Walk 125 – Ayrshire Coastal Path: Maidens – Culzean – Dunure (7 miles)

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Culzean Bay where, somewhere in the sand, there is a perfectly good pair of Ray-Bans to be found!

Enjoy the clifftop views of the more rugged sections of coastline between the villages of Maidens and Dunure. You will even pass directly in front of the incredible 18th century Culzean Castle, as well as the remains of Dunure Castle – which dates back as far as the 1200s! Terrain includes firm sandy beaches, woodland earth paths and grassy farm tracks.

**It is important to check tide times before setting off on this walk**

  Car park at Maidens Harbour and Kennedy Park Dunure (chargeable, seasonal). Bus services to Maidens and Dunure (but not directly between the villages, need to go via Ayr).

route-image  Route: From the car park at Maidens Harbour, head North East across a grassy area towards a footbridge over a burn. Cross the bridge then when possible drop down onto the sandy beach of Maidenhead Bay. Walk North along the sandy beach for 1km to the mouth of a burn. Turn right (East) here to find a footbridge allowing you to cross over the burn. Turn left (West) to return to the beach. Continue North along the beach for a further 300m towards a rocky outcrop. Just before the end of the bay look out for some boardwalk and steps on your right-hand side – go up these to access Culzean Castle & Country Park. At the top of the steps keep left at two forks and follow the earth footpath North then East around the clifftops. After 500m you will arrive on the banks of the Swan Pond. Turn left (North) to cross a burn then almost immediately after, at a fork, turn left (North) onto an earth footpath signposted “Cliff Walk“. The footpath leads you uphill through pleasant woodland. After 600m at a fork keep left (North East) to continue along the cliff edge. A further 300m along after the path begins to head away from the cliff edge, you will reach a path junction. Turn left (North East). Over the course of the next 100m ignore three paths off to your left and right: first a path to the left (North West), which goes to the Powder House, then a path to your right (South),and lastly a path to the left (North West), also going to the Powder House. At this final fork, your path turns East then North East for 200m to reach a minor road. Turn right (North East) onto the road for 60m then turn left (North) off of the road onto a footpath which leads to an open grassy area. Culzean Castle will be visible ahead. Cross the grass in the direction of Culzean Castle to reach a gap in the wall on your right-hand side. Go through the gap and into a small parking area and onwards along the road past the rear of the castle to a viewpoint. Exit this area to the South East of the ’roundabout’ through a stone archway. Turn left (North) onto a road before crossing the bridge and then immediately turn right (South East) to follow a footpath which cuts out a corner of the road. When you merge onto the road again, cross over and turn right (East) then left (North) to follow the road downhill for 170m to the Gas House. Alternatively there are some steps you can take which allow you to cut out the corner again. On reaching the Gas House go down onto the sandy beach. Follow the bay North, picking up a woodland path in the trees 280m along which helps you get around the rocky foreshore, before leading you back onto the beach just beyond a holiday cottage. Walk along the beach for 3km as it sweeps past Croyburnfoot Caravan Park and a further 800m along look out for an Ayrshire Coastal Path way-marker on the right-hand side, directing you uphill via a winding grassy footpath. At the top of the hill go through a kissing gate and follow the field-edge, cliff-top route for 1.5km, passing a wartime coastal lookout tower, before beginning a descent into the village of Dunure. Follow the track through the trees and down some steps. Keep right (North) at a fork. You will soon arrive at the edge of Kennedy Park. Follow the track across the grass, past a toilet block and kids play area, then head towards the remains of Dunure Castle on your left. Go past the castle and dovecote, following a narrow trail across a small burn, beneath a limekiln and through a car park. At the end of the car park turn left (West) down a residential lane. At the end of the lane turn right (North) and you will arrive at Dunure Harbour where this walk ends.

Maidens to Dunure

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The Maidens Harbour to Culzean Castle section took me just over one hour to walk. From there it was just over 2 hours into Dunure.

I decided to do a slight variation from the official route into Culzean Castle & Country Park. From what I understand you are supposed to come off Maidenhead Bay at Hogston Burn where the caravan park ends and walk all the way along ‘Long Avenue’ until the swan pond. Having walked that road many many times in the past it did not appeal to me today (too long and straight and pretty uninteresting). I knew that if I walked to the other end of the bay there was a boardwalk which would lead me to the cliff walk. Far more exciting! It is a beautiful woodland walk and thanks to it’s elevated position I was rewarded with stunning views across the glimmering silver water to the Ailsa Craig. I tend to favour less populated routes, and with today being a sunny bank holiday weekend I knew that the ‘easier’ trails would be busy. Another reason for choosing the cliff walk.

View looking north from the Cliff Walk within Culzean Castle & Country Park
Set within almost 600 acres of countryside, Culzean Castle is the former home of the chief of Clan Kennedy. It is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland.

Despite countless visits to Culzean as a child I can’t ever remember walking on the beach north of the castle, so I was really looking forward to it. I had it pretty much to myself this day and wandered along taking time to enjoy the views.  Culzean Castle looked even more grand from this angle, perched on top of the cliff at the end of the bay. Stopping to take a few photos I suddenly realised that my sunglasses were no longer hooked onto my t-shirt collar. My Ray-Bans! I knew they had been there when I came down onto this beach at the Gas House because I distinctly remembered patting my chest to check and thinking to myself that I would be best to move them from there before they fell…… I paced that beach back and forth at least four times and could not find them 🙁 I was gutted! Have you ever tried to re-trace your steps on a soft sandy beach?? It is pretty difficult! Lesson learned….

After passing over the rocky outcrop at the end of the bay, Croyburnfoot caravan park came into view. It looked super far away! It didn’t take long though thanks to the firm sand.
Can you spot the way-marker?? Approx half a mile along from the caravan park the route headed slightly inland to miss out a more rugged section of coastline which would have been difficult to walk over even in the low tide conditions I had today. I loved the variation in terrain and view though! It seemed to come just at the right time: I was walking the entire Ayrshire Coastal Path for the Mark McCloskey Foundation so this was just one part of a 25 mile hike which had started 16 miles back in Girvan! By this point I’d had enough of sandy beaches and welcomed the zig zagging grassy path onto higher ground.

The next section was across a series of fields, all of which were empty on my visit but can be home to various forms of livestock. Again, the views were just spectacular from up there and I really got a sense of how vast an area this was and just how remote and rugged the coast is. I also pondered how lucky the farmers here were to have THAT view at their work!!

View from the high field path, looking back. Ailsa Craig visible to the right.

If you have time I highly recommend visiting Dunure Castle whilst in the area.  You will find information boards explaining some of the history of the building, and a special staircase inside it allows visitors to climb to the upper floor and take in the stunning coastal views. The village also has it’s very own labyrinth and public toilets are available in Kennedy Park (seasonal). Car parking is available either at the harbour (very limited spaces, free) or in Kennedy Park (chargeable).

Having been a ruin for at least the past 300 years, Dunure Castle was once the main fortress of the Kennedy family . The route of this walk passes directly in front of it and it is even possible to take a peek inside 🙂
The fishing village of Dunure ahead, it’s small harbour marking the end of this route.

Go to: next section Dunure to Ayr
Go to: previous section Girvan to Maidens
Go to: full Ayrshire Coastal Path review

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