Walk: That sinking feeling on Cairn Table

East Ayrshire | Muirkirk | Half day walk | ★★

[Ascent to Cairn Table]

Mainland Ayrshire has a reputation for being quite a flat county, but Cairn Table reaches nearly 600 metres above sea level, giving excellent views over southwest Scotland and as far as Galloway, Arran and even Ben Lomond in clear conditions. Broad, heathery slopes, isolation from other high hills and massive summit cairns make the summit comparable to Tinto (visible to the east), but here the similarities end. Unlike Tinto, Cairn Table's slopes are pockmarked by seemingly bottomless bogs. Until recently, the odd duckboard placed along the path were laughably inadequate, but we hear that recent improvements have eliminated the wettest sections. The westerly return is drier and has an interesting quirk; the last leg passes the ruined residence of Springhill: once belonging to local entrepreneur John Loudon MacAdam, a pioneer of tarmac (short for Tarmacadam). The track here comprises some of his early road surfacing experiments in the 1700s. If only he'd concentrated his efforts on the hill path!

[Higher up the path is eroded but much drier underfoot, with good views over Muirkirk]

đź“Ś Walk: That sinking feeling on Cairn Table ★★
Start / finish at car park on minor road 1 mi south of Muirkirk, G.R.: NS 696265 ///losing.liked.outbound

▶ 9 km / 6 mi | ▲ 350 m | ⌚ Half a day | Tough
Features: △ Cairn Table (593 m, sub-2000'); Macadam's Cairn
Terrain: Often eroded paths and tracks, with the boggiest sections now mostly avoidable. Going improves high up, and for return track.

Route & map

Car park - The Steel - Cairn Table - return to path junction at G.R.: NS 718245 - Garpel Water - Macadam's Cairn - start. Route marked in red on the map at the car park.

Route credit: Walkhighlands

On our visit

Wildlife: Lots of sheep lower down, especially on descent.
Weather: Slightly hazy sunshine, although with a cool breeze and temperatures in single figures.

[The line of ascent (middle right) seen from the return route]

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