Walk 128 – Ayrshire Coastal Path: Irvine – Stevenston – Saltcoats – Ardrossan (9.3 miles)

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Beginning with an easy inland section along the NCN7 cycle track between Irvine and Stevenston, this walk then returns to the coast for the second half. Expect beautiful sandy beaches, wide concrete promenades and pavements. On the coastal section the Isle of Arran will accompany you to the west on a clear day! When passing, delve into local history by taking some time to read the plaques along the walls of the former Ardrossan Boating Ponds. 

  Car park at Low Green play area, Irvine (KA12 8RJ) and on-street parking on Montgomerie Street, Ardrossan. Bus services between Irvine and Ardrossan. Train services between Irvine and Ardrossan (change at Kilwinning).

route-image Route: From the Low Green in Irvine, the Ayrshire Coastal Path way markers lead walkers North along the cycle path with the River Irvine always to the left-hand side. You will walk beneath the Marress Road bridge, then past the Robert Burns statue on Irvine Meadow, meeting up with the railway line after 1km. At this point the cycle path turns right (North), away from the river and runs parallel to the railway line. After 350m cross over a minor road and pick up the cycle path at the other side. Continue to follow the cycle path for 1km to emerge beside Bartonholm Recycling Centre. Turn right (East) then immediately left (North) along the roadside pavement, past Garnock Floods Nature Reserve. After crossing the River Garnock, turn right (East) to cross the B779 and enter an area of trees. The path passes beneath the Kilwinning Bypass and follows the course of the River Garnock upstream. After 1km there is a fork in the path next to a bridge – keep left (do not cross the river). Cross over the B779/Nethermains Road after 240m to pick up the continuation of the cycle path at the other side. You will come out of the trees onto Longford Avenue. Cross the road and continue West onto Byrehill Road, later becoming Dubbs Road, following the Ayrshire Coastal Path and NCN73 signage. These are quiet minor roads and you are on them for approx 3km. Shortly after passing Greenacres Caravan Park, cross the B752 and continue straight ahead (South West) into Ardeer Park. Follow the Ayrshire Coastal Path signage South then West around the edge of the park, emerging onto Moorpark Road East. At the crossroads turn left (South East) onto Station Road in Stevenston. After the level crossing Station Road becomes Shore Road. As you approach a grassy area, Shore Road splits into two – keep right (South West) to head towards a fenced-off play area. After passing the play area, turn right (West) to walk through a car park. At the end of the car park turn left (South West) and cross the footbridge onto Stevenston Beach. Turn right (West) and walk along the sandy beach for 800m to a ramp at the northern end. This takes you onto a wide promenade. At the end of the wide promenade turn left (South West) onto Seaview Road. Follow the path closest to the bay for 400m to Saltcoats Harbour. Turn right (North West) to walk around the edge of the water on a surfaced path, a large car park on your right-hand side. Just around the point you will pass a stone tower overlooking the former Ardrossan bathing pools. Walk around a kids play area and past the former bathing pools to reach the edge of Ardrossan South Beach. Follow the promenade for 1.4km to merge onto B780/Arran Place. Turn left (West). After a bend in the road, Arran Place becomes Princess Street. Continue North West along Princes Street for 350m, through a level crossing and a pedestrian crossing. After the pedestrian crossing there is a fork in the road – keep left (West) to go onto Dockers Gardens, taking the first right (North West) to reach Ardrossan Harbour.

ACP Irvine to Ardrossan.png

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When I did this part of the Ayrshire Coastal Path during a charity hike I had already walked 16 miles from Ayr with my mum and friend Helen, so I was a little weary.  Now walking alone, I found the initial inland section along the cycle track pretty uninspiring. I felt somewhat annoyed by the fact that if there had been a proper bridge across the River Irvine, such as the one to The Big Idea which has been left in the open position (and therefore useless) since 2016, then it might have been possible to walk along Ardeer Beach and cut out a lot of unnecessary miles. I am not against inland sections on a long distance coastal walk – there had been some stunning ones on my journey so far from Glenapp 60 miles south – but I AM against inland sections which offer absolutely no view to the coast whatsoever. I am being a tad harsh…. this one was more scenic than some cycle tracks I have walked along in the past. It went through some nice woodland areas and had more twists and turns that I had expected, plus there was a 2 mile stretch along a quiet minor road which was pleasant. It also offered some relief from the wind that had been battering my face all day!

An early section of the cycle track from Irvine to Stevenston. Scenic with the River Irvine and railway viaduct to the left, and the yellow flowering gorse bush lining the path.  It was along this track that I stopped to make some adjustments to my feet when, before I could take my boots off a man out walking his grandaughter’s dog decided to take a seat on the bench beside me and have a chat for 15 minutes. He was charming and very interested in the outdoors, told me all about his granddaughter and his children, but I couldn’t exactly whip off my stinking boots and socks and adjust my toe protectors in front of him could I?! With no sign of him moving on any time soon I made my excuses and headed off…… to the next bench to try again!
The Garnock Water which the route follows for a short distance just south of Kilwinning

I was glad to reach the beach at Stevenston, not least because of the sights I had just witnessed coming through the town: school-age kids trying to duck under the level crossing barrier before (and even after) it closed to let a train pass….. Other kids driving motorbikes up and down the pavement on Station Road. “Classy”, I thought. Coming across the footbridge and onto the beach was like walking into another world. There wasn’t another soul to be seen anywhere along the pristine golden sand. I reminded myself that it was blowing a gale and that was most likely a big factor in that but I was grateful nonetheless! I was also grateful to the team of local volunteers I had read about who work tirelessly to keep Stevenston Beach litter-free. Were it not for them, judging by the behaviour of the youths I had just witnessed in town, I had no doubts that the beach would be far less enjoyable for me to be on.

Footbridge across Stevenston Burn leading to the golden sands
Part of the promenade linking Stevenston and Saltcoats
On reaching the promenade which links Stevenston and Saltcoats, heavy rain battered me for the umpteenth time that day. Head down… plodded on. Almost at the end I told myself! But every single drop of rain was completely worthwhile to be rewarded with this stunning view on my arrival at Saltcoats harbour!
I didn’t know it at the time but these are former boating ponds. Such a shame that they are no longer used! I can imagine my kids (and husband!) would love to come down here with some remote-controlled boats. I guess there is nothing to stop people from doing so? Perhaps they do, but on this particular day it was abandoned….
The marina in Ardrossan, marking the end of the walk. I do feel I need to give the Viewranger Buddy Beacon a mention at this point because were it not for that my lift home would have been 2 hours later than me arriving in Ardrossan! Buddy Beacon was a feature within the Viewranger app (edit May 2022 – app now closed down) which allowed your ‘buddy’ (in my case my husband) to see your location at any given interval. My mobile phone had a fault and was not picking up any signal. My husband therefore did not receive my text message to tell him I would be arriving in Ardrossan at 6pm rather than the planned time of 8pm. When he couldn’t reach me by phone he used Buddy Beacon to check my location…. and panicked when he realised how far along I was!! Kids were thrown into the car and they were there in perfect time to pick me up. I will be forever grateful to Viewranger for developing this feature because after a 26 mile hike in the wind and rain I was not in any mood to be hanging around or catching a bus!

I am conscious that I have painted rather a dull picture of this walk, however I do believe that this is due to having walked so far before I got to the starting point of it, and the weather playing a part too. As a walk on it’s own merits, the Irvine to Stevenston cycle track would be great if you are looking for an easy stroll inland through woodland and parks. It would be buggy-friendly too. More exciting would be the Stevenston to Ardrossan section if you are like me and prefer to be beside (or on!) the seaside ;-) The towns of Stevenston, Saltcoats and Ardrossan merge seamlessly together so you are never far from civilization.

Go to: next section Ardrossan to Portencross
Go to: previous section Troon to Irvine
Go to: full Ayrshire Coastal Path review

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