Walking in the Heart of Argyll: The long & the short of it!

July 18, 2021
Around Argyll

Exploring Beautiful Argyll by Foot

For this instalment we’re focussing on the many guests who visit the Heart of Argyll to enjoy the numerous walks near the Hostel. Our list is really just a snapshot of what’s on offer but to help plan your time, we’ve divided them into shorter and longer trips. The first section gives details of walks suitable for young walkers or those short of time.  For those guests who plan to stay with us for a few days, we’ve added longer routes, so that they can spend a day at a time on each trip.   

We’ve listed the walks for each section with the starting point for each route being closest to the Hostel.  In some cases you can walk directly from the Hostel, in others you’d have the option of driving, using public transport or might even be able to arrange drop off / pick up with the Hostel minibus (depending on availability).  The notes here are intended to give an outline of the walks but just ask us for more details.

Shorter Walks 


 39 Steps, Ardrishaig* (3km from Hostel)

 A 3 km forestry walk includes a steep climb through the trees to give stunning views above Ardrishaig and down Loch Fyne.  The path is well signposted and reasonably good but some stretches can be overgrown.  Thinking of topping up with coffee & cake or maybe lunch? Try the Steamer Terminal or The Rumbling Tum in Ardrishaig

Achnabreck Cup and Ring carvings *(12km from Hostel)

This short forest walk of approx 1.5 km is an easy loop offering fine views across Loch Fyne all the way to Arran.  The carvings are thought to be the most extensive prehistoric rock carvings in the UK. Need a little refreshment? Try https://cairnbaan.com/ or head into Lochgilphead and visit Cafe 35 or The Salty Dog cafe


Stonefield Castle & Barmore Island (13km from the Hostel)

With a commanding view over Loch Fyne, Stonefield Castle dates from the mid-19th century.  Circuiting Barmore Island, the gardens & woodland around the hotel make a scenic walk of around 3km.   

Why not checkout the menu inside?

White Shore Tarbert (16km from the Hostel)

This 3 km walk follows the shoreline along the northern side of Tarbert harbour with great views back to the marina.  Continue through the woodland path which ends at a small beach. After heavy rain some sections can be quite marshy so you might need your wellies! Checkout eateries here and here


Crinan Woodland and Canal circuit* (16km from the hostel)

This scenic loop of around 3km includes part of the Crinan Canal towpath and the woodland above. The woods are described as a wonderful example of Scotland’s rare and special rainforest, packed with wildlife.  If you’re feeling peckish there’s the local cafe or the hotel bar

Moine Mhòr and Dunadd* (18km from Hostel)

With a total distance of only 1km this route combines two short walks. One around Moine Mhor (the Great Moss) which is a nature reserve and possibly the most important wildlife tourism site locally. The other, rising out of Moine Mhor at Dunadd Fort, lets you step into the carved footsteps of Dalriada kings! 

The wheelchair accessible Tileworks Trail at Moine Mhor is an easy walk but Dunadd Fort involves a steep climb.

Barnluasgan Oakwood (18km from the Hostel)

This is a fine example of an ancient  Atlantic woodland with hazel, birch and oak trees.  The trail is around 2.5 km and a short climb will be rewarded with fine views of several lochs and Knapdale forests.  The path is well signposted but includes steep inclines and descents.

Torinturk and Dùn a'Choin Dhuibh (20km from Hostel)

This 2.5km route has been described as rugged but peaceful.  When you climb the steep slope to the top the views of West Loch Tarbert and Arran will be waiting patiently! You’ll also see the ruin of Dùn a’ Choin Duibh, (fort of the black dog), where we’re told the great hunter Torquil Mor died fighting a wild boar. 

Arichonan Clearance Village (20km from Hostel)

This is a peaceful walk of around 3km leads you through the larch trees to the haunting ruins of abandoned village abandoned in the mid-19th century after the Highland clearances. The track is sound and you’ll have fine views down Caol Scotnish. For more details click here

Longer Walks

Crinan Canal: Ardrishaig to Crinan* (2 miles from the Hostel) 

A one way 14km walk along the entire length of the Crinan Canal linking the sea lock at Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne with the sea lock at Crinan, on the Atlantic shore. There’s a choice of stops along the way with opportunities for wild life spotting.  A service bus can bring you back or check availability of the Hostel minibus. If you’ve got some extra time, rest up in the cafe or hotel bar?

Dalriada Heritage Trail* (11km from the Hostel)

This 20km trail links Carnasserie Castle through Kilmartin Glen and the Moine Mhor National Nature Reserve to Dunadd Fort and on through ancient  oak woodlands to the Crinan Canal and Achnabreac cup and ring marked rocks.  Look out for the numbered waymarkers denoting a podcast stopping point.  For more details visit their page 

Tarbert Castle circular (16km from the Hostel)

This easy loop of 5km excellent and well waymarked walk climbs high to the south of the picturesque fishing village of Tarbert. Wander through the grazing sheep to Robert the Bruce’s castle then further on to numerous eye pleasing views north and south of Loch Fyne. Snack time? Try this place here or this one here

Loch Coille-Bharr & the Beaver Trail (16km from the Hostel)  

An easy 5km loop of Loch Coille Bharr, which includes the Beaver Trail.  We’ve been told the best time to spot beavers is dusk so you might want to eat early?   There’s so much to see it’s a good idea to book a guided walk of the area, click


Castle Dounie and the Crinan Trail* (16km from the Hostel)

Starting from Crinan Harbour, this 7km trails includes a steep climb to an iron age fort and fantastic views of Jura and Mull.  Please be aware that high tidal conditions may cover the first stretch of the trail.

Kilmartin Glen* (20km from the Hostel) 

 A 6km walk Kilmartin Glen will introduce you to an  impressive range of prehistoric standing stones, burial cairns as well as cup and ring markings.  You could spend several hours (or even days) to appreciate the rich history and heritage sprinkled through Kilmartin Glen so it could be a smart move to arrange a guided tour.  click!

Taynish Reserve, near Tayvallich (27km from the Hostel)

A 9km trail will take you through peaceful oak woodlands, saltmarsh and shore. If you’re lucky you might spot red squirrels and even otters.

Skipness Castle (35km from the Hostel)

On this walk of around 4km you’ll see both Skipness Castle as well as the fabulous beach at Skipness Point.  The castle dates back to the 13th century and is always popular as you can explore there’s no entrance fee and climb up the narrow staircase to the roof, where you’ll be treated to wonderful views across the Kilbrannan Sound to Arran. Time for a snack, try the shack!

The Kintyre Way (16k from the Hostel)

This long distance trail can be enjoyed as one journey of 161km  or in 8 separate sections.  It follows the Kintyre peninsula, from Tarbert in the north to Machrihanish in the south.  The narrow peninsula means that the sea is never far away, giving superb views of Jura and Arran, Islay and Gigha, and even Rathlin Island and the Northern Irish mainland in the later stages. See details here

You can start any of the above walks marked with a * straight from the Hostel.  There’s an off road foot path which runs parallel to the Kilberry Road and onto the cycle path (SustransNCN78) which you can follow into Ardrishaig and the start of the Crinan Canal.

Although we’ve tried to share some of the more popular walks here, sometimes the best way to make the most of a particular route is to have a local guide.  We work closely with Heathery Heights so whether you’re on your own or part of a group, it’s worth having a look at the website for more details.

Many of the routes we’ve described are also detailed in leaflets by Forestry and Land Scotland and can be accessed here

To finish up this instalment we wanted to pay tribute to a few of the lone walkers who’ve stayed with us since we opened the Hostel - 

  • Wayne and his dog  Koda; were on a litter picking walk around the UK coastline; 
  • Denise from Quebec loved this area, so Pam gave her a wee tour of Kilmartin Glen, Achnabreac, Dunadd Fort and Carnasserie Castle
  • Octavian from Romania booked for 1 night on his first trip and has returned every year since; 
  • A group from Edinburgh & Glasgow on a Duke Of Edinburgh Award scheme trip had a busy time checking out trails;
  • Asano from Japan, spoke very little English but managed to find his way to the Hostel with the help of a Fort William shop assistant;
  • Our most recent walker was part way through a walking tour of Britain’s coastline….when his tent collapsed!  We were happy to offer him a comfortable night’s sleep!

All these guests were serious about walking and hostelling and we’re keen to build on their experience.


Hostel Warden & Host at Argyll Backpackers

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