Dismantled Railway Walk, Darvel – 7 miles

An easy walk from the village of Darvel along a fantastic disused railway track to the Spirit of Scotland Monument beneath Loudoun Hill, returning via the same route. Mostly grass, earth footpaths and farmland, the route can be very muddy at times and you are required to cross several stiles. You will be rewarded with one of the most interesting railway walks I know, full of features from by-gone days! 

Dismantled Railway Walk, Darvel

viewranger-logo-new-jan-2017  Download the route to your mobile phone HERE  (Viewranger app required)

parking available icon  Parking available on or around Hastings Square, Darvel (KA17 0DR)

route image Route: From Hastings Square cross the main road in Darvel and turn right to walk along East Main Street almost until you are about to leave the village. You will come to a minor road on your left which leads to the cemetery. Take this road and after a very short distance you will see a way marker pointing out the route to Loudoun Hill via Old Railway. Cross the style and follow the old railway for approx 2.5 miles – the path is well marked. Take care at one section where you approach some cattle feeding troughs. There can be cows on the track at this point: there is a way marker which is easily missed diverting walkers to the left to by-pass this area by following a narrow footpath wedged between two fences. The disused railway ends abruptly at the remains of the old viaduct, and you are directed down some steps onto a minor road. Turn right here towards a cottage then left to follow the Irvine Valley Paths Network signage. Continue uphill for approximately 0.5 miles until you reach a gate on your right. Pass through the gate and follow the farm tracks across the field and alongside a row of arching trees. You will pass a stone ruin on your right and the steep rocky slope of Loudoun Hill will be on your left. After passing the boulder field start to veer right across the grass to meet up with a faint path down to a wooden footbridge across the River Irvine. From here the Spirit of Scotland monument is clearly visible.  Follow the obvious path up to it.  Return via same route (note that there is a car park just above the monument so to shorten the walk you could arrange for transport to meet you there)

Option: From the monument why not take the opportunity to make the short but steep ascent up Loudoun Hill?  On a clear day you will get incredible panoramic views over Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, the Firth of Clyde and Isle of Arran!

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WALK REVIEW: 10th March 2016

I did this walk several years ago when I was training for the West Highland Way and I had been looking forward to doing it again. That first time, a family friend – Archie – came along with me so I thought of him often today and decided I would give him a call to come on a future walk with me. There is an old railway line between Kilmarnock and Irvine which we used to cycle together, perhaps he would like to walk it with me this time…. Being in his eighties, I find it pretty amazing that he is still fit enough for me to consider asking him on a walk!! Good old Archie 🙂

This is such a peaceful walk. I didn’t meet a single person during the whole 4 hours I was there; it was just me, my book and some sheep for company. I have always found the Irvine Valley to be such a beautiful spot, steeped with so much history. My grandparents were from around here and so instinctively I think of them whenever I am in the area. I imagine how life would have looked back in their day, and I love coming across all the physical reminders of that period: old signage, farming equipment, iron posts from the railway, metal fencing, and so on. There is also something pretty special about walking along the site of a former railway, knowing that at one time people would have been speeding across this exact bit of land in a train going to work or transporting goods. This particular line was last used in 1939.

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The remains of this viaduct mark the end of the railway and the start of the walk along to the Spirit of Scotland monument via road and farm tracks

Along the track from the road to the Spirit of Scotland monument there were many interesting features including a passageway formed by a row of arching trees, an ancient stone ruin, and a stunning view of the craggy side of Loudoun Hill. It was very muddy though!

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Tree tunnel!
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Interesting stone ruin – this photo was taken on a miserable misty March morning during a group walk I led. As you can see the underfoot conditions were slightly damp!
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Craggy side of Loudoun Hill, often used by rock climbers
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Spirit of Scotland monument

I decided to head up onto Loudoun Hill since it was a beautiful day. It was my first attempt at it and I had read that there was a vague path however in my experience the path seems to just run around the tree-line at the base of the hill and it isn’t really obvious where to start going uphill.

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Should you wish to make the short, steep ascent of Loudoun Hill you will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views on a clear day – this photo shows Whitelee Windfarm in the distance…
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…and this one shows the views over Ayrshire, Isle of Arran and the Firth of Clyde

I had intended on having my picnic lunch at the top of Loudoun Hill , basking in the glorious sunshine and admiring the views. However it was not to be as within 3 seconds of finding a suitable rock to sit on, a swarm of giant midges had surrounded me! In March! Who knew?! So…..

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I had spotted these little chairs on the way there and was so grateful to the person who had built them, providing me with a tranquil place to rest my weary legs and have a bite to eat. It was so lovely and warm sitting there in the sunshine, I even got my book out for a while. Bliss! Sadly, during a more recent walk here I found them to be in a state of disrepair 😦

This is such a beautiful walk and really shows off all that the Irvine Valley has to offer. I do believe that you would be hard pushed to find a nicer disused railway walk in Scotland!

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