Walk 146 – Hill Wood Walk, Straiton – 4-6 miles

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This is a circular walk beginning in the quaint rural Ayrshire village of Straiton. Initially the route heads uphill to follow sometimes boggy forestry tracks, known as the Hill Wood. Enjoy fine views down into the village and the Galloway hills beyond. The return leg of the walk loops back into Straiton on a variety of terrain including farm tracks, grassy fields and surfaced roads. Option to shorten the walk to 4 miles described below.

Terrain: Farm tracks, forestry trails, grassy fields, surfaced roads. First part of the walk mostly uphill. Several gates. No stiles. 

Livestock: field sometimes contains livestock – be a responsible walker.

Car park off Kirkmichael Road, Straiton (KA19 7NF). There is an information board in the car park and some leaflets about walks in the area. Local bus service stops on Main Street, 1 minute from the walk start point.

Hill Wood Walk, Straiton
Map image for 6 mile loop

WALK REPORT: 11th July 2017 and 10th January 2024

A while back I picked up a leaflet containing several walks in the Straiton area, one of which was the Hill Wood Walk. I’d enjoyed my previous rambles in the area so knew this one would be no different.

The initial climb out of the village was perhaps steeper and longer than I had anticipated, so we were grateful for the lovely view at the top for a chance to catch our breath (see cover image!) After a little bit of confusion due to the Hill Wood path being quite overgrown and “not possibly where we need to go” we determined that it was indeed the way and set off into the jungle.

Grassy woodland track with wild flowers and trees encroaching on the path
July 2017
Boggy forest track
July 2017

Somehow whilst inside the Hill Wood I managed to lose mum! It was the most impossible path ever to lose someone on, but we managed it….

I needed to use the bathroom, found a suitable spot, told mum, she said ok and continued along the path, I did my business, came out from the trees two minutes later and picked up the pace to catch up. Where the hell is she? I thought as I followed the path around yet another bend . No sign of her! I stopped and checked behind me. Nothing. I listened for crunching or swishing of grass or any sort of noise to signify another person was near…. just an eerie silence. Muuuum?!  I called out…. not a peep in reply. I knew I hadn’t passed her, and I knew there had been no alternative paths, so she must be ahead of me. Yet I knew that she wouldn’t usually go so far ahead without waiting…. Has she been dragged into the trees by some mad man?  All sorts of things went through my head and I didn’t know whether to keep walking or start heading back. I was going to have to try and phone her! Just as I reached for my mobile it rang, ‘Mum’ flashing on the screen. Turned out she had decided to go to the loo as well just along from where I’d stopped! Could only happen to us….!

When we returned a whole 7 years later we expected to find the Hill Wood route in a different condition: for one thing it was now winter so it shouldn’t be overgrown and for another we were hoping that the previous night’s hard frost would reduce the bog factor. Not only were both of those expectations met, but the trail was almost unrecognisable! Some large machinery had evidently been along it and torn out some of the trees, widening the path. Pieces of shredded tree lay all over the ground – we assumed a technique to help with drainage. About halfway through the forest even more work had been done: a huge (and very effective) drainage ditch had been dug to the right-hand side of the track, and the track itself had been built up. Like a motorway, mum exclaimed!

Forest clearing with shredded bit of trees on the boggy track
January 2024
Forest track with large ditch at the side
January 2024

We had questions…. Was this work being done simply to improve drainage along the trail? That would be amazing but seemed unlikely… Are there bigger plans: is the access through the forest being improved to allow other equipment in perhaps to carry out some felling, or are there plans for a windfarm or similar? Is the work complete or do they plan to extend the drainage ditch all the way through?

I have since found out that it is to allow access for a small amount of tree felling, possibly in relation to the nationwide programme of removing diseased Larch trees, although that has not been confirmed to me. More information about the programme can be on the Forestry and Land Scotland website.

Back to our first visit in June 2017…..

The route described in the leaflet was not a circular – it appeared to end when you emerged out of the Hill Wood at the main road. The return options seemed to be to retrace your steps back through Hill Wood or walk along the busy B road, neither of which appealed to me.  So I devised my own circular walk from here, and the result was better than I could have imagined!  (I did boast to my mum that in my very biased opinion the return section was far more interesting and enjoyable than the published walk from the leaflet 😉 ) There was wildlife-a-plenty: dragonflies, bees, butterflies, heron, a bird of prey (need to swot up on my birds!) and some beautiful areas of wild flowers.

Farm tracks lined with wild flowers
wild flowers next to a dry stone wall

When we reached the field I became a little nervous as there wasn’t actually a path or track across it. Although on our particular visit there were what appeared to be fresh landrover tracks which had flattened the grass enough to leave a trail for us to follow. We soon found out why: the farmer was out. He turned out to be really nice and even paused, puffing away at his pipe, to hold a gate open for us. This was reassuring, as was the fact that we were following a track shown on my map as opposed to randomly crossing a field. There were sheep present, but they didn’t bother with us.

This is definitely the trickiest part of the walk to navigate, so do follow the route description above closely so that you don’t lose your way. There are two fields and both are small hills which means you can’t see where you are aiming to get to until you are well on your way there. The annotated photos below should help if you’re in doubt, although you may have to alter your route if there is livestock in the fields when you visit.

After coming off the fields we were back onto surfaced minor roads and gravel tracks. Highlights included crossing the Old Bridge of Blairquhan and fine views across the fields to Monument Hill (a walk for a different day!)

The Old Bridge of Blairquhan
This was taken standing on the bridge with the Water of Girvan flowing beneath me, the onwards track visible to the right and a lovely view across to Monument Hill 
Heading towards Bennan Farm

We both loved the very last section of the walk through Straiton. Despite parking next to the recreation ground several times in the past for walks or visits to the play park, this was my first time actually passing through the village itself.  Rows of quaint cottages with tiny little gardens to the front. A real ‘olde worlde’ feel about it.

And no walk would be complete without a visit to the local public toilets (even though, as you have read, we definitely shouldn’t have needed to go yet!) It turns out that they are run by locals, having been closed by the council in 2008. Apparently it costs £3500 to run every year and they rely solely on donations. We loved this little poem inside which got the message across in a lighthearted way 🙂

Cottages on Straiton Main Street
Poem inside the public loos. Make a donation here!

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