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!
Car parking available at Eglinton Country Park (KA12 8TA)
Route: Being a circular walk, it can be started anywhere on the route. My directions below begin from Eglinton Country Park. Start the walk at a wooden gateway with “Visitor Centre” marked above it, close to the main car parks. There is also a statue of a horse here. Facing away from the Visitor Centre, turn left to follow the road round and walk through the car park via its main entrance. Move onto the footpath on your right and follow this through the trees to reach the remains of Eglinton Castle and then the Lugton Water. Turn right at the river (don’t cross the bridge) and continue on this gravel track. This section is well way-marked so follow the New Town Trail marker posts as you wind your way through a mixture of open countryside and tree-lined paths. After approx 1.5 miles you will enter Sourlie Wood Wildlife Reserve for a short time. Just as you leave Sourlie Wood, there is an optional short de-tour to the right to see the Eglinton standing stones with lovely views over the Dalry Moor – if doing so, turn right at the Eglinton Country Park information board. Return to the main path via the same route and continue to go through the A736/Cairnmount Road underpass. From here use the New Town Trail marker posts to stay on track, along a variety of the tree-lined surfaced paths (many of which have a “disused railway line” look about them). Approx 1.5 miles from the underpass, you will reach a crossroads where the way marker appears to point both left and right. Technically you can go either way, but the “correct” course is to turn right here and then almost immediately left. This takes you through some trees then out onto a large area of open ground. After a short uphill section you will emerge at a road. 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 road (left) and into Bourtreehill on Heatherstane Way. Where the pavement runs out, head to the right onto the road and continue along Heatherstane Way until you see a sign for Lowther Bank. [Note: approx halfway along Heatherstane Way there are New Town Trail way markers directing you off to the right at a metal barrier – do not follow these as they just take you round in a circle back to this point!] From Lowther Bank turn left and you will reassuringly see the New Town Trail way markers once again. This footpath crosses a grassy area and heads 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 the minor road a little further along. Almost immediately turn right at the Eglinton information board onto a pleasant earth footpath. On reaching the suspension bridge, cross over the Lugton Water. Turn left at the other side and follow the path around the camping ground. Turn right at a fork and this last section of path takes you along towards the play area, Tournament Cafe and toilets. Continue to the end of this footpath then turn left to return to the start point 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.