336a Irvine to Stevenston

Irvine is a town beside the sea, but it’s not really a seaside town. Most of the time, if you wander around the streets and retail parks, you have no idea you are only a mile or so from the coast.

Anyway, on this glorious July morning, I set off to walk northwards to Ardrossan, but I can’t follow the coast. There’s a river in the way. So I follow the official Ayrshire Coastal Path route – a tarmac track running through pleasant parkland.

01 setting off from Irvine, Ruth's coastal walk around Scotland

I’m overtaken by a couple of male walkers. They seem to be wearing matching outfits. I can’t work out if their wardrobe choices were deliberately co-ordinated, or not.

02 walking out of Irvine, cycle route 7, Ruth hiking the Scottish coastline

Along the route I spot a Core Path sign. First one I’ve seen that looks like this, and very pretty. Shoe print. Dog print. Horse shoe. That sums up, I guess, what the core path is for.

03 core path sign, Ruth hiking in Scotland

The path runs above the river. Ahead is the railway viaduct. To my right, the land opens out into an area of open space called Towns moor.

04 railway viaduct, River Irvine, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I meet a few dog walkers and a cyclist passes me, a reminder that this stretch of the Ayrshire Coastal Path is also Sustrans cycle route number 7.

05 cycle path to Kilwinning, Ruth hiking the coast of west scotland

Route number 7 runs from Sunderland to Inverness, and looks fantastic. Makes me wonder if I should give up walking and take up cycle-touring instead.

I pass apple trees growing beside the path. I wonder if the fruit are edible? But I’m still full from my breakfast, so I don’t try one.

06 apple trees, Ruth hiking in Scotland

Going down a gentle incline, I meet a cyclist coming towards me. He is grimacing with the effort of coming uphill, and doesn’t look happy about having his photo taken. Oh dear. Cycling looks like hard work. Perhaps I’ll stick to walking instead.

07 Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path to Kilwinning, Scotland

I pass a clump of tall cow parsley. No. Not cow parsley. Too large and too high. That must be the dreaded giant hogweed. This nasty Russian invader can cause horrible skin rashes, especially if the sap interacts with sunshine. I’ve only had a couple of scrapes, but the wheals lasted for days.

08 giant hogweed, Ruth Livingstone in Scotland

A Facebook friend (I only know him as Bienvue Cheeseski) suggests the best thing to do if you come into contact with Giant Hogweed is to wash the area immediately and then keep it covered from the sun.

Anyway, I’m sticking to the path, so don’t anticipate any hogweed encounters today.

A runner overtakes me. Running looks even more exhausting than cycling.

09 Ruth walking through Garnock Floods nature reserve, Scotland, Ayrshire coastal path

Further along, in an area of woodland, I discover some raspberries growing by the path. Can’t resist eating these. Delicious.

10 wild raspberries, Ruth walking the Ayrshire coastal path to Ardrossan

I’m approaching the outskirts of a town called Kilwinning, and here I cross over the River Garnock. There is a network of walking/cycle routes around the town. I’m on something called the New Town Trail. It’s also a Core Path, part of the Ayrshire Coastal Path, and part of cycle route number 7 – quite a multitasking piece of path!

11 core path and new town trail, Ruth hiking to Kilwinning

One plant I’ve come across a lot of today has a pretty pink, talcum-powder smelling, flower. It’s Himalayan balsam, another foreign invader. Although not toxic to humans like giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam is a menace because it crowds out our native plants and chokes river beds with its vigorous growth.

12 himalaya balsam, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I come to a junction, and find a very tall signpost with amazingly long and thin arms. I am surprised to see I’m only 2.75 miles from Irvine. Seems longer. Now I must turn left, towards Ardrossan. Only 6 miles away, says the pointing finger. Hmm. I’m not sure I believe it.

13 signpost to Ardrossan, Ruth hiking in Scotland

A couple of girls wobble past me on bikes.

14 more cyclists, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire coastal path to Stevenston

A short time later, I come to a semi-industrial area. The cycle route becomes a minor road. There are tall fences and an advisory 30 mph speed limit. OK. I promise not to go faster than that!

15 through industrial estate, Stevenston, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coast Path, Scotland

I’ve been aware of footsteps behind me for some time, and now a couple of walkers catch up with me. They’re local people, from Irvine, and we have a chat. They’re heading for Stevenston Beach, they tell me. It’s the nicest beach in the area.

We walk side by side for a while, but they can’t keep up with my pace – it’s much too slow for them – so they soon speed off.

16 fellow walkers on path to Stevenstone, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

I’m perplexed by their mention of Stevenston Beach. I can’t find it on my map. They tell me it runs alongside the disused Stevenston Site and you can’t walk directly along it from Irvine because there’s a river in the way (and the “broken” bridge).

Anyway, if it’s the best beach in the area, I must go and have a look at it.

Onwards. I’m approaching the outskirts of Stevenston. Farmland on either side. Houses ahead.

17 Stevenston, Ruth on the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I reach a road and ponder my options. Turning left along the road would take me through an industrial estate and to the alluring Stevenston beach. I’m about to head along the road, when a man comes walking by and asks if he can help. I tell him I want to get to the beach.

‘Don’t go that way,’ he says, pointing down the road I was planning to take. ‘Keep following this path instead. No. Don’t go that way.’

He is so emphatic, I decide I better follow his advice, and I stick to the path/cycle route. It takes me through an area of parkland. The grass is a bit too manicured for my taste, and there’s not much to see.

18 Ruth hiking through Ardeer Park, Stevenston

I’m feeling very hot and weary, and soon stop to apply sunblock to my arms. Nobody warned me Scotland would be so hot! They warned me about midges and about rain, but not about getting heatstroke.

Look at this dinky little seat. A seat for a single person. There’s another one a few hundred feet further along. Weird. I’ve not seen anything like this before. Seats for lonely people?

19 single person seats, Ardeer Park, Ruth hiking in Scotland

The park I’m walking through is called Ardeer Park. I come to a place where there’s a large pond – a lake really – with swans and ducks. There’s a woman playing with her children, and a man having a solitary picnic on the bank. Otherwise, nobody around.

20 lake in Ardeer Park, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coast Path, Scotland

In London, or any of our major cities, a park like this would be crowded on a sunny day. But here, in Scotland, nothing ever seems to get crowded.

I reach Stevenston. It’s not very impressive. I walk past the railway station, keeping an eye out for a village shop – I want to buy a cold drink.

21 Stevenston railway station, Ruth Livingstone

Sadly, I don’t come across a shop, but end up on a weird residential road. Shore Road, says my Garmin. On one side are some very ordinary looking semi-detached houses. On the other is a grassy bank, and a strip of green where the residents seem to park their cars. Ahead is the industrial estate.

22 Shore Road, Stevenston, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

My map shows a car park nearby – a place called Beach Park. I was expecting to see holiday makers, or visitors in cars, or local people out enjoying this wonderful afternoon. Instead, there are just a couple of cars looking lost and lonely in the enormous car park.

23 car park, Stevenston, Ruth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

I climb up onto the grassy bank. It’s covered in dandelions and daisies. Lovely. Dead ahead is a big industrial building. I walk towards it.

24 industry, Stevenston, Ruth hiking the coast

When I reach the industrial estate, I turn right, heading for the shore. And, after several hundred yards along a track, I reach the sea.

Ah, yes. To my left, there’s a glorious expanse of beach, bordered by a sandy cliff. That must be the famous Stevenston Beach. And this is where all the locals park – not in the official car park, but close to the beach.

25 Stevenston beach, Ruth Livinstone hiking the Scottish coast to Ardrossan

I don’t go down along Stevenston Beach. It’s a dead end, after all, and I’m feeling hot, tired and thirsty. Instead, I make my way to a promontory of land (where there’s another car park) and sit on the rocks bordering the shore

It’s time to eat my snacks and finish off the water in my bottle. And also time to admire the wonderful view and take some photographs. The sea is clear and a medley of blues and greens. Across the water is the familiar shape of the Isle of Arran.

26 lunchtime view, Ardrossan and Arran, Ruth Livingstone

Arran. I’ll be walking there soon. But first I have to get to Ardrossan. a little further up the coast, and find the ferry port.

[To be continued…]


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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8 Responses to 336a Irvine to Stevenston

  1. Anabel Marsh says:

    When WAS this? I don’t remember this weather. It must have been while we were away, or Ayrshire is developing it’s own climate!

  2. Karen says:

    You might want to check the post number … you’ve lost 100 days’ walking!

  3. Karen White says:

    What a treat to pick and eat wild Scottish raspberries. Perfect for making ‘crowdie’.
    Stevenston beach does look beautiful.

  4. jcombe says:

    Not sure if the route of the coast path has changed but I followed the same route you took (in the end after your advice) through the park which seemed to match the route now shown on the map.

    I didn’t enjoy this stretch so much, too far inland and all on tarmac (my feet were tired as I’d walked from Ayr).

    When reaching the A77 Kilwinning (near Nethermains Bridge) I was able to make it across the A77, turn left along it and take the first road on the right rather than follow the longer route around on the official path beside the river. Probably not possible at busier times though.

    The “yellow” road south of the A77 to the B752 (part of the cycle route 73) has been truncated at the railway bridge near Dubbs, so it’s no longer a through road for cars (but is for pedestrians, cyclists). Signs said it was no longer a public highway from April 2019 and there are bollards installed to prevent cars getting under the bridge. Makes it a nicer route now because there is much less traffic (though a few travellers were parked beside it and sitting around a fire, so perhaps that’s an unwanted side effect).

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