Walk of the week: Dun Na Cuaiche, Inveraray

DUN NA CUAICHE, INVERARAYTHIS is a great, short, steep walk up to an 18th-century watchtower above Loch Fyne, offering stunning views. It will get the blood pumping but can be muddy so boots are needed as well as water and snacks. You are going up relatively high so remember also to take a spare sweater and waterproof.

This waymarked route, following blue arrows, starts in the shadow of Inveraray Castle – the neo-Gothic pile that is the ancestral home to the dukes of Argyll. After turning away from this and crossing an ornamental bridge over the River Aray, a steep climb begins. It is hard going all the way up to a clearing, but the effort is worth it for the amazing view at the top of Dun na Cuaiche, down Loch Fyne and across Argyll. To the east you can see the Arrochar Alps. From the watchtower you also get a bird's-eye view back down to the castle.

There is an alternative descent (explained later) that means you don't have to retrace your steps, although it is a little more arduous, over a path that is overgrown and rough in parts and can be difficult to navigate. If you just want a very simple stroll, it is probably best to return the way you came.

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With the alternative descent, however, you do get a different perspective on the hill you have just climbed, especially lower down, where the woodland is thinner. And when you reach a picnic table at the bottom of the hill, there is a great view of the castle to be enjoyed before returning to the start via a track above fields and the River Aray.

DISTANCE: 2 miles.


TIME: 2-3 hours.

MAP: OS Landranger 56.

PARKING: At Inveraray Castle – even when the castle is closed during winter you are able to use the car park.

IN SUMMARY: Go to the far end of the car park, through a gap in a beech hedge on the right, then left along a drive that takes you away from the castle. Cross a bridge and on the other side leave the drive to follow a path up into woodland on the right, ignoring a track further round to the right.

On reaching the edge of the woodland, go through a kissing gate and straight across an open patch of ground about 100 yards wide. Go through a gate on the other side and follow a track up into more woodland, bearing right at a blue arrow.

Follow the track in a roughly straight line, steeply uphill, then round to the right – almost doubling back. You then swing round to the left as the track levels off, before going right after a patch of open ground to follow a path that zigzags up to the top of Dun na Cuaiche and its watchtower.

Return the way you came or, for an alternative descent, follow the zigzag section back to the open ground below the top, then go right on a muddy path, through reeds and grass with birch beyond. The path drops steeply through increasingly mixed woodland, past a marker post with the number 15 on it (ignore a path on the right here – it is closed at the moment anyway).

Go right at a clearing, down a track, and after only about 100 yards, go left along a small grass path that almost doubles back. This passes an upturned tree root that has been fenced off, then goes down through thinning woodland to a track and a waymarker with the number 18 on it. You should go right here, along a track.

Walk along the top of a field, then through more woodland to reach the bridge crossed at the start. Go left to re-cross it and return to the car park.

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REFRESHMENTS: There are quite a few places to choose from in Inveraray, but for a little bit extra you could head up the A83 to the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar.

WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA: The castle is now closed for the winter, but it is worth spending a little time in the town below. There you will find Inveraray Jail (01499 302381, www.inverarayjail.co.uk), an extremely popular tourist destination where all aspects of incarceration can be learned (and experienced).

At the town's pier, you will find the Inveraray Maritime Experience (01499 302213, www.inveraraypier.com), where the history of the Clyde's sea-going vessels is demonstrated and explained.

• This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday on 08/11/09