Walk 231 – Lanfine Estate from Darvel – 3.7 miles

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Young boy running along a single track road lined with beech hedges
This circular walk begins in the town of Darvel and explores some of the best bits of the Lanfine Estate. Set in the heart of the Irvine Valley, the Estate's history can be traced back to the 1700s, when the mansion was built and many of the trees were planted. As you explore these beautiful woodland trails, you might see some of the resident wild boar family and a hidden waterfall. There is also an extensive walled garden, as well as fantastic views to Loudoun Hill and across the surrounding lush farmland.

Dog-friendly walk

Car park off Randoldcoup Road, Darvel (KA17 0JU). Bus services from Kilmarnock stop on A71/East Main Street, a couple of minutes walk from the start point.

WALK REPORT: 2nd January 2024

Turns out the Lanfine Estate is a lot bigger than I realised! As I learned when I set off to do a recce for a guided walk. I’d promised everyone the route would be around the 3.5 miles mark and had plotted something out to try – a mixture of trails I knew and ones I didn’t think I’d been on before.

Whilst doing my research for the guided walk I found out that the Estate extends to a lot of the minor roads up the back, and beyond, to the forest I’d walked through when doing the Dyke Walk many moons ago. It was music to my ears because it meant that my entire route would be inside the boundary of the Estate instead of the last section along the road being a means to an end 🙂

There’s a lot to love about this route, it’s really quite varied.

First you’ve got the slightly urban part of the walk down from the car park to the Estate entrance, where you pass lots of lovely buildings including the former school house.

Then you find yourself on the Ranoldcoup Bridge looking down into the River Irvine. Glancing up you’ll see the start of Brown’s Road – a scenic riverside footpath leading from Darvel all the way to Newmilns.

You’ll head into Lanfine passing West Lodge and up to the wild boar enclosure. They are almost always there, at least a few of them, up to 20-odd at times. If you time it right you might even see the piglets which are super cute, in contrast to their smelly, dirty adult forms! I’ve heard that the piglets are sometimes called Humbugs….. You can see why on the picture below!

Reaching Newlands Bridge it’s all change as you head away from the main path onto a narrow woodland trail which follows the course of Newlands Burn past an unexpected waterfall (if there’s been enough rain!) and up to the walled garden. There’s nothing in it nowadays, but you can peek through the gates and get an idea of the scale of it. It seems that the design was quite unusual in that it contains an inner walled garden! You’ll actually walk right around the outside of the walled garden, past the now ruinous potting sheds. Later on in the walk, from the high road, you’ll get a great view back down into the walled garden so remember to look over the hedge!

Group of walkers on a woodland trail in Lanfine Estate
Valley Walkfest May 2023 – my guided walk through Lanfine, heading round the side of the walled garden.

All the usual “old Estate” indicators are present: hundreds of Yew trees, and an abundance of Rhododendron…We saw some Snowdrop shoots, some Jelly Ear fungus and Scarlet Elf Cups! I also identified some smooth-leaved Holly – the first time I have seen a Holly tree (outside of my garden) since I read the fascinating fact that they actually aren’t always spiny!! Say what?! So apparently it is a defence mechanism against being grazed by deer etc: Holly leaves are otherwise smooth, then once grazed or cut they grow spines and take the form that most of us know them by. Often they have spiny leaves at the bottom and smooth leaves at the top. There were excellent examples of this within Lanfine Estate, along the Newlands Burn path.

Close up of Holly bush with smooth leaves
Holly with smooth leaves

Soon you’ll be passing the impressive Lanfine House itself, which you catch glimpses of through the trees. The mansion was built for John Brown who bought the land in the 1700s (and presumably after whom Brown’s Road was named). The builder of the house was James Armour, who would later become Rabbie Burns’ father-in-law! You’ll notice many exotic and ornamental trees growing in the gardens. These were planted by John Brown’s nephew Thomas, who inherited the Estate in the early 1800s. He was a Botanist!

After a brief uphill spell, you’ll find yourself on a high-level single track road on the hillside to the south of Darvel. Beautifully lined with beech hedgerows (vibrant even in January!), this is an excellent vantage point from which to look down into Darvel, the main centre of Lanfine Estate, and also East towards Loudoun Hill. This road is part of the Estate, as is the hillside, fields and forest to your right as you walk along. I commented to my mum that every time you think you must be on the highest road in the Irvine Valley, you look up and there’s yet another one above you! This is one of the reasons the Irvine Valley is such a joy to walk in: options galore!

And just like that you’re back down at river-level, marvelling at what a brilliant walk you’ve had and looking forward to exploring more of this area’s fantastic walking network. Check out my list of Irvine Valley walks to find your next adventure!

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