Walk 20 – Dismantled Railway Walk, Darvel

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An easy linear walk from the village of Darvel along a fantastic disused railway track to the Spirit of Scotland Monument beneath Loudoun Hill. A mixture of gravel, grass, earth footpaths and farmland, the route includes many gates and several stiles. You will be rewarded with one of the most interesting railway walks I know, full of features from by-gone days! Return via the same route to form a 7 mile walk or organise transport at each end which makes it a 3.5 mile walk. Optional de-tour to the summit of Loudoun Hill.

  Parking available on or around Hastings Square, Darvel (KA17 0DR) or in the public car park on Radoldcoup Road (KA17 0JU)

Route: From Hastings Square cross Darvel Main Street and turn right (East) to walk along the pavement for 1km. Turn onto the last road on your left (North East) at the end of the village. This minor road heads uphill past a couple of houses. Look out for an Irvine Valley Paths Network way marker 150m along on your right-hand side, “Loudoun Hill via the old railway“. Go through the gate and follow the old railway path East for approx 3km. The path ends abruptly at the remains of the old viaduct. Follow the steps downhill to a stone wall which has a large boulder placed at the foot of it acting like a stile. Climb over onto a minor road. Turn right (South) here towards a cottage then left (East) to follow the Irvine Valley Paths Network signage for Loudoun Hill. Continue uphill along this road for 300m to pass Newlands Farm. 340m beyond Newlands you will reach a gate on your right-hand side. Go through the gate and follow the farm tracks South East then East along a tree-lined track, skirting the base of Loudoun Hill. You will pass a stone ruin on your right and the steep rocky slope of Loudoun Hill will be on your left. After 720m you will have come round the foot of Loudoun Hill beyond the steep rocky slope. Where the ground to your right flattens out, veer right (South) off the track to cross the grass. You will meet up with a faint path which zig zags down to a wooden footbridge across the infant River Irvine. Cross the bridge and follow the path up to a stile. From here the Spirit of Scotland monument is clearly visible just ahead. After crossing the stile follow an obvious path up to the monument. Return via the same route.

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!

Dismantled Railway Walk, Darvel

WALK REVIEW: 10th March 2016


I first did this walk in 2009 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 part of the Darvel and Strathaven Railway, opened in 1905 intended as a through route between Lanarkshire and Ayrshire however was never successful due to the population in the area being very low. The track was closed in 1939.

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. The viaduct once spanned 13 arches!

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!

Tree tunnel!
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!
Craggy side of Loudoun Hill, often used by rock climbers

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.

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…
…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…..

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, these are now 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!

5 thoughts on “Walk 20 – Dismantled Railway Walk, Darvel

  1. Tried to do this walk today 19.8.18 walk number 20. Got over the style & tried to walk over the path which you couldn’t actually see. It was far too overgrown with nettles, thistles& numerous other weeds & shrubbery. We just couldn’t carry on, I don’t think it has been used in a number of years. So disappointing as the walk sounded amazing. Fortunately I found another of your walks in Darvel & we did the Lanfine Estate Walk which was most enjoyable especially seeing the wild boar pigs xx


    1. Hi Anne, sorry to hear that the path was overgrown on your visit. Unfortunately it happens in summer every year and if you walk it any other time of year it will be completely clear. Hard to believe I know! We walked it as recently as May as part of the Valley Walkfest and the vegetation growth at that time was very low and we passed along the trail easily. I thought I had mentioned on the walk report that it can become overgrown in summer, however I see that I haven’t so I will do so now. Thank you! And I do hope you’ll return another time to try it out as it’s a brilliant walk.


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