Walk 198 – Stewarton to Dunlop – 7.4 miles

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A lovely peaceful walk between the two East Ayrshire villages of Stewarton and Dunlop. After a short section through Lainshaw Woods the remainder of the walk uses quiet single track roads before an optional de-tour through the Millennium Woodland Nature Park in Dunlop. There are a few hills on this route, the reward being stunning views across to the Isle of Arran, Ailsa Craig and north to Ben Lomond if it is a clear day!

Both villages are easily accessible by train on the Glasgow-Kilmarnock-Carlisle line and I have therefore made this a station-to-station route, beginning at Stewarton Rail Station and ending at Dunlop Rail Station. My recommendation is to walk one way and hop on the train to return to the start. There is also a bus service between Stewarton and Dunlop.

Route: Exit Stewarton Train Station onto Rigg Street, turn right (South East) to walk along Rigg Street to the crossroads. Turn right (South West) onto Lainshaw Street then right (North West) at the mini roundabout. Walk beneath the railway bridge on Standalane then turn left (South West), passing Lainshaw Primary School. Stewarton War Memorial will be on your right-hand side. Walk along Kilwinning Road for a little over 1km at which point you have the option to continue along the road or use the earth footpath through Lainshaw Woods instead for the next 700m. Look for a gate on your left which takes you into the woods. This woodland path runs parallel to Kilwinning Road – where the path takes a sharp left turn, you should turn right (North East) to return to the road. Continue on Kilwinning Road for a further 2.5km, turning sharp right (North East) at Crossgates farmhouse. This single track road continues for around 5.6km towards Dunlop. About a third of the way along it you will reach a crossroads with the B778/Standalane where you go straight on (North). 3km further up, you will see a sign for Templehouse Woodland on your right. You can either stay on the road here or take a de-tour to explore the small woodland first. If going through the woods turn right (South East) where you see the sign and you will notice a gate on your left giving you access to the footpath. The woods are not big so you can follow any paths you fancy and either return to this gate to resume the walk or exit the woodland via a gate at its north end, beside the picnic area. Both options will take you back onto the single track road. Continue (North East) along the road, passing Dunlop Kirk. At the end of the road turn right (East) onto Main Street/B706. You will pass Dunlop Post Office and Idle Hands Bakery, then reach a junction. Turn left (North East) to stay on Main Street. Go straight ahead at the roundabout onto Newmill Road. Dunlop Train Station is beneath the bridge. Whether you cross it or not will depend on which platform you need to go to for home!

route map in OpenStreet view

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No sooner had a I read about this walk on Ayrshire Walks Facebook Group and I had mapped it out and arrangements were made to meet mum to go the very next day. A route I hadn’t tried before…. in my own local authority area…. how exciting!

As it was to be a nice day and mum and I were still not allowed to car share due to the ongoing coronavirus lockdown rules, I had the idea to go by train and cycle the short couple of miles from home to the station. Since I’ve been to so few places in the past year this sounded like a grand adventure of a day out! I met mum at Kilmarnock train station and we traveled to Stewarton. The train was pretty empty, everyone on it wearing face coverings. Two stops later we had arrived. First stop was at the Sainsbury’s to use their facilities and I had hoped to pick up a flaky pastry but alas, none left despite it being only just after 10am. Easter Monday for you I guess!

The wind was strong and bitterly cold! It was hard to believe that two days ago I had been walking in a t-shirt and here I was today with the woolly hat, thick gloves and down jacket back on and still freezing. There wasn’t much shelter on this route so the wind stayed with us for most of the time, however the sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were somewhere new! Well, I was familiar with the first part of the route through Lainshaw Woods although it occurred to me that I had only ever walked along this path in the opposite direction until today.

We could see for miles, with the view west revealing a crystal clear Isle of Arran and further south, Ailsa Craig. Looking north from the highest point of the route we could see Ben Lomond in all her glory. We were surrounded by the rolling Ayrshire farmland and enjoyed a good old nosey at some of the beautiful cottages and farmhouses that we passed. There were lots I would happily move into tomorrow! At one point we passed a house with lovely stonework, fairly new looking. I had the feeling I had walked past it recently but couldn’t think when and was pretty sure that I must be mistaking it for another one somewhere else. It wasn’t until a few minutes later we passed a second house I was admiring and I realised that we were on a bit of my Kilmaurs Watermeetings route! I am not going mad afterall…. (but my sense of direction clearly leaves a lot to be desired!)

Wondering where we might find that would be sheltered enough to stop and eat our packed lunch, I remembered that I had spotted Templehouse Woodland on the map when I had been plotting out the route last night. It sits just outside Dunlop and turned out to be perfect with picnic benches and everything. It turns out that it is joined on to the Millennium Woodland Nature Park – complete with a stone cairn (sponsored by Dunlop tyres which amused me!), a small pond with very small waterfall (I will admit I was a little disappointed when I saw it because it had been marked on my map and everything so I expected a bit more cascading than was really the case ha), several benches, two bridges, lots of trees and grassland…. We didn’t explore it all but it was certainly a relaxing place to sit for a while and have lunch and it would make a nice short walk from Dunlop. We did joke that we met more people in there than we had the entire rest of the walk: seems to be a popular place for walking your dog if from the village. I would caution that it looked like the paths get quite muddy – we hadn’t had much rain for the past week yet there were still some boggy wet patches.

Speaking of the village of Dunlop – how nice is it?! I am pretty sure it is the first time I have ever walked through it, I may have driven through it before… The street we emerged onto after passing Dunlop Kirk reminded me of the main street in Straiton the way the terraced cottages came right out to the roadside with very narrow pavements and no gardens at the front. It was a shame that there were so many cars parked along the street, no doubt designed for a time when horseback was the preferred mode of transport! It looked like the type of street that should be cobbled and pedestrianised. I am sure anyone who lives on it would not agree with me mind you! From here it was just a hop, skip and a jump to the train station where we had a short wait in the sunshine for our train back to Kilmarnock. An adventure indeed!

I would definitely like to return to Dunlop and try a walk in The Wee Glen with the kids. [Update: I did return and here is the route!]

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