Starting at Dundonald Castle, follow this ancient route used in the 18th century to transport tea, wine, brandy, rum and tobacco inland from the cargo boats arriving in Troon! It covers an extremely varied terrain with everything from woodland paths to tarmac roads to long grass and then sand thrown in the mix! You will pass a quiet reservoir, walk through Fullarton Woods then across Royal Troon Golf Course, finishing it off with a stroll along Troon’s sandy Beach. The views across to Isle of Arran are not to be missed so be sure to keep this one for a clear day!
Click HERE to view or follow a map of the route
Car parking available at Dundonald Castle (KA2 9HD). We also left a car in Troon (car park at bottom of B749/Craigend Road – KA10 7LE) which was waiting for us at the end of the walk. Otherwise you can walk back making it 14 miles in total.
Route: Starting at the information board behind Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre, follow the footpath leading past the play park and into the trees. Turn left at a crossroads and further along when you come to the end of the path turn right, as indicated by the green arrow on the way marker post. You will come to a muddy section where the path appears to head steeply uphill directly in front. In fact as you approach the hill you will see that there is also a track turning left and this is the one you should follow. You will reach a reservoir then the trail joins up with a minor road through a cluster of houses and farms before crossing over A78/Troon bypass via a footbridge and onto A759. Turn left here to walk into the village of Loans. Continue all the way through to the end of the village. The A759 bends right towards Troon but you should continue straight onto B746/Main Street. After a short walk turn right down a farm track. At the bottom of the hill turn right through an open gate to walk along a narrow path alongside a field. On reaching a minor road turn left. This tree-lined tarmac road takes you right through the middle of Fullarton Woods and past Marr Rugby Club. The route is much better signposted at this side of Loans as you will start to see. The tarmac road turns to gravel after passing the rugby club but you will soon reach another tarmac road where you turn right to pass Crosbie Cemetery. The path disappears here. Cut across the grass and take care crossing Monktonhill Road to a track clearly visible heading into the trees at the other side. This section can be very muddy. At a gate you will come to B749/Southwood Road which you should cross over and again the onward route is clearly visible straight ahead. Keep left at a fork which will lead you up onto the railway bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the path across Royal Troon Golf Course until you reach the sandy beach. If you want to follow the Smugglers Trail route to the letter turn right along a narrow grassy footpath which you will see just before reaching the beach. For better views turn right on the beach and walk along the coastline. At the end of Royal Troon Golf Course look out for a way off the beach, re-joining the Smugglers Trail footpath above the beach and using the stairs to reach the car park just right of the promenade.
WALK REPORT: 31st August 2016
My mum asked me about doing the Smugglers Trail in March shortly after I completed the Prestwick to Troon coastal walk. I had seen way markers for the trail that day and had wondered what it was so it was good timing on my mum’s part! I went on to do one half of the Smugglers Trail (Dundonald to Loans) with a friend in May and finally today, 5 months after it was originally suggested, got around to walking the full route with my mum. We got a brilliant night for it weather-wise, one of the things I had been waiting for: the sunset behind Arran was just magnificent.
The first part of the walk is through woodland around Dundonald Castle. It is quite a long section and not very well way marked so make sure you use the map and route description provided above. There are also quite a few uphill parts involved….. it may be a low level walk but it is definitely not a flat one, not this first half anyway! We came across some interesting features along the way including wild mushrooms and a quarry. You can also catch a glimpse of Dundonald Castle off to the left if you are paying attention…. the last time you will see it on the walk (the first being right at the start).
For me personally the section through the woods was almost too long, I was starting to get a little bored. Possibly because I knew what was at the other side and just couldn’t wait to get there. On a beautiful night like tonight I knew that we were about to witness the beginnings of the sun setting behind the reservoir and reflecting the mackerel sky into it’s perfectly still waters….. It was what I had brought my mum here to see, and waited 5 months for the perfect occasion to do so! It was worth the wait…..
After this the going is pretty much all flat and on tarmac surfaces. I will admit that I didn’t much enjoy the walk along the A759 and into Loans, but the village itself is very pretty.
I was a little anxious about finding where the right turn off the main road would be: on my map the road didn’t exist but the websites I had researched the route on assured me that there was one! This is what it looks like in case you suffer the same anxieties as I do 🙂
The track leads you across to then through Fullarton Woods. I had been to this area before to visit the Fairy Trail with the kids, but had never walked in from this side. The signage for the Smugglers Trail becomes much better from here on in. I am not sure why, it’s almost as though there are different organisations responsible for each half and those in charge at the Troon side have done a better job at marking the route than their friends in Dundonald. We were delighted to find the loos at the play park still open and duly made use of them before continuing 🙂
There are a couple of busier roads to cross after this section, each road joined by a footpath through some trees. It was starting to get dark by now the night we did the walk and going through the trees it was particularly hard to see. I even had to use the torch on my mobile at one point which seems to be becoming a bit of a habit when out with my mother (last used to go through a dark smelly tunnel on a recent Kilmarnock walk!) Once through this short section however the countryside opens up before you and from the high vantage point of the railway bridge you are rewarded with this view across Royal Troon Golf Course and across to the Isle of Arran.
The track leads you straight across the extremely well-maintained golf course towards the beach.The very last part was quite overgrown when we were there but the path could still be seen underneath the long grass if you looked carefully!
We decided to do that last stretch along the beach because the views are much better from there: The Smugglers Trail runs parallel to the beach through the long grass but you are behind the embankment so the sea views are hidden. And let’s face it, who wants to hide from views like these?!
These are the stairs to look out for in order to leave the beach at the right place to find the car park described at the top of this page.