The way from the the summit of Mulloch Hill is, as those familiar with the landscape of Scotland might expect, not an easy skate. Even taking the (more or less) direct line to the long cairn, avoiding Scar Hill and a further cairn to its left. Having said that, matters aren't helped by what appears to be a certain (ahem) amount of conflict between the landowner and militant local walkers (surely not tourists?), judging by several (apparently) 'sledge- hammered' gates and copious use of barbed-wire fences. Hmm. As a result the path is not easy to follow, several 'back-tracks' being required as I come across fences too high to negotiate. Well, at least without damaging you know what. Nevertheless I eventually reach the afforested Craigie and continue to the hill's eastern tree-line, whereby, beyond yet another high, barbed-wire fence, the long cairn is visible to the right. Or is it just a dry stone wall? There's only one way to find out.
In actual fact both scenarios are correct, a dry stone wall abutting - and no doubt constructed from - what to all the world looks like a much disturbed, horned long cairn of significant proportions - albeit with a large chunk removed from its far (southern) flank. Canmore (see Misc post) doesn't appear 100% sure the cairn is kosher - possibly due to the existance of a much less substantial , not to mention grassy and very unconvincing, clearance 'long cairn' sharing the pasture to the north. To be honest I can see no reason at all to doubt a prehistoric origin, particularly since another upstanding example (The Blue Cairn) sits within Balnagowan Woods a little further to the east. But there you are. Wishful, thinking perhaps?
The cairn is located upon an angled, natural ridge - or so it would appear - offering good views towards nearby Braeroddach Loch. The bare, staring windows of Balnacraig Farm, below to the south, are a little off-putting at first.... bearing in mind the apparent landowner/walker conflict in the area. But then that's just me, I guess. Bit of a wuss. Or perhaps worried I might turn into Michael Douglas in 'Falling Down' in the event of someone having too much of a go, you know? In the event, no problem and Balnacraig is a fine early afternoon hang. I decide to return to the car by heading north, towards Scar Hill. A bridge crosses a small burn only to end at a barbed-wire fence. Fortunately persons unknown have covered the offending fence with plastic tape. Which is nice.
Once across, I stumble through woodland, trending west, before picking up a grassy track heading roughly in the same direction. According to the compass, anyway. Sure enough this leads eventually to a gate beside Burnside Farm..... and tarmac. Luckily.
From Scar Hill I climbed down following the fence and shortly found a gate. The path heading east re-appears, keep going until the trees clear on the southern side. Look across the small valley and the long cairn can be seen on the crest of the hill behind some clearence boulders.
This is a very impressive cairn which has seen a lot of damage but it still hangs on. It is some 35 meters in length and 2.5 meters at it's tallest. Even the horns at both ends are large being at least 4 meters in length. the views south are exceptional with the views east focusing on Balnagowan, my next stop.
According to Canmore records Dr J Kenworthy (6 May 1974) had (unspecified) reservations about this being a bona-fide prehistoric long cairn....
'A possible long cairn of bare, tumbled stone with many disturbances, 2.5m in maximum height by 35.0m long including horns, 4.0m long, at the E end. The sides are straight. The forecourt between the horns is c. 16.0m across and appears to have been blocked by boulders in front of where the facade would be expected to lie. The S horn shows disturbance and later walling. The W end is 4.0m - 6.0m wide and 1.35m in maxiumum height. At a point 21.5m from the W end, the cairn narrows and there is a 5.0m x 3.0m bite out of the S side; then there is a minor rise to c. 1.5m and a steep fall to the forecourt. The plan and prrofile (sic) of the cairn suggest two phases of construction.'
For what it's worth, I've never seen a long clearance cairn with horns (incidentally there is a prominent 'bite' taken out of the southern flank, presumably the result of quarrying) so must, on balance of the visual evidence, concur with the OS who (on the latest 1:50K map) have no reservations about Balnacraig's authenticity. Not to mention Drewbhoy.