(scroll to the bottom of the page for map links to Auchnaha Cairn)
2.17 miles | 3.49 kilometers | Quiet Road | Short Woodland Trail
You’d be remiss to visit Kilfinan Church and not take the trip up to Auchnaha Chambered Cairn. This ancient site, preserved in a forest clearing just off the B8000, is only 2 miles up the road from Kilfinan church yet feels so remote and peaceful. Simply follow the B8000 north until the point at which the road dips and crosses a burn. Keep an eye out to the right for a yellow disc with a black arrow, which is the first waymarker on the short, uphill trail through the trees. Once you find the start, there are plenty waymarkers to guide you to the neolithic cairn. The ground underfoot is fair, although in summer you can find yourself battling through bracken, with perhaps some of the arrows obscured by heavy growth.
It’s not strictly necessary to include this site in the South West Cowal Pilgrim Loop, but it is a worthwhile diversion, and won’t add more than 20 minutes to the pilgrim journey between Kilfinan and Kilmodan (unless you stay awhile to bask in the peace and serenity of the place). A keen eye will spot a latin cross carved into one of these ancient stones, and it’s this later addition which warrants the inclusion of this site in our list of Celtic christian pilgrim places in Cowal. As 99% of this route is on tarmac roads, it’s perfectly possible to cycle; though you’ll need to tie your bike off to a tree while you walk the short and narrow trail up to the cairn.
Kilfinan to Auchnaha
After exploring Kilfinan Churchyard, lapidarium, gallery and ante-rooms, don’t forget to sign the visitor book and mention this website. Then, leave the church and turn right through ///cookies.riskiest.amends, heading north along the B8000 road and past the inn. There are various turn-offs as the road wends and climbs, but these are all obvious tangents, and more useful as a way to count down to the point where you must start looking for the cairn trail.
There are five turn-offs to note in total; a residential road on the left at ///charts.anyone.unfolds and another at ///revamping.concluded.enter. Next there are two gravel forestry roads; one on the right near ///swooning.sticking.rashers, and one on the left, further up the hill, near ///buck.hesitate.incorrect. Finally, another forestry track peels off to the left near ///advising.burden.internal. After this point, the road bends ever so slightly right, and dips downhill. The start of the cairn trail is in this dip.
Keep an eye out to your right (east) as the road reaches the lowest point of its dip. It crosses a burn; but if you get to this point you’ve gone too far. You’re looking for a yellow disc with a black arrow, nailed to a tree off the roadside near ///shave.etchings.neon. It can be especially hard to spot in summer time, when the grass, fern and fir are all growing vigorously – but it is there! (In fact, this site is best visited outwith the summer months so you can appreciate it without it being masked by high growth). There’s a ditch at the side of the road, which needs to be crossed, but once over that and under the tree canopy, the waymarkers and the trail are much clearer (///ratty.gliding.teams).
Follow the trail uphill and into a clearing near ///drip.shaky.cupboards. This is another point where verdant summer growth can obscure some of the waymarkers (which are set at ground level due to a lack of trees). Carry on uphill and in a rough easterly direction and you should pick up another marker like the one near ///dislikes.vase.miracle. The route crosses a clearway that runs from north to south between crops of trees. It’s aiming for the corner of the next crop, so bear this in mind in case you arrive at a time when bracken has hidden the trail (as in our photograph from ///browsers.tugging.digs). The next set of waymarkers can be found nailed to those trees, at head height; as seen from ///cape.sometime.symphonic.
The cairn is nearby now; simply follow the waymarkers east through the avenue of trees, cross a fallen tree near ///letters.pulled.clotting, and the clearing opens up to your right near ///saga.formation.spaces. The latin cross can be found carved into a south-facing stone near ///lonely.stormy.simmer, and the majority of the stones are found near ///organist.woven.rocks. This is an ideal spot to stop and rest if you’re in the process of completing the South West Loop.