338 Fairlie to Wemyss Bay

I return to Fairlie by bus. The sun is shining this morning, but the forecast predicts rain later. My plan is to keep today’s walk short – but now I have the extra miles to Largs to do too – the ones I failed to complete yesterday!

Onwards. Along the cycle path. Heading north.

01 footpath from Fairlie towards Largs, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I had a restless sleep last night and I’m not feeling brilliant this morning, for a number of reasons.

  1. I am sniffing and sneezing due to hay fever.
  2. I have a sore throat, probably due to breathing all night with my mouth open.
  3.  My joints and muscles are aching, possibly due to general age and early onset of arthritis.
  4. I’m feeling very hot and sweaty, with constant hot flushes – menopausal, of course.

[I’m sure some of my regular readers will have already combined these four separate symptoms, and my four separate explanations, into a single, common diagnosis.  Doctors are absolutely hopeless at assessing their own state of health! The penny will, eventually, drop.]

The cycle path leaves the road and meanders through fields, making odd twists and turns, until it runs tantalisingly close to the shore…

02 shore at Kelburnfoot, Fairlee, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

… before heading off along the side of a marina. It’s a surprisingly huge place. Full of ships of all sizes.

03 cycleway alongside marina, Ruth Hiking to Largs, Scotland

Various nautical objects have been placed along the path, with information boards. These cheeky chappies (below) are floats. “Spherical and double conical.”

04 floats, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I pass a parade of anchors along the side of the path and, in a car park at the far end of the marina, a further collection of huge ones on the grass.

05 anchors, Bowen Craigs, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

Normally, I would have spent some time looking at the anchors and reading the information supplied, but I feel surprisingly listless and uninterested.

Ahead is a curving bay, with a weird lighthouse at the far end. But is it a lighthouse? Where’s the light? Or a daymark? In which case, it’s a bit gloomy.

06 the Pencil Monument, Bowen Craigs, Ruth hiking through Largs, Scotland

Again, I can’t raise the energy to take a closer look at the strange pillar.

[If I had, I would have discovered it’s a monument called The Pencil, and was built in 1912 to celebrate the defeat of the Norwegian Vikings in the Battle of Largs, back in 1263. Long memories around here, apparently!]

Now I can walk close to the shore. The tide is high and choppy waves splash against the rocks. There are a fair number of people strolling along the path. Dog walkers. Couples with pushchairs. I’m getting closer to the centre of Largs.

07 Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coastl Path to Largs

At one point, the route is sandwiched between a concrete wall and some railings, with the waves crashing up and spilling water over the path.

08 Largs coastal walkway, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coast Path

Further along, I’m still dodging the splashes. There’s a steep green bank with sunbathers, and ahead is a church spire.

09 Castle Bay, Largs, Ruth hiking the Scottish Coast

I’m feeling hot and low in energy, so I’m pleased to spot an ice-cream kiosk next to a children’s playground. An ice-cream! Yes. Just what I need to cool me down and perk me up.

10 shut icecream stand in playground, Largs, Ruth Livingstone

But the kiosk is shut! I’m astonished. It’s a beautiful day, unusually warm and sunny, in the middle of the Scottish school holidays. If you don’t open an ice cream kiosk on a day like this, when do you open it?

Disappointed, I walk through the rest of the park, past a fountain with no water, past the public toilets…

11 park and fountain, Largs, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

… until I reach a river and must cross over via a bridge. The river is called Gogo Water. What a fabulous name!

12 Bridge over Gogo Water, Largs, Ruth hiking the coast of Scotland

I continue along the promenade. Ahead is a ferry port, and I can see a ship setting off across the water, heading for Great Cumbrae Island. Perhaps one day I’ll return and walk around all the Scottish Islands too…

13 Ferry to Great Cumbrae Island, Ruth's coastal walk, Largs, Scotland

… but first I need to finish this walk today. And I’ve finally arrived at my starting point, where I should have arrived yesterday, if you see what I mean.

What’s this weird stone sculpture? A Viking ship? I like it. They seem obsessed with Vikings around here.

14 viking ship, Largs, Ruth Livingstone

I’m feeling exhausted. And I’ve only just started my walk. It must be the unusual heat of the day, my hay fever, my newly developed arthritis and, of course, my constant hot flushes.

I spot a nearby Wetherspoons and can’t resist. After a cold drink I’ll feel much better. I sit outside, on a table sheltered from the breeze by a glass screen, and watch a ferry arriving at the nearby port.

15 ferries, Larg, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

It is very tempting to end my walk right here… I really don’t feel like carrying on… but I’ve booked my car on the ferry over to Arran tomorrow morning. If I don’t get to Wemyss today, I’ll never finish the Ayrshire Coast Path, and I’ll have wasted two days of walking without achieving anything.

I set off along the shore. There’s a nice promenade and everybody else is enjoying the beautiful day. What’s wrong with me?

16 Largs Bay, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I pass a Viking. He’s huge. Can’t resist taking several photographs.

17 viking, Largs, Ruth Livingstone

And, a little further along, another Viking. This one is covered in plants! He’s wearing a living suit of clothes. Wonderful.

18 viking made of flowers, Largs, Ruth Livingstone

Largs is a pleasant town, larger than I anticipated, and with a long shore-side walking route. But that will come to an end when I reach a river – Noddsdale Water, another wonderful name.

19 River Noddsdale, Ruth hiking the coast, Largs, Scotland

From here, the Ayrshire Coastal Path turns inland to cross over the river via a road bridge. It’s time to leave the sea behind, temporarily.

20 bridge over Noddsdale Water, Ruth walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland, Largs

On the road, there are three signs for the Ayrshire Coastal Path. Apparently you can take the high road to Skelmorlie, or the low road to Skelmorlie. I’d already decided to take the low road, because it runs closer to the shore.

21 high road and low road, Ayrshire Coastal Path, Ruth hiking through Largs

The closest route would involve walking along the A78, but I’ve already travelled this in the bus, and decided it would be unpleasant and dangerous. No pavements and a narrow road with constant traffic streams.

I turn off the A78, up a lane, glad of the shade on one side, heading for the low road. Unfortunately, I now have that song looping in my head… “you take the high road and I’ll take the low road

22 road up to golf club, Ruth walking from Largs to Skelmorlie

The lane climbs steadily. So much for a low road! I soon leave Largs behind. Farmland now, and cows with tiny calves. Very sweet.

23 calves in field, Ruth hiking to Skelmorlie, Ayrshire coastal path, Scotland

The road climbs and climbs. A road sign tells me this is a Core Path Route, and maximum advisory speed is 30 mph. No problem. I must be doing about 1.2 mph. Possibly less.

24 uphill road, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path

When I reach the top of the hill, I can look down over the golf course (yes, another golf course!) and then across the water to the islands. Is that Great Cumbrae or another one? I should pull my map out and take a look…

25 sea view, Ruth hiking to Skelmorie, Ayrshire

… but I just can’t be bothered. What’s wrong with me?

Further on, and I meet a group of golfers on the road, pulling their golf bags along. They’re heading from the 4th Tee to the 16th Tee. No, that’s not right. I don’t play golf, but even I know you would normally go from the 4th Tee to the 5th. Oh well, I suppose they know what they’re doing.

26 golfing sign, Ruth Livingstone's coastal walk, Scotland

A little later, and I’m overtaken by a farmer on a quad bike. It’s a common sight. Farmers don’t seem to walk anywhere these days.

27 farmer on a quad bike, Ruth Livingstone walking the Scottish Coast

Onwards. It’s a loooong road. Most of the time there isn’t much of the view, due to high hedges.

I reach a place called ‘Knock Castle’. (There are a lot of places in Scotland called Knock something. Knock means an isolated hill or hillock.) The castle is down a private driveway and I can’t see it. This building on the right might be the old stables.

28 Knock lodge, Ruth's coastal walk to Skelmorlie, Ayrshire

A little further along and I come across a building site on my left. Is this something to do with Knock Castle? Are they building a housing estate? It all looks a bit waterlogged.

29 building site, Ruth Livingstone's coastal walk

Down a hill and here’s a junction. Ah, this is where the High Road rejoins the Low Road.

30 high road to Larg, Ruth's coastal walk in Scotland

Over a bridge, and the sky has clouded over. It feels like the rain I’ve been waiting for is finally on its way.

31 blackhouse burn, Ruth hiking the coast in Scotland

But, on my way up the hill, the sun comes out again. There are some more houses here. I feel unreasonably irritated because they’re not on my map. What are they doing here?

32 back road to Meigle, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path, Scotland

I pass the driveway to Millrig farm, a neat looking place. Now, despite the sun lighting up the fields, I can see dark clouds hovering above the hills. Luckily the wind should be blowing them away from me. I speed up anyway…

33 Millrig Farm, Ruth hiking the Ayrshire coastal path in Scotland

… or try to. I only seem to have one gear today. Low gear.

What’s this green container doing here? “Skelmorlie Secret Bunker.” Not so secret, really, if it’s out in the open.

34 Skelmorie Secret Bunker, RUth Livingstone hiking in Scotland

[I later discover the Skelmorlie Secret Bunker is an old Cold War observation post, manned by the Royal Observer Corps. It’s one of a number of similar bunkers scattered around the Scottish countryside, as part of our preparations for a nuclear war]

I feel I can’t go on any further and perch on a bank by the side of the road. Time for a drink and a snack. And a rest. The sky gets darker. I drag myself up again. Onwards. I really, really, don’t want to get soaking wet.

The road dips down again, a steep drop down to the village of Meigle and sea level. The light is gloomy.

35 road down to Skelmorlie, Ruth hiking the Ayreshire Coast Path, Scotland

On the way down, it starts to rain. I pull on my waterproof jacket and rucksack cover. Of course, as soon as I’m kitted up, the rain stops.

The Ayrshire Coastal Path joins the A78 along the coast for a short distance in order to cross another stream – Meigle Burn – via the road bridge. Just beyond the bridge, the path leaves the main road and heads back inland and uphill again.

36 A78 to Skelmorlie, Ruth hiking in Scotland

I look up the road. There’s an impressive house on the slope. Skelmorlie Castle. The hill looks steep, and the sky up there is darkening…

37 Skelmorlie Castle, Ruth LIvingstone hiking the Scottish coastline

… and so I make a decision to stay on the A78. It’s not too busy and has a narrow pavement I can walk along. And, of course, it’s close to the sea.

I soon reach the outskirts of Skelmorlie, where newly built apartment blocks are springing up along the road. What a shame the planners didn’t use this opportunity to create a wider path for walkers. Could have built a cycle path too. The pavement is horribly narrow.

38 new buildings, Skelmorlie, Ruth's coastal walk, Scotland

I pass a gated slipway down to the shore. With the tide high, and the water choppy and grey just below, the “Road Closed” sign seems a tad unnecessary.

39 road closed sign, Skelmorlie, Ruth Livingstone hiking the coast

Onwards. New buildings give way to a mix of old houses interspersed with modern apartment blocks. There are balconies and gardens, and private parking areas. Looks like a growing area. Shame they didn’t plan a proper pavement!

40 Slelmorlie, Ruth hiking to Wemyss Bay, Scotland

In fact, there seems very little public space in Skelmorlie. I noticed this when I tried to park my car this morning. There are no public parking spaces, and the few shops that exist seem to have closed down or be in a state of advanced decay. Despite all the newly built houses, it feels like a dying village.

Of course, I could be wrong. There could be a thriving centre hidden away somewhere. All I can say is that, after driving around several times this morning trying to find somewhere to park, it seems an unwelcoming place.

This little green lawn is the only open-access area I found. And it’s only tennis-court sized, with a flower bed and some regimented benches. Looks lovely in the streaking sunlight, though.

41 Skelmorlie and rain, Ruth Livingstone

At this point the road leaves the shore. Private houses in the way. A mile further along, is the Wemyss Bay station and the pier for the Rothesay ferry. This is the end of my walk, and the end of the path too.

42 Ferry at Wemyss, Ruth Livingstone walking the coast of Scotland

I’ve done it. I’ve finished the Ayrshire Coastal Path. Despite fatigue and lethargy, despite sneezes and sniffles, despite aching muscles and painful joints, despite hot flushes and… hang on…

Yes, the penny finally drops. That’s why the walk seemed so difficult yesterday and today. What a relief to have a simple explanation for my weakness. And one that is now blindingly obvious…

I’ve got a cold!

I find my emergency strip of paracetamol tablets at the bottom of my rucksack, and decide I’ll drive back to the Wetherspoons pub in Largs. Time to relax with a late lunch and another cold drink.

Miles walked today = 8 miles
Total around coast = 3,509 miles


About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, doctor, woman, etc.
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17 Responses to 338 Fairlie to Wemyss Bay

  1. Congratulations on finishing the Ayrshire Coastal Path, although struggling with adversity – I took the ‘low road’ as well, the other route was longer and as you say, further from the shore so no good for coastal walkers! I’m back up their in September to persue the Clyde Coastal Path, although I am not sure if it is waymarked…
    Enjoy Arran, I only spent one day there and visited Brodick Castle and we drove a circuit of the island, it is fabulous, I remember looking across to Kintyre (while trying not to let that pesky song into my head) and thinking it seemed rather intimidating!

  2. Anabel Marsh says:

    Well done on finishing it despite feeling under the weather. I hope the cold cleared quickly.

  3. Well done.

    I took the high route, which dem,anded more effort but rewarded me with an excellent view of the Cumbraes from atop Knock Hill. And while I was up there, Alan Palin spotted me from the low road (although he didn’t know it was me at the time), beginning a whole series of farcical almost-meetings as we walked the same coast at more-or-less the same time.

    Given your route via Arran and the increased frequency of your walks, you may yet catch up with me and overtake me. If so, we should endeavour to meet when you do.

    • How amazing. You were on the high road, and Alan on the low road… now I’ve got that pesky song looping again in my head 😀
      Yes, since I’m missing out a whole section of sea lochs, I might well catch you up. And it would be lovely to meet you.

  4. Eunice says:

    I hope the cold soon cleared up and you’re back to full health by now. Largs looks like a really nice place 🙂

  5. gillianrance says:

    You did well to walk 8 miles feeling so poorly. At least the scenery was pretty, love the Vikings!

  6. If you hadn’t been so near sea level I would have diagnosed altitude sickness.

    • I never get high enough for altitude sickness, Conrad! Although I did feel very odd on our skiing holiday in March – the resort was too high for me. Sticking to the coast is my plan.

  7. theresagreen says:

    Well done indeed. I too love the look of Laarg and its Vikings. Bet the festival is a riot. And yes, we’d all worked out you had a cold days ago and were willing you to go and rest and drink plenty of fluids! Hope you’re feeling better soon.

  8. Karen White says:

    I am now merrily singing “I’ll take the high road an you’ll take the low road” and will proably still be singing it tomorrow!
    Poor you, doing a long walk with a cold. Not fun at all.

  9. jcombe says:

    I did this walk yesterday. It was lovely and lovely weather for it too. Like you I decided to stick to the A78 between Wemyss Bay and Meigle because it had a pavement. From there I also followed the official route, a little inland past the “secret” bunker, as the main road then had no pavement,

    The tide was a bit lower for me, so no issues of the waves splashing over the path. I was also lucky that the A78 was completely closed between Largs and Fairlie, for resurfacing. Lucky because it was still open for pedestrians and so I didn’t have the nuisance of the usual amount of traffic and also because I was returning by train not road, so it didn’t cause me any disruption either.

    In fact I did this as a walk from Gourock to Fairlie. This is because I was staying in Greenock. I am not going to cross via the Isle of Arran as you did but cross the Firth of Clyde somewhere. I haven’t decided exactly where yet (but probably Gourock to Hunter’s Quay or Dunoon. So by starting from Gourouck and joining up with the Ayr coast path it leaves that decision until next year (with the clocks changing next weekend it was likely my last new coastal walk of 2019, sadly).

    I was pleased to find that there is in fact a “Clyde Coastal Path” and so whilst I expected to be walking on pavementless road most of the way from Gorouck to Wemyss Bay there is in fact a path or pavement the whole way which is nice.

    I now have a gap between Maidens and Dalbeattie in the south and a much larger one between Gorouck and Lower Diabaig in the north to continue chipping away at next year!

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