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At just 361m elevation, the volcanic plug of Loudoun Hill near Darvel, East Ayrshire is where Robert the Bruce had his first major military victory. It is reputed that in 1307 he led an army against the English in a battle which took place beneath the hill. Despite being small, it’s steep slopes certainly pack a punch and on a clear day the views from the top make it a must-do in the area. A favourite with children and adults alike! There are three route options described below, my preferred one being the circular walk combining the two shorter options! Feeling adventurous? Try the dismantled railway walk from Darvel.
Loudoun Hill Circular Route – 2 miles
Small car park along a single track road signposted from A71 ‘Spirit of Scotland Monument / Loudoun Hill parking’ (KA17 0LY). No public transport to start point.
Route: Exit Loudoun Hill car park via a wooden gate, signposted Spirit of Scotland. Follow the path downhill past the Spirit of Scotland Monument. From the monument follow the path which goes downhill to a stile and a footbridge over the River Irvine. Cross the stile and bridge then continue along the path as it leads you uphill and onto a flat area. Cross over a farm track and follow the remains of a dry stone wall as it heads uphill (North West) and around the base of Loudoun Hill. It will lead you into some trees, then past a stone ruin. After passing the ruin, choose a point at which to start your climb to the top of the hill. There are no distinct paths unfortunately! From the summit head West across the flat top, to pick up a steep path down the other side of Loudoun Hill, leading to a stone boundary wall. Follow the wall right (North East) along the base of the hill a short distance, looking out for a stile on your left-hand side which will allow you to safely cross the wall. Cross the field North (if in crop stick to the field edge) towards a second stile on the fence opposite. Follow the fence-line North to a third stile, emerging onto a minor road. Turn left (West) and follow the road downhill for 500m. At this point you will come to a gate on your left with a track heading South East across the field. Follow this track as it heads around the base of Loudoun Hill and meets up with the flat grassy area you were at earlier. Turn right to rejoin the path back to the Spirit of Scotland Monument and retrace your steps back to the Loudoun Hill car park.
Loudoun Hill from Dykehead Farm – 0.8 miles
Parking available at base of hill just past Dykehead Farm (KA17 0LU)
Route: From the car park return to the minor road and turn left. Cross a stile as indicated by a way marker, and follow the fence-line to another stile. Crossing this takes you onto a field which you need to cross, heading for the dry stone wall at the other side (if crops are growing stick to field edge). Crossing this final stile, you will join a narrow earth path which leads around the base of the hill a short distance. Turn right onto it and look out for a (very) vague grassy path leading up the steep slope of Loudoun Hill. From the summit return via the same route.
Loudoun Hill from Spirit of Scotland Monument – 0.6 miles
Small car park along a single track road signposted from A71 ‘Spirit of Scotland Monument / Loudoun Hill parking’ (KA17 0LY)
Route: Exit the parking area via a gate, signposted Spirit of Scotland. Follow the track downhill past the Spirit of Scotland Monument to cross a stile and a footbridge over the River Irvine. Follow a grassy pathuphill, emerging onto a flat grassy area. Cross over the farm track and follow the dry stone wall as it heads uphill and around the base of Loudoun Hill. It will lead you into some trees, then past a stone ruin before joining a narrow earth path which continues around the base of the hill. A short distance along, choose a point at which to start your climb to the top. There are no distinct paths unfortunately! From summit, return same way.
I recently climbed Loudoun Hill when I walked in from Darvel via the old railway. Since then I vowed to bring the kids, mainly to suss out how able they were and also whether they enjoyed it or not. I figured that if they could manage this hill’s steep slope without complaining then I was onto a winner! I knew it was a short walk in terms of distance (less than a mile to the top and back) so a perfect first hill walk for my then 4 and 2 year olds :-)
“Boys…. Do you fancy walking up a hill with mummy today?” You would have thought I’d told them it was Christmas Eve! “Yeah yeah yeah! Can we go now?!” I was relieved at their initial reaction. Off we went. I honestly wasn’t sure how it would go: my youngest was used to my walking antics and had confidently and happily climbed up the short steep hill to Greenan Castle with me recently so I felt pretty sure he was ready for more of the same. My eldest can walk for miles but generally gets bored pretty quickly and is a bit of a scaredy cat so I had visions of him wanting to hold my hand and whimpering in fear for most of the way.
I couldn’t have been more wrong! My eldest shot off like Spiderman up the hill absolutely in his element and it was the younger of the two who wanted my hand. In fairness he was only wearing wellies which I believe set him back a little: we had rushed out to buy them both hiking boots that morning but we only managed to find a fit for one. Overall I was delighted with how they both did and was super happy at how much they were enjoying the experience. “Mummy look at the views!“, “Mummy I love this!”, “Mummy look how fast I can climb up!” Near the top we met a group of people coming back down and they commented on how well the kids were doing: “Look at the size of these kids coming up“, one said, “If they can do it then I really need to get a grip!”. Nathan even fell a few times on the way down and (very unlike him) didn’t cry. I long for the day when we can go on hiking trips as a family and this ‘test’ run and first ever hill walk with the kids couldn’t have gone any smoother.
Since that day I have returned several times with them at different times of the year and tried different routes. The two most memorable climbs definitely include the frosty December morning I took Thomas – age 3 – before nursery, and the after school jaunt we did in the summer with another family. It is always a winner :-)