Barr Na Damh Walk

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Barr Na Damh (171m) is a little hump of a hill that rises up behind Glenan Wood near Portavadie. The walk up to the summit is fairly short and, near the top, steep, but the panoramic pay-off makes it well worth the effort. You’ve a good chance of spotting deer up here.

There’s no clear path up this hill though, so it’s for the adventurous only! You need to be pretty fit too as the rough terrain can make it hard-going. It’s not one for toddlers. This walk is best done in autumn and winter. By summer, when the bracken is up, it’s pretty much impassable.

Start at Glenan Wood car park, directly opposite the entrance to Portavadie Marina and Spa. Once you’ve walked round the locked iron gate, bear right towards a white pole. As you reach it you’ll see another along a wide track between the gorse, 100m or so ahead. When you reach this second pole (before you reach Cuid Oidhche Cottage which is at the end of this track), follow the path to your left up into the woods.

The path climbs steeply at first, and it can be muddy, so take care here. If you look to your left you’ll see the gable end of a ruined cottage down below among the trees. The path winds through lovely native woodland of oak and birch with Barr Na Damh rising above to your right. Continue along this path and after a while you’ll enter a clearing. Up ahead is another white pole. Just before you reach it, if you look up at the mountain you will see an obvious saddle feature on the horizon – this is your best route to the summit.

There is however, no distinct path to follow – unlike in days gone by – but you may be able to pick out a route where deer have trampled down the bracken. In any case, you are basically heading straight up hill from this clearing. Aim for a solitary, solid-looking tree with a wide girth just 20m from the path then pick your way through a stand of trees and you will see another solitary tree, this one a conifer up ahead of you. Aim for it and then carry on up towards the saddle where you will find yet another white pole.

You will need to turn left at this point, heading towards an obvious cairn. The views from here are magnificent but you will soon see that this is a false summit. The true summit is a couple of hundred metres further inland – just another few minutes’ walk – and marked by another, smaller, cairn. The views from here take in more of the hinterland as well as the north end of Bute and the hills above Colintraive beyond.

From the first cairn the seascape is more evident and, arguably, the sweeping panorama which on a clear day enables you to see all the way past Arran to the Ayrshire coast in the south up to the hills of mid-Argyll in the north is the better of the two views. That’s only my opinion though – yours may differ. There’s only one way to find out!

The route back down simply retraces your steps. You can get refreshments at Portavadie.

Just one word of warning. There are ticks in this area, so be ‘tick aware’ and make sure you check yourself after the walk.