Walk 226 – Ayrshire Coastal Path – Glenapp to Ballantrae via clifftops (9.5 miles)

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Looking across grassy coastal farmland towards Ballantrae and Knockdolian hill.
View towards Ballantrae village and Knockdolian (265m / 869ft)

A spectacular way to begin the Ayrshire Coastal Path! Head uphill from Glenapp enjoying the views across Loch Ryan, north to Ailsa Craig and on a clear day as far as Northern Ireland. Count how many pheasants you see! You’ll then head down to remote Currarie Port where you have the chance to spot some seals, before embarking on an incredible high level cliff-top hike. This section of coastline is home to a wide variety of bird life and depending when you visit you might spot eagles, cormorants, yellow wagtails, gannets, oystercatchers and more. Don’t forget binoculars and a camera!

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TERRAIN: First half to Currarie Port follows gravel tracks with some gentle ascent. Second half is more challenging due to a number of steeper uphill sections and difficult terrain including tussocky grass, pathless grassy fields, and shingle beach. This is also an exposed area in poor weather. Final section to Ballantrae follows surfaced single track roads and roadside pavement. There are 6 kissing gates on the route, one burn to ford and one small fence to climb (see photos below). High likelihood of livestock on this route – beware electric fencing.

  Small parking area across the road from Glenapp Kirk, just off A77 and also at  The Vennel, Ballantrae (KA26 0NH) (free public toilets available here). There are also bus services between Ballantrae and Glenapp Kirk. Recommend parking in Ballantrae and using the local bus service to travel to Glenapp to start the walk (10 min journey).

route image  Route: The walk begins across the A77 from Glenapp Kirk. From the Ayrshire Coastal Path information board, follow a gravel track gently uphill in a SW direction. After half a mile keep right at a fork to move onto a steeper track which leads up onto open moorland with fantastic views across the coast. After 1.8 miles ignore a track off to the left. For the next half mile stay on the minor road heading NE. You will arrive at a junction with some Ayrshire Coastal Path finger posts offering a choice of onward routes. Turn left to follow the “cliff-top route”. Keep right at a fork, passing through two gates and then follow the track downhill to Currarie Port. Turn right to follow the track up to a wooden footbridge across the burn, then continue up a steep slope which goes around the side of Donald Bowie hill. On arrival at a metal gate, turn left to follow the fence line uphill and through a gate. Follow the dry stone wall towards the water, turning right at the end of the wall, to begin walking along the grassy cliff-top in a NE direction. After approx 1 mile you will arrive at a kissing gate and small footbridge. Turn left and follow the path downhill to another small footbridge which crosses Wilson’s Burn. Turn right to follow the fenceline along the clifftops, sticking to the field edges – follow the white-topped fence posts. After approx half a mile, you will arrive at a kissing gate with two possible routes ahead. The one you follow will depend on where the farmer has his cattle grazing on the hillside – follow the sign not covered by a ‘closed for grazing’ sleeve. On my visit this took me through the kissing gate and across the cliff-top fields parallel to the coastline. Both routes meet at a kissing gate, beyond which a faint track zig zags down on to the grassy (boggy on my visit) foreshore. A series of marker posts and white painted rocks lead you across the foreshore to another gate. Approx 100m beyond the gate there is a burn to ford (recommend using the large boulder a little upstream from the path as a stepping stone). Walk along the grass between the field and the rocky shoreline. On arrival at a fenceline go around the seaward end of it and down onto the shingle beach. Walk along the beach for approx 300m, then move across to a farm track. At a gate turn right to continue along a farm track sandwiched by a fence on either side. At the end of the track turn left. Soon this becomes a surfaced single track road passing close to a few cottages. Turn left again at the end of the road. When you emerge onto A77 just outside Ballantrae, turn left. Follow the roadside pavement next to A77 across the River Stinchar and onto Main Street, Ballantrae. After 500m, at the church, turn left onto The Vennel. A short way along The Vennel there is a car park on the right where this section ends.

Route map - Glenapp to Ballantrae clifftop route

Purchase the official Ayrshire Coastal Path Guide Book

WALK REPORT: 19th February 2023

As a volunteer for the Ayrshire Coastal Path, I had watched on from behind my laptop as the hard-working Pathminder team spent 4 months at the start of 2022 on weekly work days down at Ballantrae establishing this cliff-top route. A total of 280 hours of volunteer time digging new paths, building kissing gates and bridges, and installing more than 20 new signs. I had seen many photos, kept our Facebook followers updated on progress, and imagined how spectacular it would be to walk along.

The fact that it took me 10 months to do so is shocking really…. A combination of starting a new business and then winter coming along, as well as the distance it is from home (over an hours drive) and the logistics of getting back to the car at the end. I’d also promised a few people I’d take them, and aligning our calendars proved difficult.

So I was delighted to arrive in Glenapp with a friend on a cloudy but dry Sunday morning. We were the only car parked up when we set off, and the only car there when we returned later. We also didn’t pass a soul during the walk until we were arriving into Ballantrae. Mixed feelings about that: I love walking away from the crowds and not meeting anyone is usually a sign of a great day out. At the same time, with one of my volunteer roles being PR for the Ayrshire Coastal Path, it made me sad that we were the only people out enjoying this magnificent section on a reasonable weather Sunday….

I had walked the first half of this route before, almost exactly 6 years ago back in Feb 2017. At that time the only option was the inland route between Glenapp and Ballantrae. With that first half under our belts again today, we set off excitedly into unknown territory.

Gravel track high above the Ayrshire coast
Walking along the first section of the route between Glenapp and Currarie Port. Ailsa Craig in the distance out to sea.
Stone ruins of a cottage
Not sure of the story behind this old cottage. Seemed to appear out of nowhere though!

Before long we arrived at the isolated bay of Currarie Port. Wow, it felt incredible being down by the water. Pausing a moment to take it all in before continuing on, we spotted a black blob in the water. A rock? Or could it be….. “a seal!” we both shrieked in unison. In all the time I’ve spent walking on the Ayrshire coastline I have very rarely been treated to a seal sighting so this was peak excitement. There turned out to be three of them, and rather than swimming away from us their curiosity brought them in for a closer look – which delighted us even more!

Shingle beach at Currarie Port, Ayrshire coast.
Arriving at Currarie Port – a definite “wow” moment!
Heads of two seals bobbing out the choppy water at Currarie Port, Ayrshire.
Two of the three seals – they were very curious about us (as we were of them)!

Saying goodbye to our new pals, we headed onwards to tackle the second half of the route.

Next up was the cliff-top walk. It felt amazing to be out here in this remote and beautiful environment. Tussocky grass made this section quite hard-going and we took it easy to avoid any twisted ankles. There was a faint path which hopefully with more boots walking on it will become more distinct.

Looking north along the grassy clifftop embankment of the Ayrshire Coastal Path just north of Glenapp, one of the marker posts in the foreground.
The cliff-top route is dotted with these reassuring black and white marker posts every now and then. Ailsa Craig still visible to the left.

As we continued along the ground became more even and therefore easier to walk on, although with more hilly bits. I found the field section quite challenging for the old heart and lungs: the white-topped fence posts guided us along the field edge and let’s just say the field edge doesn’t run in a straight line! Lots of zig zagging downhill to go back uphill negotiating around the top of steep gullies. I used the old “stopping to admire the view” trick more than once (and a gorgeous view it was)! It was very tempting to cut across the field rather than stick to the edges, in fact it eventually became disheartening going down and up, down and up. I will admit that we eventually did do so – we could see that there was no livestock in the field nor any sign of crops growing so taking that into account we felt that under these circumstances we were still behaving responsibly (and saving ourselves a lot of energy).

It wasn’t long before we were heading back downhill towards the water and after some unexpected boggy foreshore and fording a burn we had our sights firmly set on Ballantrae. Not before stopping for a bite of lunch though! We picked a spot with a nice view and got stuck in. Always looking for an opportunity to get the emergency bothy shelter out, I suggested we try it to cut out the wind whilst we ate and after looking at me like I was daft, and several minutes of me trying to convince her of the benefits, my friend hesitantly agreed. Being a 4-person shelter it didn’t do too well in the wind with only two of us however it was good practice and my friend knows to bring ear plugs with her next time 😀

The shingle beach presented a nice change from the grass and tracks we’d experienced so far. A small van parked up ahead indicated to us where our track must be so we headed towards it. The owners were collecting wood from the beach, presumably for a coal fire. After stopping to say hello to some curious young cows (thankfully behind the field fence), we began the final easy walk into Ballantrae.

A brilliant day out!

Shingle beach south of Ballantrae
Shingle beach south of Ballantrae
Herd of curious young cows lined up along the fence looking at us
Moooooooooooo. What you lookin’ at?
Cottages and shops on the main street in the village of Ballantrae
Arriving into Ballantrae village. The main road gets very busy with all types of vehicles including large lorries and coaches – coinciding, we think, with the Cairnryan-Belfast ferry coming and going further down the coast. Otherwise a very peaceful coastal village!

Go to: next section Ballantrae to Lendalfoot

Go to: full Ayrshire Coastal Path review

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