Ayrshire Coastal Path: 3 – a very British picnic

7.58 miles 3h 55m ascent 153m

Lendalfoot-Girvan Mains

Many years ago, a small island was discovered off the south west coast of Scotland by a group of fairies who were on their way to the mainland.

The fairies were blown off course during a fierce storm and found shelter on this small island.

The Queen fairy, who was called Elizabeth. loved this island so much that she asked the other fairies if they would like to make the island their new home.and of course they all agreed! The Queen fairy named the island ‘Ailsa Craig’ which also means Elizabeth’s rock or fairy rock.

During this storm, a small group of fairies also made it to the mainland and stumbled upon some magic steps at McCreath Park. The fairies decided to make this area their home as they too fell in love with this beautiful place.

Legend has it that the fairies can be seen in the dark of the night. glistening in the moonlight. flying back and forth to the Ailsa Craig to visit their friends..and if you are very lucky. you might hear them chatting and giggling on a still summers day as they secretly go about their business.

South Ayrshire Council

I have suspicions that South Ayrshire Council might be stretching the truth, but we didn’t get to McCreath Park until later in the day, so I’ll return to tall tale a little later.

Pinbain Hill from the south

We began from the lay-by between Lendalfoot and Pinbain Bridge. The ‘low tide’ route emerges from the beach here and we had the benefit of a pavement for the short walk beside the main road. We crossed the Pinbain Bridge and crossed the road to join the track that zig zagged up. The rain started so put our jackets on which frightened the rain away but the jackets would prove useful as windproofs once we were on the hill.

on Pinbain Hill above Slockenray

An information board told us something of the “Wildlife of the Ayrshire Coastal Path” we might see. It asked walkers stay below the high tide line when walking on the beach to protect bird’s eggs. But for now we were 100m above the sea walking along the Old Post Road contouring around Pinbain Hill. This was easy walking with great views across to Ailsa Craig and along the coast to Girvan.

Kittyfrist Well (I think)

I kept an eye out for the “Kittyfrist Well” marked on the Ordnance Survey map. It was said to have been a reliable source of good spring water for travellers. There was certainly a rock spring with a small pool of water and also a covered “well” about 5m north of that. We didn’t sample it.

I haven’t been able to find the origin of the name but I imagine the Kitty- element started life as Ceide, a hillock or hillside in Gaelic. The “frist” is a mystery. There is another Kittyfrist Well near Kilsyth and a Kitty Frisk Well near Hexham. Perhaps Kittyfrist originally meant something rather ordinary like “hillside spring”.

The other contender for Kittyfrist Well, a covered culvert just a biscuit toss from the spring.

After the springs we rounded a wee corner and could some the buildings in the distance. Kilranny farmhouse is in a ruinous state. I don’t know where its name comes from. The second element is probably from raineach, fern, but the Kil may have been cuil, corner, cill, chapel, or cul, back. The buildings are long neglected but the gates must be in regular use since they opened easily.

Ruins at Kilranny

We paused to enjoy the great views. The track forks here, the ACP heading downhill

Ailsa Craig over Bellmoor Hill from Kilranny

The track crosses Kilranny Bridge but you would be forgiven if you didn’t notice the bridge. We passed a waterfall flowing out of Barniecairn Glen and passed through a gate on a raised platform which marked a transition from good path to a muddy flooded track with lots of sheep with lambs.

Waterfall at Barniecairn Glen

At Ardwell we rejoined the A77. As soon as we crossed the road we were lashed by wind and rain. So much so that we had to cross back over the road to get some shelter from the wind while i got my rain jacket back on.

Approaching Ardwell – taking off my jacket annoyed the weather gods

There wasn’t any pavement and we really didn’t fancy walking along the A77’s narrow verge. The tide had turned however and uncovered a slim section of beach for us. The sand was wet but that made walking easier. We were careful to avoid the larger waves rolling up the beach. There were plenty of oyster catchers about but the dogs didn’t seem to notice them. Nor did they pay any attention to the plastic pig in the rocks. We eventually ran out of beach at Port Cardloch and had to time our escape to round the rocks carefully before climbing back to the road.

The Beach between Ardwell Bay and Port Cardloch

We were almost at Black Neuk. An older version of the A77 follows the coast here while the newer road takes a more direct route so we were away from the traffic. What’s more, we were sheltered from the wind and there were large smooth rocks to sit on. Coffee time!

The old A77 at Black Neuk

Unfortunately beyond Black Neuk we could not use the beach. The water was too high still. So we headed along a narrow verge beside the A77. Mabel wasn’t too happy, the grass too high for her short legs. So she had to be carried until we reached the pavement at Woodland. At Shalloch Mill the road diverges from the beach, and some ACP signs point off the road. We investigated but the tide was too high for us to use the beach, Another sign pointed along a fence line, but the route was very overgrown, and certainly not walkable with the dogs. I was tempted to walk the on the inner side of the fence, in a meadow, but decided against it. Rightly so, since there was a barbed wire fence at the other end. So we stayed on the pavement again to Ainslie Manor. Looking back we could see that the beach was under water and this end of the “high tide” route was similarly overgrown. The pavement had been the right choice.

From there we soon left the A77 for the Girvan seafront with its coloured benches and bunting horizontal in the wind. Audrey chose the pink bench and we sat down to have our lunch. This is where I felt very British. Sat on a bench, at the seaside, looking out over the surf, in my coat, lunch box on my lap, flask of coffee beside me and sandwich in hand. I thought about setting my phone up on a tripod to capture the moment but I knew the phone would be blown over. At least Christy had somewhere to run about.

Bunting in windy Girvan

Beyond the rainbow benches we passed a number of signs marking off the distanstance to the harbour. Stair Park itself is humps and bumps. Great fun for children on bikes I would have thought. Even the information boards were pretty snazzy.

The rain returned just as we reached the harbour so we didn’t give Girvan itself much attention. We did pass Auld Stumpy, Olladh Stiom Paidh, the Great Circle of Justice (an old jail) but my photo didn’t come out. So here’s one from a few years ago.

Stumpy Tower

The ACP took us round the harbour, Audrey wondering aloud what the river was and my mind going blank. Consulting the map I sighed “of course”. The Water of Girvan. The origin of the name could be from geàrr, short, or perhaps garbh, rough, with abhainn, river, though it was neither short nor rough when we crossed it. After the bridge we had a left turn which seemed strange but was backed up by an ACP sign.

The south side of the harbour had been rather industrial but its north side had an unexpected rockery garden with figurines of Snow White and seven dwarves and a great many decorated rocks. The Magical Fairy Trail & Kindness Rock Project of McCreath Park. There is also Meg’s Nook, a place to tell those tales that begin with “Once upon a time”. The Fairy trail notice below the dwarves has the story I reproduced at the start of this post.

Meg’s Nook, Girvan Harbour

“Around seven years ago the people who live on the north side of Girvan Harbour started to notice that the fairies who live on Ailsa Craig were spending part of their summer in the overgrown rockery on the north side of the harbour. They stopped coming when Covid struck, but we are pleased to say they are back again – but are much more difficult to spot.”

Ayr Advertiser 2022

The path then took us past several “Do not walk on the breakwater” signs, before returning to a road beside the river. The aptly Golf Course Road then brought us round to Girvan Mains, the car, and a cup of tea.

Other remarks: The kissing gates on this section were designed for the more slender hiker, or at least the hiker sans-rucksack. Also, photographs can give a false impression. I am less likely to take a photograph if it is raining, or very windy, if I am already using both hands, particularly focussed on my surroundings, or controlling the dogs. The picture at the beginning of the post, taken at Ardwell Bay, was more typical of the day’s weather than the sunny shots.

This entry was posted in Ayrshire and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *