It’s a dull day and rain is forecast this afternoon. I’m walking from Girvan to Maidens, and hope to be there by lunch time… just in time to avoid getting wet. (I should have known better. My walks never go to plan!)
Before I set off, I take a few photos of Ailsa Craig. Irresistible.
The seafront at Girvan is practically deserted on this dismal day. Only a few dog walkers and the occasional jogger.
The brightest thing about this stretch are the jolly markers at each 100m way point.
I reach the pier at the entrance to Girvan’s harbour. You can’t walk along the pier, unfortunately. Time to turn inland.
The harbour is a surprise. I wasn’t expecting to see so many working boats here, after passing through numerous half-dead ports on my walk along the Scottish coast. But this is a bustling place.
I walk up the river, which is lined with houses, boatyards, storage yards… and then climb the steps to walk along the road.
I cross over the river (called the Water of Girvan – love these pompous names!) along a rather ugly concrete bridge.
This area, on the northern side of the harbour, is an odd mix of warehouses, deserted quays, a lumbar yard, tumbledown buildings, and a few residential houses.
Just past a coastguard station, a mother and a little girl are studying some information signs beside a park. I can’t take a photograph (because of the child) but the signs say something about a fairy trail. I think that sounds exciting, but the little girl seems unimpressed.
Through the harbour’s narrow entrance is the silhouette of a familiar friend – Ailsa Craig. I will lose sight of the island shortly, as the weather closes in.
I walk along the shore until I reach the beginning of Girvan’s golf course. There is a fence and no footpath through the links, so I follow signs inland, where a minor road runs between the greens of the golf course.
At a T junction I turn left and follow another minor road towards the shore.
I pass a field where a bull is having a companionable chat with a couple of his cows. They break off their conversation to watch me walk past and I’m aware of the flimsy fence between us. Any of those beasts could knock that down in a few seconds… but they only stare.
I’m approaching a farm called Girvan Mains. Love the rusty sign.
I also enjoy walking through farmyards. This one has a polite notice asking walkers on the Ayrshire Coastal Path to be quiet and avoid distressing the animals. I feel I ought to tiptoe and walk as softly as I can… but still manage to attract the attention of a barn full of cows.
Poor things. They must be bored.
Despite my fear of cattle, I would rather see them roaming the fields than locked away. The modern tendency to rear cattle in sheds is absolutely deplorable, in my opinion. (Not that I’m suggesting the cattle in Girvan Mains are shed-reared. They might be temporarily inside for a very good reason.)
Beyond the farm, the road continues up towards a group of houses. A woman seems to be scavenging for something in a field that has just been harvested.
As I get closer, I see there are thousands of broken carrots scattered across the upturned earth. That’s another deplorable thing about modern farming – the waste of perfectly good food that comes with automation!
Further along, the track runs parallel to the shore, but I can’t see much of the sea because of a band of vegetation. I reach a “water treatment works”. That’s a euphemism, of course, for a sewage plant. They certainly take safety very seriously… so many signs! No smell of sewage.
An old rabbit stands shivering in a nearby puddle. I expect it to run away at any moment, but it only stops to sniff the air in my direction and then paddles slowly onwards. It seems confused by the water around its paws.
I guess it might be ill, probably blind. Poor thing.
A short while later I come across a smouldering pile of rubbish. Is this an illegal tip? Or has the landowner been clearing away scrap and driftwood? Anyway, it stinks of chemicals – burnt rubber or plastic. Much worse than the sewage plant!
I’m glad to reach a point where I can leave the track and walk along the edge of the shore.
I’ve been following the official Ayrshire Coastal Path, of course. Here’s one of their signposts with the lovely logo.
It begins to spot with rain. The bad weather has arrived early. Damn it!
I pull out my jacket, stow my camera and phone away, fasten a cover over my rucksack, and wish I had my umbrella. But the forecast was for reasonably strong winds and so I didn’t bring it with me today.
No photographs are possible for a mile or so, until the rain eases off. A sign tells me there’s a diversion path beyond some cottages, a path which I should only use if the tide is high.
Here are the cottages. But the shore is rocky and covered in slimy seaweed. Despite the tide being out, I decide it’s too dangerous and so, after rambling around for a bit, I make my way along the edge of the field instead.
I’m soon back on the shore, but the rain starts up again. My camera goes back inside my rucksack.
Onwards. I actually enjoy this part of the walk, despite the weather. With the wind behind me, I don’t have to battle with rain in my face. The beach is empty, the air fresh, and I’m totally alone with nobody else around.
I’m keeping an eye out for Kieran Sandwell, a fellow coastal walker who I met a couple of days ago in Ayr. He’s walking anticlockwise, raising money for the British Heart Foundation: A Trail of Two Hearts. We worked out our paths should cross today. He’ll be walking with rain blowing into his face, so his experience will be much more unpleasant than mine.
I reach a place where a shallow river runs across the beach. On the other side is an industrial complex.
Officially, the Ayrshire Coastal Path turns inland at this point to cross a bridge over the river (at a place called Dipple), and doesn’t rejoin the shore for some distance beyond the industrial site. But I decide to stick to the coast and wade across the river. My socks get a little damp – these boots are no longer as waterproof as they once were – but by now everything I’m wearing is a little damp anyway, and I don’t care.
From this point onwards, I only take occasional photos. To be honest, the weather is too dull for decent views and the beach is pretty featureless. It does have some interesting sandstone rock formations…
…but otherwise there’s only coarse sand, pebbles, and small boulders of grey granite. Oh, and the very occasional piece of driftwood.
Out to sea is some kind of buoy. A warning marker. I know the offshore area is littered with rocks – Lewis Isle, Balkenna Isle, Brest Rocks, Connacharrie Rock – treacherous when hidden beneath the incoming tide.
I’ve reached a place called Turnberry Bay. Just inland, visible between the dunes that line the shore, is the village of Turnberry.
A little further on and I’ll come to the Turnberry golf course, owned by Donald Trump, and here the Ayrshire Coastal Path heads inland again.
Where’s Kieran? It’s nearly 1:30 pm and he told me he would be passing through Maidens at lunch time. Perhaps he hasn’t got this far yet? Or maybe I missed him – he might have followed the road instead of the shore route past the industrial complex.
I note several tracks of footprints across the sands. Not Kieran’s, because he would be coming towards me.
Soon I’m walking past the hotel and the residences of the Turnberry golf resort. They gleam white against the dark skies. I saw the resort earlier in the car on my way to Girvan. Pretty impressive – but out of place in Scotland. More like a Mediterranean resort, or Las Vegas.
Aha. There are definitely figures ahead. Bright coloured. Maybe it’s Kieran walking towards me with a group of supporters? I know he uses a tracking app and you can follow his live progress. This means he is occasionally joined by well-wishers, and other random people.
But, as I get closer, the brightly coloured figures turn out to be a group of young people plodding in the same direction along the beach. Carrying enormous rucksacks. They must be taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.
Poor things. In this bad weather! And bet they’re camping too. But why such enormous rucksacks?
[I often wonder if the Duke of Ed scheme actually puts young people off activities such as long-distance walking. The ones I’ve met always look miserable!]
The youngsters are helping each other wade across a stream. This involves much holding of hands and staggering about. To avoid them, I head out towards the waves and splash through the same stream where, as usual, it runs shallower as it approaches the sea (handy tip, here, for any future D of E expeditionists!).
Walking on a firm sandbank, I soon overtake the students, who are struggling to walk on the soft sand at the top of the beach. Overtaking anybody is a rare event for me! (Here’s another tip: the sand is usually firmer nearer the sea.)
Ahead is a low piece of land – Turnberry Point with its lighthouse.
Closer to Turnberry Point and the light is very dull, but at least it’s stopped raining. I take photographs of the rippled sands. Love the patterns. Love beach walking.
On Turnberry Head there’s a warning sign. Or is it a welcome sign? Anyway, I mustn’t disturb a rare breed of nesting birds… no… hang on… I mustn’t disturb the golfers!
I climb up onto the point and take a photo looking back along the beach and the curve of Turnberry Bay. Catch sight of the Duke of Ed students coming up the slope behind me… bent under their rucksacks they look like a row of brightly coloured turtles.
Onwards. Quickly. I feel an illogically strong urge NOT to be overtaken by the young people and pick up my pace.
I don’t know anything about golf, and have never felt any desire to play it. I just don’t get the point and it seems much too serious. As Mark Twain once said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” (Or, perhaps, somebody else said this, according to Quote Investigator.)
Anyway, despite my total ignorance of the rules of golf, not to mention my unfriendly feelings about Donald Trump, I must admit this is an utterly glorious golf course. The greens are immaculate, the setting is stunning, and the layout is beautiful.
I admit this grudgingly. Trump has a hostile attitude to walkers, and a woman walker was prosecuted in 2016 after Turnberry staff filmed her having a private pee, using their mobile phones. With this in mind, I made sure I had an empty bladder before setting out across the course.
[You can read about the case in various places, but this report in the Guardian is a good place to start: Sheriff attacks Trump golf course complaint about woman urinating.]
The lighthouse looks gorgeous too. Lucky golfers.
The beginning of the path through the course is a little vague – you have to look out for the Ayrshire Coast Path signposts. I turn back and see some of the Duke of Ed students are being directed along the right route by a golfer.
The path soon becomes a track. Easy walking.
I meet a few other walkers. Strollers. Older couples, carrying umbrellas. And then I approach the end (or the beginning) of the track and see a parked van.
The van turns out to be an official Turnberry vehicle. Why is it there? I can only think it’s some kind of check point, manned by a skinny guy in his sixties (I guess) and dressed in a full Scottish outfit – kilt, sporran, and sash thing across his shoulder. He greets me very politely… but there’s no doubting his function. He’s a security guard.
I would like to take his photograph, but feel a little intimidated. Later I regret not asking. I’m sure he would have posed proudly.
[Later, I also realise that the Turnberry resort consists of not one but THREE golf courses. Eric Trump (Donald’s son) officially opened one of the revamped courses – now called the Robert the Bruce course – just a few days ago. It was, as you might expect, the usual restrained affair… according to the Telegraph!]
Back on the public highway, I turn left and head towards Maidens.
I pass the bus stop where I caught the bus this morning and come over the brow of the hill. Maidenhead Bay is ahead.
Maidens is a pretty village, but no place looks its best in dismal weather. In fact, with the tide out, the marina seems a sorry mess of mud, discarded industrial equipment, and a wrecked boat.
I ignore warning signs, and walk across the
sand mud of Maidenhead Bay.
On the far side is a village-shop-post-office-café. A tiny place, but in a glass-windowed annex they serve cooked food all day. Hooray! I order myself an omelette and a cup of tea.
While I’m eating, the rain begins to hammer down. Torrential.
After a while, concerned for his safety, I send a WhatsApp message to Kieran. ‘Do you need rescuing? I have my car.’ He’s fine. We missed each other – somehow – and he has already ended his walk and caught the bus back to Ayr.
Miles walked today = 10.5 miles
Total distance around coast = 3,436.5 miles