(scroll to the bottom of the page for map links to Kilbride Chapel)
3.91 miles | 6.29 kilometers | Mixed Surface | Steep Hills
The pilgrimage from Kilmorie Ruins to Kilbride Chapel footings is short but fairly arduous. It involves a brief, steep climb and fair amount of clambering over treacherously uneven ground. For this reason we’d recommend taking hiking poles. Though not strictly necessary, they may keep you from going over in a hidden ditch, and they can be useful for beating back the fern and rhododendron in the summer months. On that note, this route was documented in the summer, which has the unfortunate effect of meaning that the trails are obscured by bracken in a lot of the photos! Where possible, we’ve used pictures taken on an earlier foray, in autumn, where the lush greenery has died back.
We’re presenting this loop as the second leg of the North West Cowal Pilgrimage, and we’ve extended the route (over that contained in our Enjoyable Journeys section) to make it easier to continue on to Strachur. It’s entirely unsuitable for cyclists, however. And, although the views from Kilbride Chapel – and the potential for refreshment at nearby Tobar an Longairt (‘well of the shieling’) – are always worth the trip; the footings of Kilbride Chapel are difficult to find at the best of times, let alone in the midst of an explosion of summer growth. So it may be prudent to give this one a miss if the landscape looks like it does in our photos.
Stage 1: Kilmorie to Kilbride
You’ll find the gates to Kilmorie Chapel near ///stoppage.dampen.shopping. There’s a single gate to the left of the double gate pictured above, pass through this and continue down to the chapel. As you approach the chapel there’s a path leading off to the left (west), from ///inch.slanting.declares, toward a gate. Passing through the gate, the path starts to bend gently southwest near ///dream.line.afterglow. This track leads toward a beautiful wooden bridge, which appears on your right. Cross the bridge and follow the path due north. From this path you’ll have good views of New Castle Lachlan (to your right) as well as over the mouth of Strathlachlan River, and towards Old Castle Lachlan (to your left).
You’ll come to a fork near ///shoulders.gold.tweeted; turn left, then follow this track as it winds gently right, bearing northwest at first, then north as it passes by the old castle, and then begins to turn northeast, toward Lachlan Bay, from ///treaty.edit.noon. There’s makeshift gate to navigate, near ///inches.bends.sake, after which the path leads down to the end of the bay. Turn left up the bay (heading northwest) and find a trail, near ///manly.blackouts.oppose, leading off to the right (northeast and uphill) just before the promontory.
The trail becomes muddy and the incline increases as it navigates between bushes near ///courtyard.grub.reader, emerging onto the hillside at ///scramble.absorb.mincing. It diverges into two, near ///deflection.delusions.user. Take the right fork, through ///desiring.rafters.spray, heading up toward the peak ahead of you. Before you reach the peak, a track peels off to your left (northeast), leading from ///venturing.incur.orbit toward some mature trees in the distance.
It’s difficult to see (and it’s not essential that you follow it precisely) but it eventually leads to a rhododendron hemmed gully, just above the stand of trees, near ///sprains.awakening.engages. Follow the gully downhill and northwestwards (toward the loch), until you reach the trees. Cross the wee burn near ///increased.helpful.computers, and the faint track guides you to a break in a stone wall, near ///trumped.thorax.increases. Turn right immediately after that wall, then bear left, through ///agreement.ejects.newsprint, following the trail as it flanks the hillock on your left.
We lost sight of the trail amidst the undergrowth around ///twinkling.tables.newer. In theory it continues north east around the brow of the wee hill and allows you to pass above a thick swathe of rhododendron (seen as a strip of bright green foliage across the middle of our picture, taken from ///boats.sprouted.heave). Behind all those rhododendrons there’s another stand of mature trees in another gully, with yet another burn and stone wall to cross.
We descended the hill from ///suspended.grape.glimmers, pushed through the smaller shrubs near ///represent.spot.dart and oriented ourselves towards a stout young sapling, seen from ///tell.connector.constrain. The actual trail stays above all these rhododendrons and descends toward the same sapling, via a small standing stone near ///ledge.merit.complies. As long as you orient yourself bearing northwest, towards the mature trees though, you’ll be okay.
You’ll find an easy place to cross the wee burn near ///zinc.fades.breakaway. The chapel is just up on rise to the northwest of here. Press on in that direction and you’ll find another stone wall; there’s a break in the wall near ///balancing.visitor.generated. Cross through there and push on uphill, bearing slightly more northwest towards the loch. The first indications of the chapel appear to your right near ///sweeter.holly.shimmered.
Here are the ruins of a rectangular, 18th century farm building, which sits just outside the chapel walls. Looking southwest from here, on a good day, you’ll see the circular impression of Kilbride Chapel’s outer wall, and the footings of the wee chapel inside it. In our picture, taken from ///motivate.flipper.plugs, you can see Aidan’s excitement at finding it. Alas, it was so hidden by bracken, that he was using satellite imagery to find the exact spot (///freed.spearing.shirt).
Stage 2: Kilbride to Kilmorie
There’s a well, Tobar an Longairt, estimated to have been built around the same time as the chapel, hidden on the hillside not too far from here. It was never dedicated as a holy well, and was likely built to serve an ancient settlement that once occupied this area. These hills offer commanding views over Loch Fyne and down toward the sea, as well as being near a narrow area of the loch, where ferry boats could have transported worshippers from the Kintyre peninsula. So the uphill journey, over uneven ground that you’ve just completed, may well be a fair representation of the latter half of an ancient Sunday morning commute to church!
To get to the well, head back up past the old farm building, heading northeast toward the rocky outcrop at the top of this hill, near ///broadcast.central.loaf. Looking ahead to the (much larger) hills of Barr an Longairt, you should see a solitary tree about halfway up the hill. This is the best way to orient oneself. For now, continue uphill and northeast towards ///club.joggers.quaking, then turn to your right (facing east now), and the tree should be visible front of a stone wall running along the brow of the hill opposite you. Between your current position and that wall is a flat expanse of heather and fern. Come down from the hill you’re on and cross that heath, heading east. The well we’re seeking is on the foothills before the tree; between two conspicuous standing rocks (circled), at ///output.slang.guideline. You may hear it before you see it!
The stone ‘lid’ of this ancient well can be removed and, if the water level is high enough, you can dip a flask in and try some genuine Highland spring water. It’s not always possible though, so don’t be relying on this for your fluids! The return to Kilmorie starts by following the stone wall behind the well. Set off towards it in a southerly direction and find a place to cross over (there are a few natural breaks you could use). There’s an old tree flanking a particularly swampy section, near ///soils.sting.landlords, so pull away from the wall and head uphill to keep this on your right. We’re aiming for the saddle of the two hills ahead.
The trail doesn’t really become apparent until you reach ///canoe.gasping.lobster, so choose whichever route you see fit to. When you reach the saddle, follow the brow of the hill left, bending around to face southeast. Maintain an elevation of around 80m – 100m and follow the curve of the hill around to ///panthers.ant.gloom. From here, bear right (continuing southeast) and descend rapidly to a height of 50m, looking for a forked trail near ///operating.shred.extension. The fork offers you a choice between heading south/southeast towards Lachlan Castle (this is the shorter route back to Kilmorie) or branching northeast towards a metal gate near ///thinnest.rainy.paper.
There are two reasons to take the longer route through the metal gate. Firstly, it allows us to pass by Strathlachlan Church, which houses part of the Celtic cross from the column at Kilmorie. Secondly, if you’re completing the North West Cowal Pilgrimage, you can more easily continue on to Strachur. If neither of these are of interest to you, then it makes more sense to head south towards the track, near ///remedy.tint.padlock, that will loop you back towards the wooden bridge near the start of our walk. This guide, however, continues on through ///lawfully.mule.report, aiming roughly toward a white house in the distance.
Pass by this house, keeping it to your right, and you’ll find a place to cross the fence (where the barbed wire has been wrapped with sack-cloth) near ///slopes.latched.musical. Turn left onto the track, heading northeast from ///knots.recliner.initiates, and follow this around the rear of some more houses, near ///submerged.twist.redeemed. At the end of the track, turn left onto the road, through ///spout.reserving.beaker, which brings you to a junction with the B8000. Turn right here, heading southwest now, from ///binds.shaped.producers, towards Strathlachlan Church.
The Church is fairly modest, white building, seen from the roadside near ///slant.shams.rankings. It’s not usually open but if you look into the first window on the side of the building (///skim.dote.pizza) then you’ll see the remaining sections of the stone cross that would have topped the hexagonal column in the churchyard at Kilmorie (see that page for a reconstructed image). Next, head straight down the (usually quiet) road, ignoring the left hand turn for Garbhallt Forestry walk near ///proposals.slave.users.
There’s not too long spent on the road; you’ll pass the caravan park and Lachlan Castle, on your right, before arriving at the parking layby for Kilmorie, at ///glitz.strutting.detail. Just a little further down from that layby, at ///shudders.grazes.jingles, is a stone basin collecting water from a burn. This seems relatively modern, but marks the spot of Tobar Cille Moire, a holy well, or wishing well dedicated to St Mary, the virgin. If you found any little chunks of white quartz pebbles, or suchlike, on your pilgrimage, then you could drop one in here and say a prayer.