(scroll to the bottom of the page for map links to Lochgoilhead Church)
21.23 miles | 34.17 kilometers | Good Surface | Coastal Route
The route from Kilmun Church to Lochgoilhead Church manages to deliver exceptional views over Holy Loch, Loch Long and Loch Goil without requiring that the intrepid Scottish pilgrim suffer any strenuous climbs. At 21 miles, however, it is a full days walk (approx 10hrs at an average pace). It’s longer again if you wish to return on foot, although it’s possible to catch the 486 bus between Dunoon and Lochgoilhead, and the 489 bus between Dunoon, Kilmun and Ardentinny. This means it’s also possible to shorten the route if your needs require it. Cyclists can follow a version of this route, making use of the A880 road from Kilmun all the way to Ardentinny, then following the walking route from Stage 3 (with a small section that may require carrying the bike prior to hitting tarmac near Carrick Castle).
This route forms the first leg of St Munn’s Pilgrim Trail, and it can also potentially be used to join the South East Cowal Loop with the North East Cowal Loop. It’s unique in that it’s punctuated by public toilets (at Kilmun cemetery, Ardentinny car park, Carrick Castle and Lochgoilhead car park). This, combined with the relatively low difficulty means that it (or parts thereof) may be suitable as a family walk through some of the best countryside that Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park has to offer, all without leaving Cowal. Most of the walk is on tarmac or Forestry roads. There’s a section or two behind Blairmore where the road becomes a track, and then an overgrown trail; and another section just prior to Carrick Castle, which is a narrow path, but none of the terrain is very challenging.
Stage 1: Kilmun to Stronchullin
There’s a large parking area outside Kilmun Church at ///switch.wicket.dunk, where it should be safe to leave your car. Alternatively you could visit Kilmun, then drive up to Ardentinny carpark (///collapsed.moon.birds), thus shortening the walk by approximately 8 miles. Kilmun church is a splendid building with spectacular stained glass, and the site has a long, illustrious history. It’s no longer used by the local congregation and so is not left open to visitors. Access is possible, however, by contacting Historic Kilmun, or by timing your arrival to coincide with their open hours. When you’ve finished exploring the site, descend the staircase via ///whirlwind.scribbled.trails and make a left (heading southeast) out of the car park. Very shortly a lane appears to your left (near ///apprehend.march.snippets) with a sign on the wall saying ‘Fintry’. Turn up here, the lane climbs and passes a sign that reads ‘Access to Novar Cottage Only’, however, this is aimed at cars; there’s an older sign, above, which welcomes walkers. The lane curves round to the right, so you’re heading southeast again. It climbs to ///evenings.apricot.seducing, where the lane turns left and there’s a footpath continuing straight on. Follow the footpath via ///bogus.feathers.hairstyle and through a gate.
Beyond the gate the path continues southeast and passes two trails peeling off uphill to the left, ignore these and continue on the same heading. The path starts to widen and the surface becomes a proper Forestry road in no time at all. There’s a junction at ///refilled.trumpet.fussy with a third option to head up onto the hillside. Once again, ignore this and maintain your heading. The road descends gently from here and then starts to level out near ///quoted.kept.frog. As it does so, you can see a fork directly ahead of you; take the left fork (at ///weaned.driving.sheds) and the road begins to climb again. The route ascends steadily for some time, passing behind Blairmore & Strone Golf Club as it does. The lack of trees here mean that you’re able to enjoy views over Loch Long all the way down the River Clyde toward Erskine Bridge. The path climbs to a viewpoint at ///acid.december.dynasties, where you’re presented with another fork. In this instance it’s the right-hand fork we want, heading downhill by way of ///sulky.boasted.headsets. Incidentally, were you able to transport yourself to the A880 Shore Road beneath this viewpoint, then you’d find yourself at a wonderful local pub, The Strone Inn, where you could avail yourself of a hearty home cooked meal or a free refill for your water bottle.
Continuing to descend, the route passes through a quarry near ///stardom.tripods.rare; keep to the right here. As the path emerges from the other side, at ///trespass.baking.person, it becomes more overgrown. It can also be muddy here if there have been recent rains (which is par for the course in Argyll). By now you’ve rounded Strone Point, and the Forestry road is bearing north. It does so for about a mile more, undulating but descending on the whole. Eventually you reach ///options.texted.reclusive, where the Forestry path switches back upon itself, but there’s a single track leading off to the north via ///honestly.sundial.photocopy. Follow this path to a slightly precarious stream crossing at ///jars.doubt.northward and then a gate into a farmer’s field near ///crunched.urge.sedative. This is a sheep field, so if you have a dog with you, be sure to leash it before passing through.
At the other side of the field (near ///responses.thing.invest) there are two white houses and another gate to cross. Beyond the houses the path turns right near ///provide.glorified.blows and crosses a wooden bridge. You’re now on a rough, quad track that veers east and runs downhill toward Blairmore Farm. As you approach the farm buildings there’s a cross roads (pictured from ///tutorial.grounded.riding), take the left path, which heads north, via ///readers.respected.elbowing, through two farm gates and then heads uphill slightly, toward a third gate at ///aimed.noses.alas. This is a working farm so please take extra care to fasten all gates securely. If you’re forced to climb a gate, then climb at the end closest to the hinge, so as not to put too much strain on it.
On the other side of the third gate (///swipes.succeed.loudness) you’re presented with a fork of two muddy tracks. The right-hand option passes through a fourth gate into a field. The left fork, however, is the correct route; it climbs past a stand of trees, bends right so that you’re travelling in a northwesterly direction, and then continues to climb. From up here you’re treated to panoramic views over the Inverclyde landscape. The path eventually reaches a large gate near a small burn at ///spent.rectangular.tickles.
This gate has two options; a main gate, large enough for vehicles, and a pedestrian gate. Both are a little complicated if you haven’t seen this type before. The main gate has a self locking mechanism requiring the use of both hands. At one end of the bolt there’s a metal tab, which needs to be swung out with one hand, so that you can slide the bolt back with your other hand. The pedestrian gate leans at an angle to the frame; you must reach through to release the catch, then almost lift the gate up over your head from right to left (picture dracula opening his coffin from the inside). You’re now in a heavily overgrown meadow (if you have a dog with you, it should be safe to unleash). A sign informs us that the land is being used as part of an E.U. funded development to create a woodland of mature broadleaf trees, thus bringing some diversity to the area and contributing to the Scottish Government’s published targets for woodland creation.
Believe it or not, there is a quad track running through this field (and it will hopefully remain so even after the woodland has taken root) but at time of writing (summer 2020) it’s very much overgrown. You can find a drainage channel just ahead of you at ///ranked.difficult.refilled however, and the quad path runs alongside that, on the right, then peels off downhill and eastwards from ///clockwork.subplot.stow, toward another pedestrian gate at ///cowering.pleasing.condition. From here a single track continues northwest through a clearway in the fir trees. This is also very overgrown, so be mindful of ticks. In short time it deposits you at what currently looks like a scree pile, near ///assemble.superbly.herb. A quick scrabble up this and you’re confronted with a Forestry road. From ///fancied.pixies.convinced it stretches off to the left (uphill) and right (downhill), both roads heading in a roughly northwest direction.
Stage 2: Stronchullin to Ardentinny
In terms of destination, it doesn’t matter which of the two roads you choose to take. Both bend round to run west, chasing the south bank of Stronchullin Burn upstream, and they merge together near Stronchullin Falls. The left path ascends fairly quickly from a starting elevation of 130m up to 270m, then remains level through to where the two paths rejoin. The right path drops at a sharper angle for a short distance, to an elevation of 90m, and presents you with another fork (near ///outs.elevated.nasal), at which you must turn left (west), joining an overgrown Forestry road near ///drove.restores.greet. This road climbs at a very gentle rate, reaching its maximum elevation of 270m only at the point where the two paths rejoin.
The paths merge near ///coasted.obeyed.tweezers and the main route appears to bend off to the right around the top of Stronchullin Falls. However, just after the two routes merge, there’s a track leading off from ///cobbles.takeovers.bathtubs down the bank to the foot of the falls, whereupon it fords Stronchullin Burn, at ///confetti.pounds.limes. This is an ideal place to quench your thirst with fresh Highland stream water (provided you’re comfortable doing so). You’re now on a quad track that follows the north bank of Stronchullin Burn all the way downstream, heading east toward Loch Long. There are no turn-offs to worry about, so you can spend the time either appreciating the views over the burn, or wondering why there’s no bridge down at the eastern end! You’ll eventually come upon a gate, into Stronchullin Farm, near ///spelling.grant.dumplings. Dogs must be leashed again at this point.
Crossing the gate, the quad track you’ve been following gradually turns into a gravelled path. It passes some fields on the left and the bank of the burn on your right, then you reach a junction near ///hairspray.dime.olive. Turn left here, heading northeast and uphill via ///lifts.fees.cheetahs. This path continues straight and true until it reaches a gate near ///display.salary.whom. Cross the gate and continue on the same bearing, cresting the hill. Ahead of you now, at ///rockets.titles.fixture is a fork in the road. Take the right hand prong, which runs at a slightly lower height (but still offers fantastic views) via ///palace.monopoly.encoding to a very muddy situation at ///initiates.hindering.aliens. There’s a track to your left leading northwest, away from the mud, but alas, our route directs you straight across this boggy pen and to a gate at ///strikers.putty.fanfare. Crossing this gate takes you out of Stronchullin Farm and into the network of forest walks behind Ardentinny.
The path leads through mixed woodland, meandering northwards and slowly descending. You reach a fork at ///yappy.ambitions.goofy, take the right-hand path, which eventually leads you to another fork at ///unless.utter.neater. This time take the left-hand prong and follow the path as it bends to the right and then merges with a different forest walk coming in from the left near ///ferrets.glorified.type. Here the path becomes a forestry road, getting wider and sturdier underfoot. It leads off northward and uphill. However, we’re not staying on this road; just as it begins to rise, near ///ruling.jumps.spoon, there’s a narrow path leading off to the right (east). Follow this via ///optimist.laws.richer and it guides you downhill toward a burn at the back of Ardentinny Outdoor Centre. There’s an option to cross the burn at ///purple.fits.matchbox but our route sticks to the main path, entering Ardentinny car park near ///glorified.dame.erupts (which is where the public lavatory is located in case you yourself are about to erupt).
Stage 3: Ardentinny to Carrick Castle
Looking across the parking area, over the road towards Loch Long, there’s a green notice board showcasing some of the points of interest for visitors. Ardentinny is a beautiful village with a good restaurant at one end and a lovely beach at the other. It’s well worth a visit, but we are just passing through today. There’s a path to the left of the information board (at ///jokes.infinite.photocopy), which leads along the shore. You can take the paved route, or cut through Coronation Wood (the two routes merge further up). Bear right at ///tint.foot.happen, sticking to the shore path, and again at ///unrealistic.contrived.playoffs. Follow the yellow band trail markers until they reach a junction with a road near ///poorly.deck.majority. Turn right here (bearing northeast now), cross a bridge, and press on in the same direction toward the car park, ignoring two options to turn left. The third option to turn left happens just before the car park, by ///informer.funnels.legend. Take this path, heading uphill behind a small house, through a green gate and onto a Forestry road (seen from ///pocketed.carpentry.putty).
You’re now on a wide, Forestry road heading uphill in a north/northwesterly direction. There’s a trail shooting off to the right near ///mills.watches.handbags, which heads down to Lover’s Leap, but press on up the main path, which shortly splits into two at ///mulls.threading.senses. Bear right here and the path loops around to face southeast, then bends left so that you’re on an easterly bearing. Another track branching off to the right down toward Lover’s Leap appears near ///typically.crisp.panel; stick to the main route though, and you’ll come upon an junction near ///meatballs.nylon.deflated. Take the right fork here, still bearing west. From here there are some nice views away to the south, over Loch Long and toward the Firth of Clyde, before the path bends northward to follow the shore.
Our route now heads roughly northeast for 2-3 miles, staying fairly close to the shore. You’ll catch glimpses, through the trees, of the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport base on the opposite shore. There’s also an old stone building, which could be a perfect bothy spot, near ///putts.moisture.reinstate. Shortly after that, an old overgrown turning spot, near ///blush.cropping.licks makes for a good picnic location, with access to the beach just through the trees. Eventually, the path starts to snake; climbing behind an electrical tower – and it’s here you have to start paying attention. Keep your eyes peeled for a track, which runs off northwards from ///multiple.congested.pheasants, while the main path turns upon itself to face south. The track is signposted for Carrick Castle, and this is the route we need to follow. However, as is typical in this area, the green sign, situated amongst Argyll’s green trees and landscape, is very easy to miss! We’ve included pictures of the approach from ///proofs.flashing.swoop so you know what to expect.
The path now becomes a narrow dirt track heading northward. It’s easy to follow, and fine for walking on, but cyclists may prefer to carry their bikes; depending on the conditions. It’s a relatively short distance (less than a mile) with great views over Loch Goil and the mountains rising behind. The track maintains a fairly steady height until it reaches ///washed.highlight.credible, where it begins to descend (offering sight of Carrick Castle in the distance). It descends quite quickly to a wooden footbridge near ///slant.lavender.array, then leads down to the shore. There are two gates to pass through, one at ///jots.makeovers.huddled, and the other a little further on near ///splashes.overnight.agree. From here the track runs around the back of a private residence, emerging at ///conquests.mysteries.domain and picking up the main road (near ///frog.reference.survived), which follows the shoreline into the village. Further on there’s a junction near ///hopefully.indicated.drainage from which you can see Carrick Castle ahead of you, and this stage ends with a well-earned rest at one of the picnic tables outside of the castle, near ///captions.bolts.cloud.
Stage 4: Carrick Castle to Lochgoilhead Church
The final stage of this pilgrims journey (approximately 6 miles remain) is carried out mostly on well surfaced, tarmac roads. This is good news for cyclists, but some walkers prefer a softer surface underfoot, and others are uncomfortable walking at the roadside. In the case of these quiet village roads, however, in a place where locals are used to seeing walkers and cyclists among the seasonal visitors, the roads are not so threatening. Head north from the castle, passing Carrick Castle Church at ///circus.glares.confronts and follow the road up towards the head of the loch. Eventually you reach the entrance to Cormonachan Woodlands near ///mainly.trusts.alarming. It’s both shorter and more pleasant to follow the red trail through the woods, rather than keep to the road. Pass through the wooden gate at ///feed.chatting.forwarded and turn right, heading down a grassy lane via ///leaflet.february.palettes, keep right at the junction near ///stability.novelists.pigtails, and the path rejoins the road near ///dares.completed.altitude after passing through a hedge tunnel.
Emerge onto the road and turn left, continuing northward. You’ll come past Loch Goil Cruisers (home to The Boat Shed cafe) and then through the village of Lettermay, looking down onto Drimsynie Holiday Park from ///streak.torches.closer. As long as you keep the loch to your right, you can’t go wrong. Follow the road along the shore and ignore any options to turn off. Eventually you’ll see a wooden footbridge over the River Goil. It appears on your right near ///darker.stooping.flaunting; opposite an entrance to The View Restaurant in the Drimsynie estate. At the gangway onto the bridge there’s both a waymarker for The Loch Lomond & Cowal Way and one of our Faith in Cowal notice boards, which welcomes you to Lochgoilhead and explains a little about the history of The Church of the Three Brethren.
Use this bridge to cross the river, then turn right; following the Cowal Way markers through ///ballots.symphony.prominent. The path leads around the southern border of Drimsynie Estate Golf Course and opens up to a clearing near ///shrimps.doses.marinated. The Cowal Way branches left here, and does eventually guide you past the church, but if the tide is low, then it’s quicker and more pleasant to cut across the beach. Head towards a rusted gate in the far right corner, near ///animates.gulped.expressed, and drop down onto the beach (note, if the tide is up, there’s another path just to the left of this gate, which leads straight to the cycle racks). There are incredible views to be had from the beach, though we’re not on it for very long; hop back up to the road, near ///tried.snowmen.thighs, and immediately turn left (heading north up the B839/Viewfield Terrace) past the cycle racks at ///live.badly.ambitions (or stop and lock your cycle here if you have one). You’ll find the entrance to Lochgoilhead Church just up the street; on the left near ///singers.slugs.defends. Please sign the visitor book and let the local congregation know what you think of the walk, this website and their church.