Walk 223 – Irvine Dunes Circular – 2.7 miles

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Wild roses in bloom on the sand dunes above Irvine Bay
Heading towards the dragon viewpoint in summer when the Rosa Rugosa is in bloom

An easy, short circular walk at Irvine Beach, located less than an hour from Glasgow. The route takes advantage of the sheltered trails behind the sand dunes, which you might find lined with summer roses or purple heather depending on the season. I recommend paying a visit to the dragon viewpoint along the way for a stunning panorama of the Ayrshire coastline and Isle of Arran! Return via the golden sands of Irvine Beach, popular with horse riders. Go at dawn or dusk to enjoy a spectacular sunset and hundreds of rabbits in the Beach Park!

TERRAIN: Surfaced paths, sandy trails and sandy beach. No steep hills. No steps/gates/stiles.

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orange circle with white dog icon inside Dog-friendly route

  Parking at Beach Drive Car Park (KA12 8PP). Start point is 1 mile from Irvine Train Station. Local bus service stops close by.

route image  Route: Enter Irvine Beach Park at the black sign next to the roundabout at the top of Beach Drive. Take the first left to go through a barrier. Soon after turn first right and follow this path along with the pond over to your left-hand side. As you reach the water’s edge, turn right onto a less distinct sandy path heading away from the pond (S). This path bends to the left and runs along the top of the sand dunes. The dragon viewpoint will start to come into view ahead. As you reach the base of the dragon mound, you have the option to go up to the sculpture or by-pass it. At the other side of the dragon mound head SE towards a 3-way finger post and follow the sign for “Shore route to Troon”. Cross a wide grassy/sandy area then follow the sandy trails behind the sand dunes in a general SE direction, keeping the edge of the dunes to your right. After approx 0.7 miles you will emerge onto the beach at the northern end of Western Gailes Golf course. Turn right (NW) and walk along the beach to return to the start point.

Route map - Irvine Dunes Circular


This is one of my go-to routes when I fancy something short and sweet, by the coast but with a bit of variety. It also helps that it isn’t far from home, being a mere 15 minute drive away. When emerging out of lockdown and we were allowed to leave our own local authority area, this was the first route my mum and I walked together. It felt soooooo good to be back at the seaside. We had definitely taken it for granted before.

As a volunteer with the Ayrshire Coastal Path, this is also the route I walk when checking on the condition of signage on “my patch”, which runs from the Beach Park, behind the dunes and all the way to where the path comes onto the beach between Barassie and Irvine. We have done a lot of work here recently (early 2023) replacing old signage which had become faded or rotten. Some of the posts had even magically just disappeared….. The other work which is required annually in this area is cutting back of the rosa rugosa along the path edges. Quite jaggy if left to encroach on the path! Especially if you have decided to venture out in your shorts on a hot summer day. Ouchy. I am lucky to have the support of The Conservation Volunteers and Scottish Wildlife Trust Ayrshire who help me out a couple of times a year cutting this back and doing litter picks.

I remember reaching Barassie whilst walking the entire 100 miles of the Ayrshire Coastal Path for charity and being hugely grateful for the existence of this dunes path which offered me shelter from the driving wind that had been battering the left side of my face since leaving Troon some 7 miles earlier!

It’s also one of those places you can go regularly to really experience the changing of the seasons. The roses which line the path in summer attract an array of butterflies, and when they later turn into rosehips it creates a sea of red along the sides of the trail. Visit when the heather is in bloom and you’ll be walking through a fluffly purple carpet.

Sandy trail lined with purple flowering heather
Purple heather in bloom along the dunes path

Over the years as I’ve picked up snippets of knowledge about dunes systems, I’ve become more and more respectful of them. I hadn’t appreciated how fragile they are or how important they are for flood prevention. Now I avoid walking over the top of them if it can be avoided, because I know that this disturbs the marram grass which binds the sand together and prevents erosion. Walking along the beach on the return section of this walk you really see how much of the dunes are being washed away.

I recommend walking this route in a clockwise direction so that you can enjoy the view of Arran across the Firth of Clyde as you make your way back along the beach. To add that little extra sparkle, wait for a sunny evening when the Isle of Arran becomes a silhouette against the sunset and hundreds of rabbits come out to play around the Beach Park area!

Two horses trotting along Irvine Beach at sunset, the mountains of the Isle of Arran a silhouette against the red sky.
Irvine Beach at sunset

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