334 am Heads of Ayr

This morning I catch the bus back to the Heads of Ayr holiday park. My mission? To complete the section of yesterday’s walk from the point where the tide defeated me.

01 Heads of Ayr, Ruth walking the Scottish coast

I walk in sunshine under a constantly changing sky. The air is fresh and clear. Perfect for hiking. I’m soon past the holiday park, where I join a track that climbs up the headland, and then a path sloping down the hill towards the beach.

This is Bracken Bay. The Heads of Ayr form a dramatic backdrop. But, oh dear, the tide seems much too high… even higher than yesterday. There’s very little shore below those cliffs.

02 Bracken Bay, Ruth Livingstone walking the coast of Scotland

At least I know the water is going out, instead of coming in. If I can’t get through… all I have to do is sit and wait until the tide goes down.

[The thought of waiting for the tide to recede would once have filled me with irritation, but long-distance walking has taught me patience. You settle for longer timescales when the geology around you is mapped in terms of millennia, and for an easier pace when your fastest speed is 3 mph. The weather and the tides have their own slow rhythms, which no amount of fretting will change.]

Anyway, there’s no need to wait because I discover I can pick my way through. The waves splash their way across the larger stones, but fizzle out in the shingle at the base of the cliffs.

03 beach at Heads of Ayr, Ruth Livingstone walking the coast of Scotland

I still can’t see around the corner of the headland… will the water be too high to continue?

No. The tide is almost visibly receding, exposing a narrow strip of beach. Perfect. And not a soul in sight.

04 Ruth Livingstone walking the coast of Scotland, Heads of Ayr

Across the sea is the lumpy shape of the Isle of Arran. With clouds hanging low over its hills it looks kind of menacing. Does it look like a sleeping knight? Possibly.

05 Isle of Arran, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I leave the cliffs of the Heads of Ayr behind, walk past a water treatment works, and then past a row of holiday chalets. It’s chilly because the sun has retreated behind the clouds. Some cold-looking children make the best of their holiday and try to build a sandcastle at the top of the beach, while adults in warm clothing look on.

06 holiday park, Ruth walking around the Heads of Ayr, Scotland

A family of swans glides past. I think of swans as freshwater birds, and I’m always amazed to see swans floating in the salty sea. These seem to be feasting on seaweed.

07 swans in the sea, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

Round a gentle curve of shore… and here’s a wide, shallow bay with a stone tower at the far end.

08 Greenan Castle, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Ayr

Check my map. The bay has no name, but the tower is part of ruined Greenan Castle.

I head out into the muddy sand of the bay, picking my way cautiously through patches of slippery sea weed. It pops – like bubble wrap – under my feet.

09 seaweed, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Ayr

And I have to pick my way around jelly fish too. Freshly marooned by the receding waters, this one is beautiful, with a tangle of salmon-coloured tendrils, like coils of knitting wool, beneath a translucent dome.

10 Jellyfish on beach, Ayr, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

Poor thing. Soon it will dry out and lose both its sheen and translucency. I wonder if these creatures – so alien and different from us – feel anything resembling pain, or discomfort?

I take a photograph looking back at Greenan Castle. On the shore, beneath the tower, a couple of men are walking slowly, sweeping long poles in front of them as if cleaning the beach with long-headed mops. What on earth are they doing? Ah, yes, metal detectors.

11 Greenan Castle, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland, Ayr

Onwards, towards Ayr. The town is just across the bay. I’m staying in a B&B there and am already familiar with the seafront, but a place always looks different when viewed from a different angle.

12 Ayr across the bay, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I pass more jellyfish. This one has a deep blue hue, which contrasts nicely with the fading orange of its tentacles. At first I think “how pretty”, until I realise the blue is probably the result of slow decomposition. The colour of death.

13 more jellyfish, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

More blue-tinted bodies. It’s a jellyfish morgue. Each corpse displaying a different stage of decay – deepening blues, slowly replacing orange, until all you get is indigo and then… nothing… just a shadow on the sand.

dead jellyfish, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

I can’t walk directly to Ayr because the River Doon is in the way, so I head towards the mouth of the waterway and cross using a pedestrian bridge. Definitely a pedestrian-only bridge. NO horses or motorcycles allowed.

14 bridge over River Doon, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

On the other side, a pleasant walkway leads through parkland towards the town. The seaward side of the walk might once have been beach, but has been overgrown with dune plants.

15 footpath to Ayr, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I remember Parkgate on the Wirral, whose seaside promenade now overlooks a mile of marsh, and lovely Grange over Sands, now definitely looking more like Grange over Marsh. Beaches, like jellyfish, don’t necessarily last for ever.

My walkway also doubles as a Sustrans route number 7 – a lovely, looping cycle route that links the east coast of Scotland with the west.

16 cycleway sign, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

While I’m taking photographs, I become aware of a man watching me. Eventually he comes up and we start discussing cameras. He’s got a Lumix, one of hybrid / bridge cameras, with many of the qualities of a DSLR model, but packed into a smaller and lighter body. He demonstrates its features.

17 Lumix camera enthusiast, Ruth Livingstone

If my trusty Canon EOS 550D gives up on me (which I’m sure it will one day – the poor thing has been with me since Portsmouth, nearly 3,000 miles of rough treatment behind us now) I might consider a bridge camera.

We talk about image cards and lenses, cheap places to buy online, and the advantages of black and white mode for crisp focus. Every time we say goodbye, and he sets off to walk ahead, he remembers something else to tell me and turns back…

Eventually, we run out of camera conversation. He wanders away down the path, and I take some photographs of the Isle of Arran, as viewed over the grassy dunes.

18 Isle of Arran from Ayr, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

A mile or so later, I reach the main beach and its extensive (free) car park. I have no idea why Ayr isn’t more popular as a seaside resort. I deserves to be. Its beach is far superior to Blackpool, in my opinion, and infinitely better than Weston-super-Mare. For a start, the sand here is actually sand-coloured.

19 Ayr beach, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I walk along the esplanade. As I reach the end closest to the town, it becomes almost crowded. A nifty series of poles display the walking / running distance along the seafront.

20 footprint markers, Ayr promenade, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

At a park with a fountain, I decide to stop on a nearby bench for a rest and an early lunchtime snack… but then I see a proper café on the other side of the grass. Can’t resist.

21 cafe, Ayr, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

Shame the food is mainly of the deep-fried variety and everything comes in a bun and/or with chips. In the end, I order a scone and a cup of tea.

Afterwards, I walk along to the end of the beach. And spot another man armed with a metal detector. I guess many of us are obsessive in our own way – me and my endless trek around the coast, some with their endless quest for metal objects.

22 metal detecting, Ayr, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

The beach comes to an end at a pier – the South Pier. It marks  the entrance to the River Ayr and the harbour.

23 Ayr South Pier, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I’m pleased to have finally arrived at the planned end of yesterday’s walk. Now it’s time to begin today’s.

[to be continued…]

Route of this section of the walk:

About Ruth Livingstone

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

21 Responses to 334 am Heads of Ayr

  1. Andrew says:

    Really enjoyed reading this one, partly because my paternal Grandfather came from Ayr, but also because I share your view in what makes a good beach and seaside town!

  2. 829b says:

    Cameras are such a personal item and so much depends on how you plan to use it. As a traveler who likes to blog, I prefer a compact light weight camera with a view finder that I can carry in a cargo pocket, can operate one handed if necessary while hanging on in a tuk-tuk, can take a photo within a couple of seconds of seeing the potential shot and finally produces an image that with some cropping and adjustment can be used in my blog.

    The Lumix TZ series does this.

    Some results that might look familiar to you.


    • I carry my Canon in my hand, and find it really quick to swing it up, flick off the lens cap, and let the autofocus work its magic. But my camera is the heaviest thing I carry, after my water bottles. And certainly can’t fit in my pocket. Thanks for the recommendation- something to bear in mind. Love the trip down memory lane via your blog!

  3. keithcase says:

    I envy you the frequency with which you get to go walking the coast. I read each of your blogs following your route on my OS maps on Memory Map and feel jealous. Probably be September/October before I get back to Cornwall. The travelling must be getting very difficult for you now,


    • Hi Keith. Yes, I’m lucky to be fully retired from medical work now. Just have a few writing assignments from time to time, and I can do those anywhere with a laptop. Long travelling times too, you’re right, and so I try to get away for longer trips. I bet you’re looking forward to getting back to Cornwall, and autumn is a wonderful season for walking.

  4. Gemma says:

    Hi Ruth, those poor pesky jellyfish… In 2015 and 2016 I stayed for a week each time in Craig Tara (the old Butlin’s you walked past).. I am a bit sniffy about these parks too, but being based there enabled me to have some nice family time and do a lot of the Ayrshire Coast (I normally stay in b and b) Apparently in it’s glory days Butlin’s even had it’s own station!
    The Robert Burn’s centre at Ayr is a treat.

    • I have mixed feelings about holiday parks too. Don’t like seeing them sprawling over the coastline, although this one was quite pretty, but have stayed in some when the kids were younger and it’s a convenient way to have a cheapish holiday.

  5. Misha says:

    I love the pictures you took. I bought a DSLR camera in 2013, and haven’t regretted it in all this time.

    • Hi Misha. When people complement me on my photos, Misha, I always feel a total fraud. Having a decent camera makes all the difference, as well as an eye for composition. And I do tweak them afterwards if the day has been gloomy and they need brightening up.

      • Misha says:

        It’s that eye for composition that makes the big difference. Without it, even the best camera wouldn’t take good-looking pictures. 🙂

  6. owdjockey says:

    Hi Ruth glad you continued along the coast. After rounding the Heads of Ayr, I cut inland to Alloway visit Alloway Burns birthplace and the Brig’ o’Doon.

    I feel frustrated at times by not having a better camera, particularly when photographing animals.

    • Maybe time for an early Christmas present Alan? But what really makes the difference is photo editing software. I use Corel PaintShop Pro on my PC (it’s why I do all my blogging when I get home!).

  7. Doug says:

    Use my phone camera as my own aide memoir, try to add a few lines of commentary to the best of the days snaps & consign to the FB so I have them in context.
    The battery in mine is starting to lose its charge, I expect next year model will have a better camera than a top of the range anything from a few years ago.
    You can get snap on lenses for phone cameras if really keen.

    Saw some of the G. Hogweed in Suffolk last week, managed to avoid it, sprayed & someone had broken off the seed heads.

    I expect the need for woolen swimming gear & coats is what has done for Ayr 😉

    • Hi Doug. Yes, the latest iPhone cameras are very good I believe. (I’ve still got an old model, I’m afraid.) Think they’re better at taking photos with a definite subject in the foreground – a person, a building, an animal, etc. – rather than a wide landscape. And you’re right about the climate in Ayr. It’s certainly on the ‘fresh’ side!

      • tonyhunt2016 says:

        The big problem with phone cameras is the fixed focal length, meaning every shot is wide-angle. Also the absurd number of pixels, completely out of proportion with the quality of the lens. Also the low-light performance. But if you’ve nothing else to hand, they can be useful.

  8. Hi Ruth – just returned from Scotland. Can I add my pennyworth on the camera front. I began by using a Panasonic Lumix on my walk as it was light and fitted in a pocket. Then I found there were lighting situations on the coast it could not handle. I was advised by a friend who is a professional photographer that a lot of professional landscape photographers use mirror less cameras such as the Fujifilm XE1 (bit dated now but still better than the XE2) when they don’t want to carry all their kit about. So that is what I use. Quite pricey though – I think it was circa £600 quid. You can still change lenses like an SLR but it weighs not much more than a compact. The Fuji’s are good too in that they are designed with all the knobs where you would expect if you are used to an SLR. I carry mine around my neck in a padded pouch. As you say it is quick to extract. I keep a permanent landscape zoom lens on it and have now stopped carrying a bigger zoom, which is what would be needed for wildlife. If you need a good store for recommendations look at Wex Photographic Store in Norwich.

  9. jcombe says:

    This was a lovely walk, I did it on Saturday, though as you may have seen I struggled a bit with the sea-weed which covered the entire beach under the castle.

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