rots.crank.lunching, then picks up the ancient terrace again near ///dazzling.unfocused.grower. Here the path is obstructed by fallen trees, and this becomes somewhat of a motif for the next section, but it’s easy enough to step over or around them. This whole stretch can get very muddy in wet weather, particularly around these fallen trees.
This culminates in a situation at ///tribune.spun.commuted where you have to ford a final burn; but a fallen tree is almost completely blocking the track on the other side. In fact, it may make more sense to walk down the channel created by the small stream rather than attempt to stick to the route. Once you’ve successfully surmounted this obstacle, you should see a gate in a dyke just through the trees up ahead near ///seashell.cutback.glee.
Stage 3: Ardtaraig Estate
Pass through the gate and press on, a cursory glance over your shoulder at ///tradition.underline.sings identifies a sign just ahead of the gate, which mocks your recent adventure by claiming it was a footpath you followed. Shortly after, at ///inventors.leader.dose an overgrown quad path appears. Follow this as it leads towards the shore, and you’ll see a chalet emerge ahead of you. Pass behind this (keeping it on your left, between you and the shore) and the track becomes much more defined at ///path.imprinted.commander.
It leads past some partridge release pens toward a gate and stile at ///helper.translate.excellent. The stile is weather beaten and overgrown, so use the gate responsibly (which is to say, if you open it, then secure it properly behind you. And if you climb it, do so near the hinges so as to put as little stress on them as possible). You can see the dirt road winding over the hills ahead of you. As it crests the hill it becomes more of a well kept gravel track, passing through a gate with a cattle grid at ///sorters.moment.headboard.
From here you can see Ardtaraig house and, in fact, if you look to your left (in a northwesterly direction) you’ll see the copse of trees surrounding the chapel ruins in a nearby sheep field. Follow the gravel track toward the house and there’s another junction, at ///nuzzled.chap.gurgling: a quad path leads away uphill to your right, and the gravel track continues through the back of the manor house grounds, threading between a barn with big green doors, on the right, and some outbuildings to the left..
Take this latter option and you’ll find yourself on the drive leading out of Ardtaraig Estate. It’s lined with big white stones. Follow this drive west toward Loch Striven. There’s a copse of trees part-way down this drive, to your left, with the remains of Ardtaraig Chapel enclosed therein. Just further down, at ///energy.evolution.brush there’s a metal stile with a curved handrail. Use this to cross into the sheep field and head toward the ruins. A standing stone with a cross carved into it sits at ///like.fame.uplifting: a perfect place to say a prayer or leave an offering (perhaps a white quartz stone picked up en route).