Garelochhead - Arrochar

Stage 3

From Garelochhhead to Arrochar and Tarbet: 20.5km, 12.7 miles; ascent about 490m.

The southern two thirds of this section takes you through the Garelochhead military training area, initially on the lightly used tarmac "American Road" and then almost entirely on remote forestry roads and landrover tracks. A short more or less trackless section exists in the middle and you may have to splash across the burn at Tighness. North of Glen Douglas the scenery is outstanding .


  1. "The American Road" services the southern part of the Ministry of Defence's Garelochhead Training Area, which extends from around Strone House in the south to Creagan Sithe in the north. You are welcome to walk through, but do please note that the area is used fairly intensively, so don't be surprised if you meet up with the young trainee soldiers carrying their huge packs and fully kitted out for battle. They will probably be too busy to take much notice of you, but a friendly word of thanks and encouragement costs nothing and will be greatly appreciated.

    Very occasionally the MOD may require to close the training area and prior to walking this section you may wish to check with the training area management. The number to ring is 01436 810369. If the training area is closed, the best alternative route is along the A814 which is very scenic in its own right and generally carries only light traffic. The Three Lochs Way route can then be regained by turning onto the Glen Douglas road at grid ref. 265996. Click here to see MOD web page on safety and access in Military Training Areas.

  2. A higher, unwaymarked, but more scenic alternative loop exists via Tom Buidhe along the forestry road between 247942 and 258964 where the Gurkha Bato starts.
  3. Arrochar and Tarbet have lots of options for accommodation and there is a Visitor Information Centre in Tarbet at grid ref. 318045. Cruise Loch Lomond ferries at Tarbet give access to the West Highland Way at Inversnaid while The Cowal Way can be accessed at Arrochar.





View Ordnance Survey Map

Map files courtesy of Argyll and Bute Council. Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown copyright and database right 2009. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100023368


Beginning at the southern end of the American Road, 261899, spot height 197, simply follow the reassuring HADAT sign posts and waymarkers which make route finding relatively easy through the military training area. The route from Garelochhead starts about half way up Station Road near 242912 where a finger post points the way up a new SUSTRANS path built in 2011. At the roundabout, cross the A814 and follow the Three Lochs Way signs to gain the "American Road" at a gate near 250916.

After a rather bleak and inauspicious start, the American Road soon begins to give outstanding views to the south and west over the huge 'HM Naval Base Clyde' and Garelochhead while to the north west the knobbly outline of the ironically named Argyll's Bowling Green looms up offering a foretaste of the magnificant mountain scenery to come. The pronounced gap in the 'Bowling Green' known as 'The Dukes pass' was indeed used in the past by the Dukes of Argyll when journeying between Inveraray Castle and the royal court in Strirling or Edinburgh. The impressive castle recently featured as 'Duneagles Castle' in a Christmas Day episode of 'Downton Abbey'.

In Glen Malan, around Grid ref. 258964, a very boggy section is now much improved thanks to the men of 70 Gurkha Field Support SQDN who, in 2010, constructed a 200 metre long Gurkha "Bato"(road) here. At the end of the 'bato' turn left and go through the railway underbridge, cross the small wooden bridge next to the soldiers' shelter and, beyond the larch trees, follow the indistinct landrover track north to cross the Glenmalan Burn by the bridge dedicated with a small plaque to Senior Warrant Officer, Dave Markland. Dave did the early project management in connection with the Gurkha Bato, but sadly he was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. With Access Trust volunteers doing a lot of the dismantelling, moving and re-construction work, the bridge, sourced second hand from Argyll and Bute Council, was installed in the Autumn of 2012. Having crossed the bridge, simply follow the track uphill to the main Craggan Hill forest road where you turn right and after about 3km come to Glen Douglas.

Emerging from the northern end of the training area in Glen Douglas near Creagan Sithe, turn 2nd right at grid ref 274002 onto the minor road (careful not to confuse it with the military road which runs parallel to the public road). Within a few metres cross the West Highland railway before turning left onto a gated landrover track. Soon, superb views open up across Loch Long to the "Arrochar Alps" and this is perhaps the most scenic section of the Three Lochs Way. The abandoned and recently excavated 'fermtoun' of High Morelaggan is worth a short detour (signed) down and through the railway sheep creep at grid ref. 278015. Arrochar is reached after 5km and Tarbet after 7.5km.

Near Tighness, about 0.5km south of the church, at grid ref. 295033, the landrover track peters out at the Tighness Burn. 2 large water mains cross the burn here, but we can't recommend that you use them as a means of crossing. You may decide that splashing over instead is safer.

Signposted, access to Arrochar is available near Tighness via a 'sheep creep' under the railway at grid ref. 297035  via a a greatly improved path to Church Road. 

The main route continues along the landrover to Tarbet , which is reached after a further 2.5 km or so. An obvious landmark on the north side of the glen as you approach Tarbet is the old Ballyhennan Church which marks the northern end of this section of the Three Lochs Way.

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Helensburgh and District Access TrustThe Three Lochs Way is managed and maintained by the voluntary efforts of members of Helensburgh & District Access Trust which urgently requires funding for improvements to the route. Find out more on how you can help.