A 12 mile circular route which I suggest starting at Eglinton Country Park. Half of it follows the NCN73 cycle path whilst the remainder is along a mixture of earth tracks, surfaced footpaths and urban areas. An entirely flat walk makes for easy walking and feels surprisingly rural, often accompanied by either the Lugton Water, Annick Water or the River Irvine. Sights to look forward to include Eglinton Castle, the Cairnmount Hill standing stones, Sourlie Woods and Garnock Floods Wildlife Reserves, Robert Burns statue, plenty of bridges, and if you do it in summer, apple trees and wild flowers galore! Possibly the most difficult trail I have had to navigate so far, I would suggest not relying solely on the way-markers which I found to be confusing, missing or hidden at times!
Download the route to your mobile phone HERE (Viewranger app required)
Car parking available at Eglinton Country Park (KA12 8TA)
Route: THE RED TEXT INDICATES SECTIONS WHERE I FOUND NAVIGATION TO BE DIFFICULT AND SO EXTRA CARE IS ADVISED! The walk starts from the Courtyard area at Eglinton Country Park, next to the toilet block. Follow the Gardens Walk past the cafe, a small car park and then through the trees to reach the Lugton Water (look out for the ruins of Caprington Castle through the trees on your left). Turn right at the river to follow the Countryside Walk. At a fork keep left to cross a small stone bridge (ignoring a tempting way marker with a red arrow on it pointing the other way). When you reach a crossroads turn right and at a second one with gates on either side continue straight ahead. The path now winds its way through some trees and into Sourlie Wood Wildlife Reserve. Just before you reach the A736/Cairnmount Road underpass, there is an optional short de-tour to the right to see the Eglinton standing stones with lovely views over the Dalry Moor. Return to the main path and continue to the underpass. Follow the tree-lined path through a residential area, using the way markers to stay on track. One mile along there is an important left turn which can easily be missed as it just looks like a small track off the main path and the way-marker can become hidden by vegetation. Keep left at the next fork to follow the Annick Water around the edge of a large area of open ground. At the other side, where the path curves round to meet a fork, there is a way-marker pointing both directions (confusing!) Turn left to reach the Bourtreehill Busway. Cross it and turn left along the pavement. After approx 150m, at a bus stop, look out for a way-marker inviting you to cross back over the Bourtreehill Busway (left) and onto a residential lane. The lane becomes Heatherstane Way and winds through the housing estate. Turn left onto Lowther Bank and then immediately right to pick up the New Town Trail footpath once again, passing across some grass and into the trees. Keep right at a fork to follow the Annick Water along and join up with the NCN73 cycle track. Turn right here and follow the NCN73 signage for 6 miles. After passing Garnock Floods Wildlife Reserve, the trail turns right and passes underneath the A78/Kilwinning Bypass before following the Garnock Water along for a short distance to a crossroads. Turn right here, signposted ‘Eglinton Country Park 1.25 miles’. You will then reach the A737/Irvine Road. Cross using the pedestrian crossing and turn right, ignoring a tempting entrance to Eglinton Country Park straight ahead of you. Cross a minor road and shortly after this turn left onto a lane which brings you safely onto said minor road. Almost immediately turn right to join a pleasant surfaced path alongside a field. Just where the path begins to turn left at the end of the field, turn right to cross the suspension bridge over the Lugton Water. Turn left at the other side and then right to follow the Gardens Walk around the camping ground. When the playpark comes into sight turn left to return to the start of the walk.
WALK REPORT: 30th July 2017
I first noticed signage for the Irvine & Kilwinning New Town Trail on a visit to Eglinton Country Park and naturally I was keen to check it out! I had heard from a couple of people that navigating it was tricky and I knew friends who had set out to do the entire trail and ended up walking round in circles. Up for a challenge, I knew that if anyone could crack it, it was me!
Eve was one of said friends and it seemed only polite that I should invite her along on my trail of discovery. Off we set, armed with my trusty Viewranger app complete with pre-loaded route which I had pieced together using the Ayrshire Paths website. The beauty of this app is that you can see in an instant if you have taken a wrong turn. The pre-loaded route is shown in one colour, and your own route in another. If they don’t match, you’ve made a mistake! There is also a handy arrow which points in the direction you are supposed to be walking and flashes red if you aren’t on track. Foolproof, right?! Well, yes, assuming you check your position regularly. Even with the use of Viewranger we still managed to go the wrong way a few times. This was no fault of the app, it was simply a case of us plodding along assuming we were going the right way and eventually I would check the map and realise we had been supposed to turn off somewhere half a mile back. Moral of the story…. way markers alone will not guide you to complete this loop! My personal recommendation is to download the free route I have plotted out for you on Viewranger and follow it, regularly checking that you are on track.
Eglinton Country Park is amazing, one of my favourites in Ayrshire. I found it a shame that the route missed out some interesting areas of the park, most importantly the castle. You could easily walk along and not know it was there at all. I had been before so knew that it was nestled behind the trees and sneaked off-route to take a quick snap.
The trail was alive with colour and full of life: wildflowers lined the paths, teeming with bees going about their work. At one point an unspoken competition began between Eve and I, to see who could take the best ‘bee on a flower’ photo. My entry is below…. 😉 Whilst walking along the cycle track between Towns Moor and the B779, we passed some apple trees. I was simply awestruck by the sheer volume of apples on them, just incredible. It was like nothing I had ever seen in my life before. There is a photo below but I am not even sure that it accurately reflects the abundance of fruit that was present… A lot of them were green and so blended in well with the foliage. If you zoom in you may be able to see what I mean. I pondered for a moment the incredible journey these apples would have come on from their humble beginnings as buds and the growth period to become fully fledged and delicious-looking pieces of fruit. What a shame that most of them must just fall on the ground and rot My apple tree knowledge is limited but if these are edible then I’ll be back next year with some carrier bags!
The short sections through residential areas didn’t appeal to me so much, but I do tend to prefer walking ‘off-the-beaten-track’. In fact, one of the biggest boo-boos Eve and I made was missing a turn-off in Bourtreehill and we ended up spending a while trying to find a way through the maze of houses back onto the trail. We agreed that we were glad we weren’t there alone! Urban proved that it can also be fun though, when we stopped to admire this wall art beneath the Riverside Shopping Centre. Certainly brightened up a dull area!
A highlight of the walk for me was unexpectedly coming across the standing stones on Cairnmount Hill. It was a short de-tour from the main path but well worth it for the views across Dalry Moor!
In summary, the Irvine & Kilwinning New Town Trail was easy-going, flat and had a surprise around every corner. Navigating it required considerable concentration and an electronic map with GPS but this made conquering it all the more rewarding! Lots of lovely views along the trail as well as some hidden gems just off-route. Although we didn’t enjoy the residential sections, they were short and sweet so didn’t dampen the enjoyment of the walk as a whole.