(scroll to the bottom of the page for map links to Kilmaglash Church)
13.46 miles | 21.66 kilometers | Good Surface | Some Hills
The route, from Kilmorich Churchyard to Kilmaglash Church in Strachur, starts near Loch Fyne Oyster Bar and traverses the head of the loch, then follows a newly built path towards Kilmorich Church, in Cairndow. It then cuts through Ardkinglas Estate and follows the old road along the shore toward St Catherine’s before joining a Forestry road up into the hills behind Ardnagowan. The views over toward Inveraray Castle are superb from this path, and the climb is not too difficult. There’s a small section at the height of this hill walk, where the path dead-ends and one must improvise a little; crossing a burn in order to find the Forestry road which leads you down off the hill and back toward the old shore road again. Eventually the old road runs out and you must walk alongside the main road into Strachur (with no pavement); this is only for 1 mile, and a pavement is provided once Strachur is reached. Cyclists must come down from the hill earlier in Stage 2 (unless you wish to carry your bike while fording a burn) and follow the road through St Catherine’s, joining the old shore road at Stage 4 of this pilgrim trail; or they can simply follow the main road all the way to Strachur.
This route covers the first two legs of the North East Cowal Pilgrim Loop and, at just under 13.5 miles it can be done one-way in a day. It’s also suggested that this walk be used as an extension to St Munn’s Pilgrim Trail: either making for an alternative starting point, or completing it in reverse upon arrival at Strachur (instead of closing the loop to Kilmun Church). Aside from a small, off-road section and a 1 mile stretch walking alongside the A815 road, this whole pilgrimage takes place on designated pathways and Forestry roads. It takes in three of our pilgrim sites, and there are popular tourist distractions near each one; such as the Here We Are Centre or Loch Fyne Ales near Kilmorich Churchyard; The Stagecoach Inn or Ardkinglas Woodland Garden near Cairndow; and The Creggans Inn or Strachur Smiddy near Kilmaglash. This means that one could park up at ///spare.drummers.risky (in the overflow car park for the Oyster Bar) and enjoy a family day out taking in any or all of these sites.
Stage 1: Kilmorich to Cairndow
There’s plenty to see and do near Kilmorich Churchyard, so take your time exploring The Tree Shop or perhaps climbing up via the Treehouse to a nearby viewpoint. When you’ve finished exploring, exit the Churchyard by the gate near ///crunchy.shredder.settle, turn right onto the lane at ///otherwise.traders.decimal, then left at ///worry.globe.twit toward the main road. Keep the car park to your right and join a path to the left of the roadway near ///scanner.gums.knowledge (it is possible to complete this section on a bicycle, although road cyclists may prefer to simply take the road from here). This path bends left (northeast), heading via ///reboot.overgrown.cabbage toward the head of the valley. It turns right (southeast) near ///rudder.roost.brew and places you at a road junction. Continue straight ahead, from ///camcorder.bookings.reputable, on a southwesterly bearing, walking over an old road bridge with views up River Fyne from ///contacts.landlady.former. At the end of the bridge (///hobby.shave.transmits), turn right again so that you’re now heading southwest toward the main road.
At the junction with the A83, near ///unpacked.meal.nylon, there’s a gravel path leading off to the left (southeast) through a gate in a stone wall. It crosses two metal footbridges, near ///rental.majors.stamp, and skirts around a field, leading uphill toward a gate at ///outbursts.lies.ladder. These gates require the use of both hands; use one hand to slide a metal tab at the rear of the bolt, and the other to pull the bolt back so the gate can be opened (be sure to close it securely behind you). From the other side of the gate, walk an arrow straight path between ///signified.exhales.dividing and ///conjured.condense.loaf. The path is just high enough on the hillside to allow clear views over Loch Fyne, and it passes through a series of similar gates (seen from ///staples.parked.stale) before it rejoins the A83 road.
The path splits when you reach ///conjured.condense.loaf. It’s the right-hand fork we need to take; it drops down through ///dads.mini.petulant to a gateway with the main road near ///covenants.securing.passions. From here you can see where it picks up on the other side of the road, at ///mealtime.euphoric.lyricist. The A83 is the main road between Loch Lomond and Oban, so it can get very busy. In good weather it’s especially popular with motorbikes, so be careful as you cross. The gravel path quickly descends and turns back on itself as it brings you out between Ramblers Rest self-catering log cabin and Cairndow Village Hall, near ///begins.brightens.stuffing. Aim for the red postbox by the roadside then turn left (near ///paler.deny.slime) heading southwest towards Cairndow (pronounced: kairn-doo). Follow this road past Cairndow Stagecoach Inn and all the way to Kilmorich village. As you reach a junction near ///fondest.shuttling.carefully, you should see the crown of Kilmorich Church peeking above the trees ahead of you. Continue forward on that road and the beautiful little church is on your left (pictured from ///feared.airstrip.poet). Please take the time to look inside, search out the stones removed from the original churchyard, and sign the visitor book. Should you wish to return to Kilmorich Churchyard, it’s a simple matter of retracing your steps. Otherwise, let’s press on to Strachur and Kilmaglash Church.
Stage 2: Cairndow to St Catherine's
Upon exiting Cairndow Church, turn left towards the entrance for Ardkinglas, near ///wasps.gardens.regaining. The road forks here and we’ll be passing through the black gates on the right. After which, keep right and follow the road as it maintains a roughly southwest bearing (bending left, right, then left again) before finally turning right and crossing a stone bridge near ///clutches.beats.inversion. The short bridge crosses Kinglas Water, and then presents you with three options: The road to your right is for Cairndow fish farm and can be ignored; if you intend to complete this pilgrim journey on a road cycle, then you must take the left road uphill and southwestwards, where it joins the A815 heading to Strachur (you can rejoin this route at Stage 4); and if you’re mountain biking or simply walking, then choose the middle option, signposted for Ardkinglas Mansion House.
This road bends first left and then to the right where, near ///headlight.frogs.duties there’s another three-way split. Once again, we want the middle option, which bends to the left then crosses a stone bridge near ///hairpin.presuming.soldiers. Ahead of you is the Estate Office but we’ll be turning immediately right (signposted ‘Oyster Farm’) at ///splendid.richer.observers. The road heads northwest briefly – where a splendid view of the rich mansion house can be had from ///educated.pint.devalued), then bears left (ignoring the two options to turn right near ///sweeten.strutting.hexes) to follow the shore southwest from ///daredevil.jazz.figure.
You’re now on the old road that used to run between Cairndow and Strachur. This road no longer goes all the way to Strachur; we can only follow it for a few miles – even then it’s in a sometimes overgrown, sometimes completely eroded state – and it cuts off just north of St Catherine’s. It’s easy enough to follow though; just keep Loch Fyne on your right and keep heading southwest. You’ll pass the oyster farm near ///circles.thudding.deputy, keep right at ///traps.shame.terminal, then keep right again as you pass the entrance to Bachie Bhan, near ///speakers.unrated.blubber. The road becomes more overgrown after this point, resembling more of a quad-track after passing the cottage near ///jams.november.windmill. Shortly, Ardno Farmhouse comes into view. In fact, there’s a nice view of it from ///nuance.repaying.sunset, which is right by a concrete jetty. The owners at Ardno farmhouse have photographs of Winston Churchill standing on this jetty; taken during his visit on the 27th June, 1941. At that time this area of the loch was designated as No.1 Combined Training Centre and many famous regiments received specialised Commando and amphibious landing training on the shores of Loch Fyne as part of the WWII effort.
The quad track ends at the gateway to Ardno Farm, but a pathway bends right near ///infants.goose.throw, then turns left as it meets the shoreline near ///gardens.chilled.excellent, and wends its way southwest between a beautiful meadow on the left and Loch Fyne on your right. On a clear day you should be able to see Dunderave Castle on the other side of the loch. You’ll soon come upon a wooden stile near ///flanks.outgrown.hamsters, where you can peel off the path and hit the beach. If you continue along the path, you’ll find it completely disintegrated by the time you reach ///decompose.funny.metals, just a few feet further on. It’s easy enough to step down to the beach from here too. You’re only required to be on the beach for a very short distance; keep an eye out for the reappearance of the path near ///drifters.intrigues.finger. Step up over the rocks here and it begins in earnest from ///funky.rainy.saves.
The path now pulls away from the shore, skirting a field, and approaches a featureless, concrete footbridge near ///dawn.showed.tradition. Bear right as you cross that bridge (the other options both head into the farm). You’re now faced with a grassy avenue, near ///equity.suffer.forehand, with options to go left, right or straight ahead. It’s the middle option, straight ahead, that will keep you on the correct course. This path pases in front of a handful of large houses, hidden on the shore, which make up Laglingarten village. Eventually you reach a gate near ///grafted.pinches.definite; the road becomes more solid underfoot and, in no time at all, becomes proper tarmac rising to meet the A815 near ///author.tagging.reliving. From here, looking west down the road, one can see the turn off for the Forestry road we seek. It’s just behind the 40mph sign, on the opposite side of the road, which lets drivers know that a village (St Catherine’s) is coming up.
Stage 3: St Catherine's to Ardnagowan
The Forestry road, at ///realm.copies.cheaper, quickly rises away from the road in a southwesterly direction, then turns back upon itself, still climbing. At ///pounding.exporters.ambition it forks; take the right fork, bending sharply south west once more and still climbing at a steady, manageable rate. You’ll encounter a gate near ///allowable.nutrients.effort, it’s there to deter vehicles, but walkers, mountain bikers and pilgrims can squeeze around the outside of it. The the road climbs up towards ///poses.playfully.pimples, which is where those on mountain bikes have the option to peel off to the right and downhill back towards the A815. The alternative is to press on with the walkers, but there is a 1/2 mile section coming up, which has no path whatsoever.
As the path climbs you’ll begin to enjoy expansive views over Loch Fyne and towards Inveraray. On most of our pilgrim routes, you can spend time on the walk by picking out different bird calls; if you choose this route on a sunny day however, then you’re more likely to be sorting between Kawasaki and Ducati than between heron and gull. The road between Cairndow and Inveraray is popular with motorbikers, and you can hear their engines roaring across the loch from miles away as you climb higher. The Forestry road reaches another junction, near ///wizard.landscape.page, and you won’t be surprised to learn that our route takes the right-hand prong to continue heading southwest. It’s still climbing, though more gently, between ///lentil.trophy.sunflower and ///severe.broad.stocky, whereupon the path levels but then very quickly dead-ends at ///gearbox.composts.mammal.
There’s another Forestry road, less than half a mile ahead and not ten feet below, which will lead us down through Ardnagowan forest. The game is to get there. It’s not as difficult as it first appears, so hold on and have faith (hiking poles aren’t really necessary for this walk at all, but they could come in handy here). If you pretend that the road didn’t run out, and just press on in the same southwesterly direction, you’ll find a small stream to cross near ///much.torn.placidly, and see that a clearway still exists. Just beyond the burn you should see a drainage channel running alongside where the road used to be (shown form ///movements.decisive.popular). If you can’t see that, then you should be able to spot a stand of birch trees at the opposite end of the clearway – aim for those, but tread carefully; the ground is tussocky with hidden ditches. When you get to the trees, track down towards the drainage channel and you’ll discover that it meets with an old quad track near ///amounting.sings.useful.
From here the route goes straight downhill for a short distance. It’s following the north bank of a burn, which is too steep to cross at this point. If the weather’s been rainy recently, you may be able to hear the water to your left. You’ll be facing west/northwest and, if blessed with clear skies, you should be able to see Inveraray Castle directly ahead of you in the distance, on the far side of the loch. The track we’re following is very overgrown and apt to disappear. The ground underfoot is uneven, and there are other drainage channels intersecting the route, so walk with care. Keep an eye on Inveraray Castle though, and walk straight towards it. Pass through ///castle.blackmail.busy, press ahead at ///blogging.bicker.serve (ignoring a gully tracking left toward the burn) and continue straight on near ///tweed.goose.crackled. When you’ve descended to a point where you can no longer see the castle, start thinking about striking out towards the stream.
You’ll have dropped no further than 15 feet in elevation by this point, and should see a drainage channel cutting across the track, near ///liquids.darting.splinters. The track continues downhill for a short while but fails to offer up a better place to cross the burn. So before passing this last drainage channel, turn left (facing southeast), toward the burn. Strike out over uneven ground in this direction, from near ///messaging.second.chapters. You’re to head very slightly back uphill, so that the drainage channel seems to peel away to your right. With any luck, by the time you reach ///repayment.coconuts.curving a deer trail, or desire path, will become apparent; leading southwest toward a low point ( ///rebounded.snows.surgical) in the bank of the burn.
Step into the burn here. In good weather, it shouldn’t be at all deep, but if there have been heavy rains and the water is in spate, you may have to turn back and follow the cyclist route. Looking directly opposite you, at the south bank (from ///strut.polishing.prickly, or nearby) you should see a trail leading up off the bank. If you don’t see one, that’ll be because the ferns have grown in. But it is there, so push through them (being mindful of ticks) and you’ll soon find yourself in a marshy clearing at ///fizzle.absorb.certainly. Again, a keen eye will reveal a desire line, leading southeast, where other walkers and thirsty deer have used this route before.
In essence, we’re following what was once a quad track but is now almost thoroughly reclaimed by nature; if it wasn’t for the deer using the easiest route to the burn, then it may be impossible see a way through (and in the height of summer, it still may seem that way). Nevertheless, as you push forth in a southwesterly direction, through ///snowmen.timed.prompts, the path becomes clearer. At ///reflector.rifled.sloping there’s definitely a single track (albeit heavily overgrown), which crosses over another burn; and by ///snares.dispose.complaint it’s an obvious quad track. A short climb up this track puts you at ///plugged.huts.lavished, where the welcome sight of a disused Forestry road stretches off into the distance, leading without issue to a much more solid road, junctioned near ///buzz.sensitive.shears.
Turn right to merge with this new road, which bears west for a short while before bending to the left to face south west once more, and presenting you with a fork near ///goggle.heartache.hiked. Take the left-hand prong, which continues southwest and gradually downhill for a few miles. Eventually you’ll reach another fork, near ///scrambles.included.shift, and in this instance, take the right-hand prong and continue downhill, bearing southwest. The road zig-zags downhill, switching back upon itself twice (ignore the option leading off into the trees near ///lengthen.amount.evenings) before reaching a gate at ///resonates.seats.crashing. Cross this gate and you’ll meet with the A815 once again, near ///frightens.vest.encounter.
Stage 4: Ardnagowan to Strachur
Once again, look southwest (left) down the road. Looking from ///baroness.helpless.megawatt, you can see a path breaking away from the road on the opposite side. Head toward this turn off (near ///clashes.undertook.boils) and follow it down through ///ambition.ultra.tedious towards the shore of Loch Fyne. This is making use of another fragment of the old road in order to avoid spending unnecessary time on the grass verges. However, this fragment only covers a short distance, returning to the road near ///neutron.refuse.gratitude. Cyclists might prefer to stick to the road, here for the sake of efficiency.
There’s now almost a mile of walking alongside a busy A-road; from ///beakers.prominent.sponge to ///intelligible.forgiven.whiplash, where the pavement starts at the left of the road. Follow this path as it bends left and starts to track uphill near ///curl.crunching.husky (where the road splits off to the right aiming for Portavadie, but that’s not where we’re headed today). There’s a turnoff toward some stone buildings on the left near ///goggle.avid.banquets, but ignore this and head uphill toward the road sign. Just before this sign (which informs us that Kilmun and Dunoon are 15 & 18 miles away), near ///regress.value.enthused, there’s a trail leading into the trees. Follow this track via ///diplomat.flows.wimp to a dishevelled wooden gate near ///lectures.distorts.indirect (Note: road cyclists should continue on the road and make the next left, near the community centre). Passing through this gate one is presented with a lane that runs from ///expansion.treatable.steepest, to the junction near ///field.last.juicy. Carry straight on at this junction and the lane gently rises until you break free of the tree cover near ///emulating.basics.spine and are in view of Kilmaglash Church in Strachur. Please be sure to look inside the church, rest for a while, offer a prayer of gratitude for your safe arrival, and make your mark on the visitor book therein.