331 Ballantrae to Girvan

Yesterday it rained heavily and solidly. I couldn’t face walking, and went to look around Culzean Castle instead. Today’s forecast promises sunny intervals and no rain (hooray!), so this morning I catch the bus back to Ballantrae and resume my coastal trek.

01 sea front Ballantrae, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I walk along the sea front, past a dilapidated boat on the grass, past a sign warning me about suicidal cars, and past an old brick pier where one sad and lonely boat is moored.

02 old pier, Ballantrae, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Onwards. Along the beach.

The tide is going out and the sand is gleaming, newly washed. My OS map shows a straight coastline, but my eye shows a curving bay. (I’ve noticed this often happens, and I wonder if it’s an optical illusion? Or is it due to the map makers not keeping up with the changing high tide mark?)

Anyway, straight or curved, I should be able to walk along the beach without interruption until I reach the far headland, Bennane Head.

03 Ballantrae to Bennane Head, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Out to sea is Ailsa Craig: a dramatic volcanic plug, rising over 1,000 feet above the water, and home to thousands of gannets, a few puffins, and the famous granite used for curling stones. You can take a boat trip out to visit the island if you wish, but be warned: due to all the gannets – the whole place stinks!

04 Ailsa Craig and Arran, from Ballantrae Bay, Ruth Livingstone

Nothing smelly about this lovely section of beach. Sand and flat rocks. Easy going.

05 Bennane Head, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

The only other person I see is a farmer with a bevy of collie dogs. About eight or nine – hard to count because they run around like maniacs. Why so many? I wonder if he breeds them? Or trains them?

06 collies on Bennane Lea, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I’ve nearly reached Bennane Head. Unfortunately, the official Ayrshire Coastal Path leaves the beach at this point and follows the A77 for several miles. Shame.

As I get nearer, I realise I can see a track going around the seaward side of the hill… I wonder if it’s worth trying to follow it?

07 Bennane Head, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

But, I have a moderately long walk planned today, and really don’t want to have to turn back, neither do I want to meet an angry farmer, and I particularly don’t want to find myself in a field full of hostile cattle.

By the time I reach the headland, I’ve made up my mind. I’ll stick to the proper path.

Here’s a sign. Cross the A77 and “Follow fence path north for 1500m then re-cross.” Good. That sounds clear enough.

08 A77 crossing, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

But I’m not sure what is meant by a “fence path”. Beside the road is a crash barrier, and no path. Down the slope is a fence, but no path either. Oh well. When Gillian walked this route a few months ago in April, she describes walking just next to the crash barriers, and so this is what I do too.

09 walking along the A77 to Girvan on the Ayrshire Coastal Path

I pull on my high-vis vest. Not the busiest of roads, but the traffic really thunders by, and so it’s not a pleasant walk. And relentlessly uphill to start with.

At one point I manage to get on the other side of a fence where someone seemed to have cleared a path… but only to soon find my way blocked by a bunch of brambles. I’m forced to turn back

10 obstructed verge, A77, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Further along, and the Ayrshire Coastal Path sign indicates I really should walk next to the barbed wire. But the ground is uneven and overgrown with weeds, including thistles, nettles, and brambles.

11 overgrown path, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path to Girvan, A77

So, basically, I stick to whatever clear path I can find by the edge of the road and keep my ears open for traffic, dodging into the longer grass whenever a vehicle approaches.

I’m relieved to come over the brow of the hill. Good, all downhill from here, I hope.

12 A77, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Gillian warns that the road section lasts for 3 miles. I had hoped she was exaggerating, but in fact I think it’s more like 4 miles. It seems to go on and on… but at least you get the occasional splendid view. There’s Carleton Bay ahead.

13 hiking to Lendalfoot, A77, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I soon get used to the whizzing traffic. The roadside grass is short and walking is easy. I fall into the familiar rhythm and drift off into a gentle state of reflection… thinking about writing and whether I should self-publish my novel, or not… and I really want to put together a dossier on dangerous encounters with cattle… and I MUST publish a book on walking the Wales Coast Path (which I finished last year) while it is still fresh in my mind… and wasn’t it nice to meet another coastal walker yesterday – the friendly Kieran Sandwell who is walking the coast to raise money for the British Heart Foundation…

And then something makes me jump into the air – dodge to one side – heart thumping.

It’s an adder. Coiled up and fast asleep in the grass.

14 adder beside the A77, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Yikes! I nearly trod on it!

By the time I get my camera out, the creature is awake. It rears up and we eye each other warily.  Then it slinks off, sliding quickly into a patch of longer grass.

15 adder in the grass, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

This makes the 6th adder I’ve seen on my coastal walk. (I think this one was a female, because it was a brownish colour, but I’m not sure.)

From here onwards I watch my feet carefully. In fact, when given a choice of walking in the long grass or walking in the road… I walk in the road.

16 Ruth Livingstone hiking along the A77 to Lendalfoot

I don’t meet any more adders, but do eventually reach the end of this section of road walking. Just after a holiday park – and past a row of palm trees (very tropical!) – I can head down to the shore.

17 Carleton Bay, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

This is much better! What a beautiful place. The beach is covered in interesting rocks and, with the tide coming in, the views are wonderful.

18 rocky beach, Ruth's coastal walk to Lendalfoot, Ayrshire

I notice a plastic crate washed up on the high tide mark. The writing on its side catches my eye. “STOLEN FROM ROLAND BALLIEUL DUNCANNON”. Makes me smile.

19 Stolen from Roland Baillieul Duncannon, Ruth Livingstone

(In my younger days, the restaurant in London called Borshtch N Tears was THE place to eat. It’s crockery was labelled “Stolen from Borshtch N Tears”. This, of course, seemed like an invitation. I’m sorry to admit it, but I still have a side plate.)

Thinking of restaurants makes me hungry. I perch on a rock and eat my snacks. Then use the same rock to balance my camera. Time for a self-portrait.

20 Ruth Livingstone hiking to Girvan, Ayrshire Coast Path, Scotland

Out to sea, Ailsa Craig is looking magnificent. I take far too many photographs of the rock. Every time I look at it, it seems to have put on a different face.

21 Aisla Craig, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Onwards. My pace slows down because the beach is littered with rocks and I have to pick my way with care. Never mind. Give me rocks over roads any day!

Ahead is Lendalfoot. On my map, the name appears in largish, dark letters, implying it’s a biggish place. It’s not.

22 Lendalfoot, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

At Lendalfoot, the beach is interrupted by a rocky outcrop and some dilapidated sheds. I take to the road again.

23 Ruth walking through Lendalfoot, Scottish coast

Ahead is another curving bay (again, my map shows a straight coastline!) and a high ridge in the distance.

24 Ruth Livingstone walking the coast from Lendalfoot to Girvan, Scotland

I walk along the pavement beside the road until I come to the memorial. It’s a landmark mentioned in several descriptions of the Ayrshire Coastal Walk and was erected in memory of “Archibald Hamilton and Crew” who “were drowned near this place September 11th 1711.”

25 memorial stone, Lendalfoot, Ruth Livingstone waking the cosat of Scotland

[I assumed Archibald Hamilton was the name of a ship, although I later discovered a man called Lord Archibald Hamilton who was both a Royal Navy officer, and an MP, who got involved with Bahamian buccaneers and who had a son called Archibald who died by drowning. But Lord Archibald’s son died in 1744 – according to Wikipedia – which makes the dates wrong.]

The memorial is an important landmark for walkers, because it’s the place where you can rejoin the beach. Hooray!

26 walking to Pinbain Bridge, Ruth Livingstone in Ayrshire, hiking in Scotland

But only for a mile or so. Then the beach comes to an end in a scrumble of rocks. At this point, the Ayrshire Coastal Path crosses the A77 and takes an inland route along a track.

27 Trunk Road Crossing, Pinbain Hill, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

There’s an ominous sign on the gate to the track, warning about sheep with lambs and cattle with calves (oh dear). But the only alternative is to follow the road – and there’s no pavement. I decide I’ll have to risk meeting cows… onwards.

28 warning sign, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

The track curves upwards through what looks like an old quarry. According to the wonderful Gillian’s Walks blog, I’m now following an old coach road.

As I climb higher, I enjoy the views. Here I can look back down towards Lendalfoot, over an interesting landscape of varying textures – striped agricultural pastures, hilly moorland, and rocky curves of the shoreline.

29 view of Lendalfoot from Pinbain Hill, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

My track deteriorates into a rutted route. I pass through gates, keeping an anxious eye out for cattle. So far, so good.

30 track up Pinbain Hill, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Over the shoulder of the hill and the path becomes a proper track again. Below me is the A77 and, despite the fact I’m taking a more inland route, I’m really glad to be up high, away from the traffic, and with wonderful views.

31 Walking towards Ardwell Bay, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path

I’m walking along the slopes of a ridge of high ground, made up of several hills. I pull out my map, because I like to note the features in the landscape as I pass through… but it’s hard to make out where one hill begins and the other ends.

My route takes me past Pinbain Hill, Kilranny Hill, Bellmoor Hill, Lochton Hill, Shiel Hill – all lower sections of a mass with twin peaks made up of Grey Hill (297 metres) and Fell Hill (266 metres).

Ahead is Kilranny radio mast, and a farmhouse.

32 mast and ruined farm, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

The farmhouse is decaying, with a collapsing slate roof, and holes where doors and windows once stood. I stop to take photographs – because I’m slightly obsessed with ruined buildings!

ruined building, Kilranny, Ruth Livingstone

The old farm now stands in a field of sheep. I keep the building on my left, and follow the track downwards.

33 Ruth hiking to Girvan, Ayrshire, Scottish Coast

Near the bottom, knowing I must soon rejoin the A77, I decide to stop for a rest and a snack. To my delight, I discover a pretty waterfall and climb up onto a hillock – displacing several irritated-looking sheep – so that I can sit and admire the tumbling water.

34 waterfall, Ardwell, Ruth hiking to Girvan, Scotland

Feeling refreshed, I continue following the track, and then stumble along the edge of a sheep field, before the path takes me down to the road.

35 rejoin A77, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coast Path, Girvan

This is Ardwell Bay and I’m delighted to discover I can clamber over a barrier of rocks (rip rap sea defences, I presume) and walk along the beach instead.

36 Ardwell, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coast Path, Girvan

I’m falling in love with Ailsa Craig. A permanent fixture on my left, but with constantly changing moods. Never boring. Always beautiful.

37 Aisla Craig, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coast Path, Girvan

And I’m also getting a great view of the Isle of Arran. It’s profile is supposed to look like a sleeping warrior. From this angle… hmm… maybe. With a very small head?

38 beach, Girvan and Isle of Arran, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coast Path

The rocks that cover the beach are dramatic. Long strips and ridges. It almost looks as if a giant has been doing some rather clumsy road building. I’m always in awe of such structures, because I know I’m looking at millennia of geological history laid out in front of me.

39 Rock formation, Girvan, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coast Path

I’m guessing that a huge river once flowed here and these striated layers represent sequential deposits of mud and stones. After that, some gargantuan tectonic force must have tipped the crust over so it now lies sideways, with the layers exposed.

Rocks near Girvan, Scotland, Ruth Livingstone

Of course, I might be completely wrong about the river. I’m no geologist.

This pleasant section takes me a long time to cover, because I’m constantly stopping to take photographs and to just stand and stare. After a while the rocks become more difficult to navigate –  interrupted by little streams and with the tide high – and so I alternate walking on the grassy verge with walking on the shore.

40 A77 into Girvan, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

The final section, as I approach Girvan, I take to pavement-walking alongside the A77. The official Ayrshire Coastal Path sticks closely to the beach instead – but I’m tired!

41 Ruth hiking to Girvan, Scotland, coastal walking

Girvan is a surprisingly large place and with a substantial amount of industry. This approach to the town is pretty, with a wide, flower-covered bank above a shingle beach, and a good promenade/cycle way.

42 promenade, Girvan, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

My car is parked close to what passes for a bus station. It’s a circular turning place at the end of a road called Elder Avenue, and slap bang in the middle of a housing estate.

Miles walked today = 12.5 miles
Total distance around coast = 3,426 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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24 Responses to 331 Ballantrae to Girvan

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth, at Bennane Head you should have stayed on the shoreside track, its the old A77 road and brings you out the other side of the hill. One of the cons of walking on the shore is you might miss something on the road, or vice versa. I purposefully stayed on the raod around Lendalfoot to visit the Varyag memorial, a very interesting story.
    Off tomorrow for two more days, getting close to Oban now.

    • Aha. So I should have tried that track after all. Wonder why the official Ayrshire Coastal Path followed the road? Made me assume there was a problem…
      Hope you have a good trip, Alan. You’re making great progress.

      • Chris Elliott says:

        Hi Ruth – I was told the issue was to do with the owner of the land along the coast, who has not given permission to allow the land through his property and I was told (which may not be true from what Alan says above) that he had deliberately made it hard for walkers to walk the coast. Did you know that the coastal route passes Sawney Bean caves where legend has it a family of 46 used to murder and pickle passers by! However there are no records of the time to support the legend. The legend is almost identical to the Clovelly Cannibals legend in Cornwall and so I suspect the real story is that smugglers put the legend about to scare people away from where they were hiding their booty. Interesting though! Chris

  2. Hi Ruth,
    Shame rain stopped play, but Culzean is a delight. It’s funny – I have still to come across an adder on any walk ever, although I may be so inept at taking in my surroundings that I have passed several by! Anyway, enjoy crossing one of Trump’s golf courses (Turnberry) on the next section!

    Regards, Gemma.

    • Hi Gemma. Shame you’ve never seen an adder. It’s always an amazing – if slightly terrifying – experience when you spot one. I think there’s less chance if walking in a group. But you normally walk alone, don’t you? Yes, Culzean castle was wonderful and Trumpetty Turnberry comes up next!

  3. Hanna says:

    Beautiful and very tempting landscapes!!

  4. jcombe says:

    Stunning photos Ruth, a very spectacular stretch of coast. It does seem to be the case that when trying to walk the coast of Scotland sooner or later you end up on a trunk road. Not pleasant, I’ve had to do a few stretches along the A9 on the east coast. The west coast looks like its really beautiful. I dont know how you do it with the adders. I saw one once on the North Downs Way near Guildfird, but never since.

  5. Jacquie says:

    I love that word ‘scrumble’.

  6. Rachel says:

    Love the self-portrait, not so keen on the adder!!

  7. Ayrshire B&B says:

    Hi. That’s the most comprehensive description of that section that I’ve read. Well done. You were right to follow the guide at the Bennine. Although the old road to the coastal side is still passable it comes to an abrupt halt and you can only proceed further by going through the farm fields which often contain livestock. Good luck on your travels.

    • Thank you for your kind words about my blog post. And thank you for explaining the pitfalls of carrying on along the track around Bennine Head. Useful for other coastal walkers to know. Best wishes.

  8. michael Ceates says:

    For a Girvan local, this is a really nice piece on the local coastline. May use for future reference

  9. Karen White says:

    The view of Carleton Bay is beautiful. The adder you saw, I am fairly sure was a male – I’ve added a link to a photo of a female I took some years ago in a separate comment below (in case your blog privacy settings dump it in the spam box).
    The photo of Ailsa Craig rising up from the sea (the one just before the first view of Lendalfoot) is spectacular, well worthy of printing and hanging.
    So many fabulous views and great images of the rock formations. What a wonderful day’s walking.

  10. Karen White says:

    The adder photo link I mentioned.

    close encounter of the adder kind

  11. jcombe says:

    I did this walk today and managed to do a fair bit along the beach, but like you I stuck to the road over the first hill and gave up with the path and stuck to the verge or edge of the road. However where you took the high road and official coast path, I decided to stick to the A77 as it was closer to the coast. Mostly a verge but a few bits where the road was hemmed in, with cliffs on one side and crash barrier on the other but fortunately not too much traffic. I can see why the official path takes the high road though, away from the traffic. I was lucky the tide was out most of the day though, so could stick to the beach most of the rest of the way.

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