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Wandering though this delightful woodland, the impressive remains of Old Auchans House seem to appear out of nowhere. Now a category ‘A’ listed building, the mansion dates back to the 16th century and has been home to the Wallace, Cochrane and Montgomerie families over the years. Go late January to see snowdrops galore, late April for wild garlic, and May for a sea of bluebells! See Route info below for a shorter 1.5 miles option too.
Car parking available at Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre, KA2 9HD. Local bus service stops on B730 just at the entrance to the Visitor Centre car park.
Route: From Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre follow the footpath which goes West from the information board, passing a kids play park on your right-hand side. Ignore paths on your right leading into a residential area 250m along. Once in the woods you will cross a footbridge and arrive at a 3-way crossroads. Take the path on your right (North West) to follow the Dundonald Burn downstream 100m. Keep left (West) at a fork. The delightful woodland trail continues gently uphill to the remains of Auchans House. The path goes around the east side of the house before circling around the back. You will see a farm track heading north west towards the A759 – ignore this, keeping left (South West) to continue around Auchans House. Ignore some minor paths on your right-hand side, continuing South East to the edge of a quarry site. A steep climb up a gravel path awaits you after this point, and from the gate at the top you will have a wonderful view across to the Isle of Arran on a clear day. Head North East from the gate, back into the trees. After a fairly steep downhill section you will arrive at a boggy area where a small burn crosses the path. (For a shorter, 1.5 mile loop, turn left here and head downhill back to the bridge at the entrance to the woods). Continue ahead (right fork), keeping the fenceline of the field close to your right-hand side for 1km. The path takes you along the top of a steep embankment with wonderful views across to Dundonald Castle in places. You will reach a gate and should turn left downhill (South East) to join up with a wider track (The Smuggler’s Trail). Turn left (North East) on the Smuggler’s Trail and continue along for 700m, keeping the Dundonald Burn on your right-hand side once you reach it. When you arrive at the bridge turn right (north) to cross it and retrace your steps from here to Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre.
WALK REPORT: FEB & APR 2018
This is the type of walk which leaves me wondering what other fascinating places exist around Ayrshire that I have yet to discover. What I first described as being hidden in the woods, on reflection becomes in fact extremely easy to access. You only have to know it is there in the first place!
My first experience of Dundonald Woods was back when I walked the Smuggler’s Trail, and I have returned several times since, almost always following the same route. It has plenty of interesting features inside: moss covered boulder fields, various types of fungi, wild flowers, and apparently also ruined 16th century castles….
The first route I tried was the longer, and in my opinion more challenging of the two. I was in a bit of a rush that day and found the last section really quite tricky underfoot due to lots and lots of mud which made the path very slippery. Most likely the speed at which I was attempting to complete the loop was part of the issue too! Having said that, it was definitely worth the effort because the path ran along the top of a steep embankment which offered the occasional fabulous view of Dundonald Castle and Dundonald Village below. I returned a few weeks later with my husband and two young children to try the shorter option and experienced far less mud and generally much easier conditions all round. Without the views of course! So which option you choose really depends on how much you mind mud and whether you are willing to put up with some in order to have a nice view!
Speaking of nice views, I was rewarded with a magnificent view across the quarry to a snow-capped Isle of Arran on my first visit. Just magical! However, I hadn’t quite prepared myself for the almost vertical climb uphill to get to this viewpoint: a gravel path seemingly installed by Hillhouse Quarry Group. I could see it from a distance and told myself that it couldn’t possibly be the continuation of the route….. Um, yes it was. Options 1 and 2 both involve this climb; to avoid it simply walk from the car park to Auchans House and back the same way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you 😉
Old Auchans House was bigger than I had expected. Even more surprising then, that I had never come across it before! Metal fencing had been erected around it to protect the site and attempt to keep us safe. I loved how one wall, the most intact in fact, was covered in ivy. Perhaps all that was holding it together, who knows! The boundary wall of what would presumably have been the castle garden was still visible and I took some time to wonder about what life must have been like for the families who lived out here 500 years ago. Apparently it has not been lived in since the late 1700s when Susannah, Countess of Eglinton, passed away. If you are interested in reading more about the history of this former residence, you will find an information board next to the Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre.
If you enjoyed this walk you might also enjoy the Smuggler’s Trail which starts from the same place and goes all the way to Troon.