From the monument why not take the opportunity to make the short but steep ascent up Loudoun Hill? On a clear day your efforts will be rewarded with incredible panoramic views over Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, the Firth of Clyde and Isle of Arran.
TERRAIN: A mixture of roadside pavement, gravel footpaths and earth tracks. Can be boggy in places. Several stiles along the route and lots of gates. Some steps. This walk is mostly on the level with some hilly bits after you come off the disused railway. Note: there are often cows on one short section of the old railway line where there is no fence separation.
Regular bus services to Darvel from Kilmarnock. No public transport to Spirit of Scotland monument. Parking available on or around Hastings Square, Darvel (KA17 0DR) or in the public car park on Radoldcoup Road (KA17 0JU). If doing the shorter walk and leaving cars at both ends, use the Loudoun Hill car park.
WALK REVIEW: 10th March 2016 and 21st December 2022
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.
In 2022 much of the disused railway path was treated to an upgrade and this has resulted in a far more accessible route. Prior to the work, there were 8 or 9 stiles along the path which itself was often incredibly muddy or overgrown depending on the time of year. Better drainage has now been put in, gravel laid on the path, new fencing installed along much of the route and many of the stiles have been replaced by self-closing gates. According to information I have received from East Ayrshire Leisure, there is an intention to replace all stiles with gates and include interpretation along the route. So not quite finished yet. Watch this space!
Along the track towards the Spirit of Scotland monument there were many interesting features including a tree tunnel formed by a row of beech trees, an ancient stone ruin, and a stunning view of the craggy side of Loudoun Hill. It was very muddy though! The path beyond the stone ruin has been much improved by the 2022 upgrade.
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!