Walk: That sinking feeling on Cairn Table

East Ayrshire | Muirkirk | Half day walk | ★★

[Ascent to Cairn Table]

It's true: mainland Ayrshire really does have some decent hills. 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, the direct hill path here is marred by seemingly bottomless bogs. The odd duckboard is laughably inadequate, as the photo above shows. The westerly alternative is drier, but if planning a circular route you may as well get the worst bit out of the way first. An interesting quirk is that 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]

📌 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
Summits: Cairn Table (593 m, sub-2000') | Features: Macadam's Cairn
Terrain: Often eroded paths and tracks throughout but some serious bogs: most fine after dry weather but a couple on the ascent probably never dry out. 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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