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NR 9328.8169 – Auchnaha Cairn is a truly wonderful little spot, with a permeating sense of serenity to it. Set in a clearing on forestry land only a short walk from the roadside, 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. The stones are easier to appreciate outwith the summer months, when the bracken has died back, so a spring or autumn morning will be ideal.
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 along a quiet road to reach 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 large vehicles often come in and out here. After parking the car, head south on foot down the road (B8000).
You’ll 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 pathway and no sign, so keep your eyes peeled.
It’s no more than a ten minute walk following the trail and the plentiful yellow discs uphill along the edge of the forest. You emerge from the woodland, cross a clearing, then clamber over a fallen tree-trunk into the next wooded area. Pass through a final set of disc markers, 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 array; the south-facing side has a small Latin cross carved near 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.