333 Maidens to Dunure to Ayr

I set off from Maidens in good spirits. I’m looking forward to today’s walk. I should reach Ayr by the end of the afternoon. Even the sight of a holiday park filled with static caravans doesn’t dampen my good mood.

01 Maidenhead Bay, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

There’s a host of jelly fish washed up on the beach today. I’m sad to see them dying on the sands, but I’m always intrigued by their inner markings. This one has pretty baby-pink coils.

02 jelly fish on beach Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

Ailsa Craig is looking good, a brooding hump across a metal-grey sea.

03 Ailsa Craig from Maidens beach, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

My map shows the Ayrshire Coastal Path turning inland somewhere just after the last house along bay. But I follow a woman walking with her dog – who seems to know where she’s going – and continue until I reach the rocky outcrop at the end of the beach (Barwhin Point). A path of wooden slats takes me up Barwhin Hill.

04 steps up Barwhin Hill, Ruth hiking through Culzean, Scotland

At the top I stop to catch my breath and admire the views. The breeze is fresh and that means the clouds are constantly changing. Makes for great seascapes.

05 Ailsa Craig from Culzean, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

There are no signs telling me where I am, but I know I must be in the grounds of Culzean Castle, once the home of the Marquess of Ailsa. I visited the stately house a couple of day ago, in the pouring rain. I enjoyed looking round the house, but the gardens were too wet to walk around. So I’m glad of a second chance to see the place.

I walk through woodlands.

06 woodland walk, Culzean Castle, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

A large stretch of water must be “Swan Pond”. I noticed it on the map. There are no swans here today, but a mass of lily pads, and billions of insects dancing just above the water. Midges?

07 Swan Pond, Culzean Castle, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

Luckily, despite the fearsome reputation of Scottish midges, I haven’t been troubled by them. Not so far, anyway.

I continue walking through the woods, sticking as close to the sea as I can. Too close – because I end up going down to the boat house, which turns out to be a dead-end, and I have to climb back up the cliff again.

Here I begin to meet groups of other walkers. Strollers, not hikers. Just visiting the castle I assume. And, there it is, straight ahead.

08 walkers, Culzean Castle, Ruth Livingstone hiking the coast in Scotland

It looks very different from my visit a couple of days ago, when I splashed my way to the entrance with my umbrella turning inside out in the wind. Good to see it in the dry.

09 Culzean Castle, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

Opposite the castle is a tower and what I think was once the stable block. Now a gallery and a café. But it’s too early to stop…

10 Gate house Culzean Castle, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

… I walk out through the archway and down towards the shore. Culzean Bay is ahead. The building with the tall tower (in the centre of the photo below) is the “Gas House”. Yes, Culzean Castle was once fitted with gas lamps – a very sophisticated innovation in its day – and the estate actually manufactured its own gas.

11 Culzean Castle gas house, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scottish Coast

The gas was produced from coal, brought directly to this beach. The 3rd Marquess refused to allow electricity to be installed. Apparently, he thought it was far too dangerous! Better to use explosive gas, of course.

On the way down, I meet a couple of long-distance walkers, a couple in their 70s I think. They look exhausted. I would like to chat about the walk ahead, but they look too tired to speak.

The beach is rocky and, after I leave a few strollers behind, very quiet.

12 Culzean Bay, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, to Ayr

The only downside is the amount of washed up seaweed strewn about. It is slippery underfoot, and gives way beneath my boots in an alarming fashion. Decomposing and smelly. Mounds of the stuff. Yuck.

Towards the end of the bay the beach is clearer and cleaner. Here is another collection of tin boxes. Croy Burnfoot holiday park.

13 holiday park, Burnfoot, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, to Ayr

A few families strolling about. Some children – wrapped up in warm clothing – are building sandcastles at the top of the beach.

I turn to look back at the castle. The light is gloomy, but I manage to take an almost-decent shot with my telephoto lens. The castle is set low on the cliff…

15 Culzean Castle from Culzean Bay, Ruth livingstone

… and it’s worth comparing this real view (above) with the far more dramatic version that appears in paintings such as this one by John Mogford.

Onwards. I leave the holiday park behind and walk towards a line of rocks. Isle Port, according to my map.

16 Katie Gray's Rocks, Ruth walking to Ayr

The path disappears. I wander among the rocks for a time, but can’t see a way through. I backtrack and finally spot a trail leading up an overgrown slope. That must be the official Ayrshire Coastal Path, but its exit from the beach is cunningly hidden behind a fallen tree trunk.

Up the slope I go, fighting through bracken. The path is much clearer at the top.

17 cliff path,Ruth walking the coast of Scotland, to Ayr

I walk over the cliffs, around the edge of fields. The path dips down to cross a stream, passes through an area of woodland, and takes me back among the grasses.

Although the views are pleasant, I can feel my hay fever beginning to play up. Thought I had escaped the worst of the grass pollen because the season is past its peak in England. But (sneeze) perhaps the pollen comes out a week or two later in Scotland (sniffle), because this is no joke (sneeze again).

Ahead is a strange tower. How exciting…

18 Ayrshire Coast Path, Ruth Livingstone

…no, not really. Just an abandoned watch tower. Concrete hut on top of a brick stalk. Ugly. Not very old either. Onwards.

Above the tower, I stop for another photograph of Ailsa Craig. And to give my itching eyes a quick rub. Hay fever is such a miserable condition.

19 watchtower and Ailse Craig, Ruth hiking the coast, Scotland

The path continues around the edge of the field and then… ah, that must be Dunure ahead. I can see houses and a ruined castle overlooking the shore.

20 walking into Dunure, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

I approach Dunure through a park, with picnic benches and barbecue sites, and take several photographs of the castle. It might not be as impressive as Culzean, but it’s good enough for me. A proper ruined fortification. Love it.

21 Dunure Castle, Ruth hiking the Scottish coast, Ayrshire

Once an Earl entertained Mary Queen of Scots in the castle. The same Earl also roasted an Abbot on the fire, forcing him to hand over his lands. What a thug.

A nearby information board informs me that “Charles Rennie Mackintosh was here”. Makes a change from the usual “Robbie Burns was here” boasts.

22 Rennie Mackintosh was here

Dunure has a pretty little harbour. I stop for lunch in a bright little café,  next to the pub and overlooking the water.

23 Dunure Harbour, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

After a good lunch, I’m half tempted to catch the bus back to Ayr (really, I’m getting quite lazy these days!). But it’s not much further to walk. Onwards.

I make the mistake of walking up the road, and only realise I’ve gone wrong after I’ve climbed some distance up a hill. I turn round and walk back. Realise I’ve left my camera on a fence post at the top of the hill. Walk back to retrieve it. (No, I really didn’t have any alcohol with my lunch… I swear.)

Eventually I work out where the path goes. It just continues along the beach on the other side of the harbour, past a sign that says ‘Private’!

24 leaving Dunure, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path

What follows is one of the toughest sections of the Ayrshire Coastal Path so far. (If I’d realised, I might have caught the bus after all.) But it’s very enjoyable.

I walk along the top of the shore, through rocks and grassland, wheezing and sneezing with hay fever.

25 Rocky path, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

The footpath is a bit vague in places. I’m reminded the official website says this is a “practical ‘route’ rather than a formal laid-out path”. But, after a while, I work out that white paint splashes have been used to show the best way to go… through this rocky cleft, for example.

26 white spots mark the way, Ruth Livingstone

I’m back on the top of the low cliffs, walking through fields of grass(sneeze). There are cows here too, but they keep their distance.

27 Ruth Livingstone hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path from Dunnure

The landscape if full of hills and hollows, and outcrops of rocks. The grass is crossed by sheep and cattle tracks, so it’s not clear where the proper footpath runs. Sometimes it’s a game of “spot the white paint”, sometimes of “spot the gate”.

28 Ruth walking from Dunure to Ayr, Scotland Coast

I walk through long grass, clamber up and down slopes and get scratched by giant hog weed (ouch) as I try to navigate my way over a stream. If there was a plank bridge here, it no longer exists now.

Pleased to be heading back to the shore again, I slip and slide down a slope where the path seems to function as the route of a stream (mud galore). When I reach the rocky beach, I play the game of “spot the splotches”. Difficult, because I sometimes confuse pale patches of lichen with white paint marks.

29 rocky shore, Ruth walking the coast of Scotland

I come across a pretty waterfall. This is marked on my map, and so I have a chance to get my bearings. Crikey, I’ve been walking for 45 minutes and only covered just over one mile.

30 waterfalls near Drumbain, Ruth hiking the coast path to Ayr

Trying to speed up, I pick my way over grass and rocks beside the sea. The cliff in front has no name, but I know the path goes up the slope before I reach it. Mustn’t miss the turning…

31 Ruth Livingstone hiking the coast from Dunure to Ayr

Here it is. Not too hard to spot, although not too easy either. And I’m relieved to see the Ayrshire Path volunteers have put some steps in place. It would be a steep scramble otherwise. Not so pleased, however, to see somebody has used this isolated spot as a rubbish tip.

32 steps up the cliff, Ruth hiking to Ayr, Scotland's coast

Onwards. At the top of the slope I pass through a gate and into fields of sheep. Official Ayrshire Path signs tell me to stick to the path around the edges of the fields, but there are also white-painted stones that indicate a more direct route across the grass.

33 Ruth's coastal walk, Ayrshire

Since my hay fever is now if full swing – and I’m rapidly running out of tissues – I take the direct route.

I reach a section of path that follows the route of a disused railway line. This is lovely, running on a ridge above the surrounding countryside, and with great views.

34 old railway line to Heads of Ayr, Ruth trekking in Scotland

That’s Bracken Bay below, where I should rejoin the shore and walk around under the cliffs of the headland – called Heads of Ayr. The town is just beyond the headland.

But… uh,oh… it looks like the tide is pretty high already and coming in fast. Will I be able to make it round before the headland is cut off?

35 Heads of Ayr, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path

I should be hurrying, but I spot this wonderful sycamore tree. Never seen such vibrantly pink sycamore ‘helicopters’ before. Of course, I MUST stop and take photographs.

36 red sycamore wings, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

The railway embankment is interrupted at a place where I presume there was once a bridge. It’s gone now.

37 disused railway line to Heads of Ayr, Ruth hiking in Scotland

I climb down off the embankment and wander around a field. Eventually I realise the path actually follows the second part of the ridge… if only it was signed!

Past the edge of a large holiday camp, I join a track. Signs warn me that the Ayrshire Coastal Path might be impassable at high tide. I check my watch. Oh dear. Only 90 minutes until high tide.

Picking up speed, I follow the track until I have a view down to Bracken Bay. Hmmm. Looks like there is plenty of room to get around the headland… but after that there’s another three miles until I reach Ayr… and I can’t see around the corner.

38 high tide, Heads of Ayr, Ruth hiking the coast path

I waste 10 minutes dithering. In the end, I decide to head back to the road and catch the bus. The section around the Heads of Ayr looks beautiful, and I don’t want to rush it. Nor do I want to get trapped. I’ll save it for tomorrow.

Back past the holiday park, I follow the access lane up towards the main road. An elderly couple, complete with shopping bags, are walking towards me. Damn! They must have got off the bus. I’ve obviously just missed it.

39 walking to the road, Ruth's coastal hike, Scotland

When I get to the stop, I realise there’s an hour to wait until the next one. Should I sit and wait, or start walking towards Ayr?

I sniff and sneeze. Late afternoon is the worst time for hay fever, and I’ve only got one dry tissue left. There’s nowhere to sit, apart from the grassy verge. I can almost feel the pollen lying in wait for me…

Just then, a couple of walkers march past. I don’t know where they’ve come from, but they look serious, with proper walking shoes and rucksacks. That spurs me into action. The road has no pavement, but if I follow behind them, I should be ok.

We haven’t gone very far, when the bus whizzes past! Just enough time to swing my camera up and take a photograph of it disappearing over the brow of the hill.

40 road-walking into Ayr, Ruth Livingstone

I could have guessed the bus would be late. Should have waited. Now I’ve really missed it!

The rest of the walk is a frustrating march along the road – a road almost entirely empty of bus stops – until I reach the outskirts of Ayr. Here I find buses going to all sorts of places, and spend another frustrating half hour hunting around until I finally manage to find a bus that’s heading into the centre of town. What a frustrating end to a wonderful day!

Additional info:

  • You can book a hotel room in Culzean Castle and stay in a suite once used by General Eisenhower, given to him as a gift by the family for his role in helping us win WW2. Looks luxurious, and a bit pricey.
  • Read all about the infamous Earl who roasted the Abbot in Dunure Castle on the Maybole website.
  • My quick brush with giant hogweed caused a nasty weal that lasted a week. It’s horrible stuff.


Miles today = 14 miles ( 12 along the coast, 2 along that stupid road!)
Miles in total = 3,450.5 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
This entry was posted in 20 Ayrshire and Arran and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to 333 Maidens to Dunure to Ayr

  1. Hi Ruth,
    Yes, this is one section of the Ayrshire Coastal Path that you must get the tide right on!
    When I did this and the next section of path, I was having to step gingerly to avoid stepping in one of the multitude of jellyfish that appear to have commited suicide on the beach – I have never seen such carnage elsewhere!

  2. jcombe says:

    Parts of the Fife coast path are also tidal. I remember helpful signs such as “If the tide is in, wait for the tide to receed”! I do like that they’ve marked parts of the route of the Ayrshire coastal path with paint spoldges on rocks etc. You see that very often abroad and it seems to work so much better because they usually do it so that you can always see at least one “splodge” ahead. It seems to work much better than the British approach of putting arrows on posts (or erecting posts just so you can attach an arrow to them!). It must surely be cheaper too. A pot of paint will go a long way!

    I loved this comment “Apparently, he thought it was far too dangerous! Better to use explosive gas, of course.”. Made me laugh.

    Glad your camera was still there. I remember my dad accidently left his camera on a bench somewhere in Dorset (up on the hills above Swanage I think). He remembered when we had driven a couple of miles down the road, so we drove straight back and walked back to the bench, but someone had taken it. He was moritifed. I’m glad the people in Scotland are more honest.

    • Yes, I quite like the paint idea – once I realised what was going on. But the patches of paint were sometimes hard to spot. Can imagine how upset your father was to lose his camera. I was cross with myself for leaving it behind – I always walk with it in one hand, so no excuse for forgetting it,

  3. Chris Elliott says:

    Shame about the tide – there is actually a route along the beach which in the Ayrshire Coastal Path book they describe as only suitable for the fit and agile. It is a bit of a scramble but you would have managed it easily. It avoids the horrid road. But in your case it would not have been possible with the tide in. I had the same issue walking from Culzean Castle to Dunure where I had to walk miles inland to get around a beach section where the tide was in. From memory I think you are passed the tidal dependent bits now. Chris

  4. By the way one other thing – your photograph at the top of the page (your header) – I presume this is of Dunure Castle (???). I think it is a fabulous photograph – I spent ages trying to find a good angle to get a photograph of the castle and couldn’t manage it due to the nearby car park and wheelie bins. Wish I had been able to take one as nice as yours! Chris

  5. Rachel says:

    Sounds like a frustrating end to the day. I don’t much like the look of the jellyfish or the smelly seaweed! Hope you don’t continue to suffer with hayfever too much.

  6. jcombe says:

    I did this walk on Saturday. I’ve decided that going to the Highlands is just too far for a weekend which is all the time I can spare (no leave left this year) but I can just about do the lowlands of Scotland for a weekend so I’ve started some walks on this part of the coast too. So I headed to Ayr this weekend where I stayed.

    I was a bit surprised by the state of this “path”. I assumed being a proper marked trail it would be a bit easier but as you point out so much of it is along beach with no proper path and that stream with the waterfalll to cross! Still it was lovely despite being harder than expected.

    I did this walk in the other direction. That meant that at the end of the beach in Ayr I had to get around on the beach at Greenan Castle. Unfortunately whilst the tide was out the *entire* beach was about 1foot thick stinky rotting sea weed. So I had to wade through that and get wet feet. Not good. But a lovely walk despite that. I didn’t get time to visit the castle (though I’d love to come back) but even as it was I only just made it to Maidens before dark, as the difficult terrain meant it took longer than expected.

    A lovely walk though, despite the difficulties!

  7. i grew up in dunure walked that coast nearly every day never left the beach in both directions some parts do get cut off not for long though and as kids we never got stuck very often. i must add though that when i lived there (my parents and brother still do ) there was no official path. the old railway can be walked in both directions and is a fantastic walk but in some parts it is very overgrown and marshy.

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