The route from Kilmaglash in Strachur to the ruins of Kilmorie Church in Strathlachlan is, for the most part, a straightforward walk on moderately well surfaced forestry tracks, albeit involving more than a few strenuous hills. The route takes you along the Loch Lomond and Cowal Way through Glenbranter and to Garvie Farm in Glendaruel.
The last section, between Garvie Farm and Garbhallt, is much more challenging however, and we would caution you not to attempt this section of the route on your own. It involves a steep hike up forestry tracks and then over uneven ground through fire breaks in the trees, followed by a gorge walk downhill using the bed of a ravine (which, of course, may not be possible if there’s been a lot of rain and the water is too high or too fast).
After that there’s another trek uphill over uneven and often boggy ground. It’s very hard going and hiking poles are strongly recommended. Your hard work is rewarded by a wonderful mountain top lochain and a relatively straightforward route back down to the roadside in Garbhallt, where a short, flat walk on good surface will deposit you at Kilmorie.
18.49 miles | 29.76 kilometers | Mixed Surface | Steep Hills
Stage 1: Strachur to Glenbranter
Starting from Kilmaglash Church, standing at ///rationed.zealous.oxidation with the church at your back, you’ll see that the road stretches off uphill through the clachan passing Strachur Smiddy. Follow this road to the top of the hill and there’s a junction near ///raking.grumbling.twins. The road naturally bends to the right so follow that, sticking to the pavement on your left.
The pavement meets the main road at ///dividers.parting.action where we follow it left (south-east) and uphill. As you reach the crest of the hill there’s a sign near ///headers.putter.large directing you toward the road for Glenbranter on your right. There’s a crossing just further up the hill behind this sign, near ///branded.pollution.admit.
Cross here and you should notice signposts for The Cowal Way (///bronze.operating.nest). As the old Glenbranter road swings to your left, follow it south past Strachur primary school (seen from ///cabinets.lions.tidal). The bright blue, listed building, Balliemore Cottage, near ///outnumber.strange.apartment roughly marks the half-way point down this road.
The only junctions off this road are to private residences, so simply follow the road to its natural end near ///crackles.camcorder.brittle. At this point you have the option of going left or right. For the purposes of our journey we’re going to turn right (west), through the stone gateposts at ///column.superhero.moon following signs toward the main car park for the Glenbranter Forestry Commission office.
The road curves left through ///stamp.ridiculed.gentlemen, then right past the forestry offices until you reach the south corner of the car park near ///mixed.describes.smuggled. Here you’ll see markers for two cycle trails (Glenshellish Loop and Loch Eck Loop) but pay these no regard; we are following neither of these trails.
Stage 2: Glenbranter to Dunans Lodge
Continue on this road until you reach a junction at ///plays.solutions.fixed where you’ll follow the road to your right (bearing south). It bends around gradually until it’s pointing west and you’re presented with another junction near ///twist.interlude.backlog. Stick to the main route here, bearing left (there should be a waymarker with a white arrow on a purple circle for The Cowal Way). This track leads south-west past some houses (on your right), then bends to the right (west) and crosses a forestry gate near ///racetrack.activity.canal.
Here the markers for the Cowal Way direct you to the right, into the woods, but we are going to press on along the forestry track. In short time you’ll reach a three way junction near ///vowed.loft.argue which offers a track disappearing downhill to the left and a staircase going up to the right. Ignore both of these and press on heading south-west and uphill.
The track bends back upon itself near ///gentlemen.different.managers and continues climbing. At ///buffoon.intricate.tasks keep to your left following the main track uphill as it gradually bends around to the left, bearing north-west at first and then snaking back to face south-west.
There are no more junctions on this path until you reach ///wedge.things.smarting, at which point take the left fork, heading slightly uphill, and bearing south. Stick to the main path, ignoring turn-offs near ///pausing.basket.heartless & ///informer.promotion.converter until you reach a forked path near ///quieter.consonant.weekday.
Take the right fork here and you will shortly be presented with another junction near ///dumpling.badge.informed. Carry straight on here ignoring the path to the left and the bridge to the right (although this bridge does make for a good photo opportunity). The path wends its way gradually downhill and south-westwards from here then starts to climb again as it approaches the gate at the rear of Garvie Farm (///complain.certified.shrubbery).
Pass through the gate and the track begins to descend once more. At the junction near ///emporium.happily.legend, keep to the right fork, heading west, once again following waymarkers for Cowal Way. This track leads down to the farm buildings (seen from ///hoping.rummage.appartment).
Be sure to keep an eye out for Cowal Way markers, so as not to accidentally wander onto private property. The correct path crosses the gates, near ///answers.swan.brew and ///prevented.erupt.firmer, then leads behind the farmhouses from ///coping.decking.streetcar around to the junction with the road near ///eliminate.volume.symphonic.
Turn right (north), past the sign for Garvie Farm at ///spoons.bakers.interacts. We need to make use of the road for a very short distance here. It’s a relatively quiet road but be extra careful nonetheless. An opportunity to leave the road presents itself near ///shortage.kick.irrigate. Branch right here, then the road bends left behind an outhouse at ///ombudsman.inventors.deleting.
Head down this track, which runs roughly parallel with the road, until you reach a left turn, near ///staging.reinstate.zoos, which leads back to the roadside (this path was still under construction at the time of photographing but should be more obvious when you arrive).
Once again we are following the road so turn left at ///booklets.rail.monorail heading northwards until you reach Dunans Lodge (seen from ///mirroring.trample.absorb). Head for the Dunans Lodge sign (///floatation.package.closets) and then cross the road taking the junction on your left which bears west through ///battle.drilling.promising.
Stage 3: Dunans Lodge to Garbhallt Lochain
This next stage is the tricky one. We would like to remind you that this section of the route is not for novices, and nor do we recommend tackling it alone. If you’d rather not chance it – or if there’s been heavy rainfall that could make the gorge walk section impassable – then follow the old road toward West Glendaruel instead (turning left/southwest at ///diverting.symphonic.nuggets), picking up the route from Kilmodan to Kilmorie near Home Farm Cottages.
If you’re happy to press on with this route, then continue west, heading straight through the junction at ///diverting.symphonic.nuggets, and through the forestry gate at ///gazes.live.sedative. The track bends right and begins to climb uphill in a northward direction. There appears to be a junction near ///fortnight.booklet.will but the right fork is a dead end so keep to the left and maintain your bearing.
Eventually, after much twisting, turning and climbing, the path starts to level off there’s another fork near ///occupations.respects.stirs; take the high road here (the right fork) continuing north and gently climbing.
The path undulates and starts to climb once more, turning muddy near ///noted.mammoths.nightcap, then petering out near ///inserting.ticking.tinned. Cross the wee burn here and press on, following a fire break in the trees on a north-east bearing. The ground underfoot now is incredibly uneven and tussocky, and there are a few hidden ditches to be wary of.
Keep your wits about you as you aim for a larger burn which can be crossed near ///supporter.ulterior.lives. After crossing there’s another fire break (bearing N/NW) beginning at ///aliens.research.ambition.
Continue uphill over rough and uneven ground until, eventually, you reach a burn that has cut a deep ravine into the ground ahead of you; tracking downhill to your left (roughly westwards) from ///chitchat.kindness.ourselves. There’s no straightforward path, track, nor even a deer trail to follow here; and the banks of the ravine can be treacherous and boggy.
We found it easier to follow the bed of the stream as much as possible – though, of course, this may not be viable if there’s been heavy rainfall before your walk. We kept to the left (south) bank through ///louder.relations.elders and ///organisms.duration.whirlwind, then entered the stream near ///dips.grocers.rejoined.
There’s a firebreak leading off to the south (left), near ///hits.dime.verifying, that looks tempting; and what looks like a pathway to your right, near ///hands.desktops.grit. Both of these will lead you astray. Instead, follow the watercourse all the way down, through ///raves.casual.superbly, to the bed of the valley, where it’s joined by another tributary, near ///perfumes.wiggly.incisions, and strikes off south-westward (to your left).
Follow the water downstream through ///sampled.mysteries.baker, toward a horseshoe bend near ///tinkle.dentures.whirlpool. Skip over the bend and continue following until the burn loops right again near ///boating.rolled.fiction. If you look west at this point, toward the trees on your right, you should see them beginning to thin out. We’re going to take this opportunity to push through the trees, and carry on the next part of the pilgrimage.
Once again, be aware of exceedingly boggy ground. Tread carefully and use your hiking poles to test the ground ahead of you. We found trees with broken lower branches (suggesting deer have found safe passage here) near ///rebirth.essay.winner.
You should emerge from the trees near ///output.homeward.parent to find a fence-line/treeline on your left and the peak of the nearest hill rising on your right. Follow the fence-line westwards and uphill, but keep to the right as much as possible; using the brow of the hill to avoid muddy ground in the shade of the trees.
The fence-line climbs toward ///inclines.ticked.furniture where the incline levels out for a short period and the ground becomes muddier still. Try to stick to green grass areas to avoid the worst of it. Keep climbing until you reach the corner of the fence-line near ///referral.remaining.seagulls, then find the fencepost at ///interrupt.gateway.fuzzy.
Here the treeline veers sharply south-west and you’re presented with a featureless scrubland with no path or indication of which way to go. Strike out at a forty degree angle from the treeline heading in a rough westerly direction, aiming between a crop of trees just below the horizon and the south-east corner of a nearer crop over to your right. Round the nearer set of trees, keeping them to your right at ///nuggets.craziest.page, then follow that treeline gently downhill.
You should pick up a deer trail following this treeline north-westwards and downhill near ///suspend.lyrics.remotes. This bends around to the right (N/NW) from ///blocking.unit.sunbeam, guiding you through the saddle between two hills. At ///plums.cobble.sprinter the track diverges, take the left path toward the shade of a new treeline.
This path quickly reveals an old quad track near ///spaces.orchestra.interacts. Follow this north around the treeline, cornering sharply left at ///thighs.airstrip.hiked, so that you’re now pointing southwest through ///humans.moped.reckons. There’s a wee waterfall to your right here, and fantastic views behind you now into the Strathlachlan valley.
Head uphill and upstream from the waterfall and, by the time you reach ///hobbies.intervene.smirks, Garbhallt Lochain should come into view ahead of you. The quad track meets its east shore near ///grows.overcomes.suffice and from here you can see a fire break in the trees at the southwest point of the loch; this is the exit we’ll be aiming for.
For now, follow the east ide of the loch around to ///castle.matter.bounding. This is perhaps the perfect spot to stop for a rest and something to eat: the home stretch is near, and is mostly downhill.
Stage 4: Garbhallt Lochain to Kilmorie Ruins
From the south-west point of the Garbhallt Lochain (///majority.propelled.swung) head south-west through a break in the trees. The faint track follows a watercourse upstream through ///relatives.sketches.contracts. Keep to the right of the water for the best ground underfoot. You clear the trees near ///spins.steered.relocated; there’s a fence-line tracking downhill to your right. Follow this northwest, keeping to the right of the fence, through ///logbook.compiled.parties.
Cross to the left side of the fence as it dips toward a burn, near ///restores.clipped.pack, then ford the burn and continue to follow the fence-line as it climbs out of the dip (this time keeping to the left of it). At ///guidebook.gulped.woven the ground levels out and the way ahead is clear; a straight shot, north-west, through a fire break in the trees.
Eventually you encounter a quad track that comes off the hill to your left and joins your path near ///suiting.meanders.protester. This quad track will lead you in a straight, north-westerly direction, all the way to ///chapels.jacket.landlords; where we meet the forestry track that will lead us down to the roadside.
You’re presented with three gravel tracks, and we want to take the road directly opposite where we entered, heading briefly north, through ///tribal.bloom.rehearsal, then bending gradually southwest and downhill near ///rocker.slippery.spinners. You soon approach, fork seen from ///civic.ogre.lunching. Take the right hand fork, continuing downhill. The track winds back upon itself three times, eventually depositing you near a gate by the roadside at ///clincher.trading.uptown.
Pass through the gate to meet the B8000 road at ///perkily.manual.discussed. From here there’s no choice but to follow the road. It’s single track but doesn’t see much traffic, and visibility is good. So turn left, heading southwest along the tarmac (perhaps a welcome respite at this stage of the pilgrimage), toward the caravan park in the distance. Kilmorie Chapel is just a short distance beyond the caravan park, you’ll find the entrance on your right near ///stoppage.dampen.shopping.
If for some reason you wanted to make this route even more challenging you could instead turn right out of the gate at Garbhallt to follow the Kilmorie – Kilbride loop (in reverse). This will also bring you to the ruins, albeit via the scenic route past the site of Kilbride Chapel and Old Castle Lachlan.