Walk 235 – Dalquharran Trails, Dailly – 3.7 miles

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A countryside footpath leading towards the impressive stone remains of Dalquharran Castle
The 261 acre Dalquharran Estate is situated beside the village of Dailly in South Ayrshire, some 16 miles south of Ayr. In 2023 work was undertaken to construct an extensive path network around the Estate so that locals and visitors could explore it safely. On this walk you can look forward to not one, but TWO historic castles, set amongst a varied landscape of ancient woodlands and rich pastureland. The trails are way marked and the surface makes them fully accessible.

TERRAIN: Fine gravel footpaths, mostly flat with some gentle hills. No gates, stiles or steps.

Dog-friendly route

Buggy-friendly route

GETTING THERE: There is a small parking area at the war memorial on Main Street, Dailly. Local bus services also stop here.

WALK REPORT – 19th May 2024

Arriving at the small parking area beside the war memorial we were immediately met by a smiling local who, able to tell we were off on a hike, was keen to help in any way they could. My burning question, ‘Is it possible to walk from Dailly to Bargany Gardens?’, was answered with confirmation and some directions, however she then chased after us to let us know that having checked with someone else the path was likely to be overgrown at present and bulls possibly in the field….

I’d always driven to Bargany Gardens in the past but had been researching options for walking there this year. Looking at my various maps, the only potential route I had found cut across the local golf course and relied on there being a path at one section where one wasn’t shown on the map…. If it had just been me I’d have taken the gamble but I was with a group today so decided on the safer option…

Plan B: check out the new path network I’d heard about in the Dalquharran Estate, join that up with the Kilgrammie Trail which I had also never walked before, and then jump in the car 5 minutes along the road to pay my annual visit to Bargany Gardens.

A large map at the Estate entrance informed us that the Dalquharran Walks were comprised of a 1.2km (purple) route, a 3.5km (yellow) route, and a 5.5km (red) route. We chose to follow a combination of the yellow and red walks to pass both the Old Dalquharran Castle and the ‘new’ Dalquharran Castle along the way.

Ruinous stone castle surrounded by overgrown vegetation
Old Dalquharran Castle dates back to the 16th century. It was abandoned in the 1800s when it became uninhabitable and the Kennedy family who owned the Estate commissioned architect Robert Adam to build them a new mansion instead (see below). The old castle is now completely ruinous and is a listed monument.
Close up of ruined mansion house, Dalquharran Castle
The new Dalquharran Castle, a country mansion, was built in 1790 by architect Robert Adam for the Kennedy family. In the 1880s it was significantly extended to provide accommodation for their 9 children, an act which almost bankrupted the family. It was eventually sold by the Kennedys in the 1930s and leased to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association. During the war it was sold to the Stewarts who farmed the Estate however it was to prove too expensive to maintain and was abandoned. In the 1960s the roof was removed and the building declared uninhabitable to avoid taxes, and it then sadly fell into a state of disrepair. The castle is now a category A listed building. Planning permission was granted on numerous occasions for redevelopment of the Estate, including golf courses, a hotel and holiday homes, however no work ever commenced. It is now owned by the Cairnhill Group.

The routes are well way-marked with wooden posts displaying large coloured arrows for each trail. The paths are constructed of fine gravel, making the network a great option for bikes, buggies and wheelchairs too. The accessibility of the Estate has been made possible thanks to investment by current owners the Cairnhill Group, itself owned by a local family who have lived and worked in the community for five generations.

Coloured arrows on a wooden post showing the way

We experienced a mixture of ancient woodland and more open areas, historic buildings, an abundance of wild flowers, colourful Rhododendron bushes, and misty morning views across the rural South Ayrshire countryside. The telescopes at the highest point were a real surprise, and even better that you didn’t need a coin to operate them!

We were also lucky to spot lots of wildlife in the Estate, including many birds, butterflies, caterpillars, roe deer, and a little vole which wasn’t phased by our presence at all, continuing to nibble on its blade of grass as we surrounded it for a better look. Super cute!

vole eating a blade of grass

Whilst at the north-west side of the Dalquharran Estate, close to the road, we nipped out to explore the Kilgrammie Trail as planned (another new route description coming soon!) before jumping in the car to pay our annual visit to Bargany Gardens, only open to the public in May. All in all a fantastic day out!

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