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NR 9328.8169 – Auchnaha Cairn is a truly wonderful little spot, with a permeating sense of serenity to it. It’s only a short walk from the roadside, set in a clearing on forestry land, but it feels as if you’ve stepped back in time and are a million miles from anywhere. The walk up to the cairn is a gentle climb through the edge of the woodland. The track is overgrown but the route is incredibly well waymarked, so you won’t get lost. The clearing isn’t hinted at – neither by the landscape nor the waymarkers – and so it’s sprung upon you as a pleasant surprise of sunlight and stones. It’s best to visit when the sun is fairly high in the sky, as the clearing is surrounded by tall trees. And the stones are easier to appreciate outwith the summer months, when the bracken has died back.
The main draw in this area of Cowal, is Kilfinan Church, which is a beautiful church with extensive churchyard and a wonderfully restored gallery of ancient engraved stones. The route to Auchnaha Cairn is approximately 2 miles (3.2km) north of Kilfinan. If you’re staying in Portavadie and visiting Kilfinan on foot or bicycle, then it’s worth taking the extra time to enjoy this peaceful cairn. It’s a pleasant walk on the road to the start of the woodland route, you can find a detailed route guide here.
If you’re staying in Dunoon, then driving is your best bet. You’ll want to park the car at ///awesome.thumbnail.tasks, just make sure to tuck it in as far to the left as you can; this road is actually the driveway for Ballimore House and Ballimore Farm Estate, and there are often timber trucks coming in and out here. After parking the car, head south on foot down the road (B8000).
You can see that the road dips and then climbs again and bears left. The start of the walk to Auchnaha Cairn is just after the dip: walk down the road until you see a stream coming downhill from your left and passing under the road, keep following the road but keep an eye out on your left (to the east) for yellow discs with black arrows, which are nailed to the trees. You’ll find them at ///stirs.reset.masts, they’re not immediately obvious; there’s no path and no sign, so keep your eyes peeled.
It’s no more than a ten minute walk following the trail up the edge of the forest and the plentiful yellow discs. You emerge from the woodland, cross a clearing and clamber over a fallen tree-trunk into the next set wooded area. And all of a sudden there it is: a disordered collection of huge stones that once formed a cairn. The stone of most interest to us is at the north eastern edge of the cairn; the side facing south has a small cross carved into the top. It’s easy to miss, as the stone is covered in lichen and quartz, but spend some quiet time observing, and it will make itself known. There’s also a stone at the western end, which has been carved in elegant curves – the reason is unknown; if you can shed some light, please get in touch.