AYRSHIRE COASTAL PATH – CULZEAN CASTLE TO DUNURE CASTLE AND HARBOUR

Start: Culzean Castle Visitor Centre (free to National Trust members.)

Distance: 14.4km / 9 miles  Time taken:4.5 hrs

Grade: Easy

Scenery/enjoyment : 7 out of 10. Higher if not done as an out and back!

This is a castle to castle walk with most of it along nice beaches with just the sound of the surf, oystercatchers calling and the piping of ringed plovers. We did this lovely section of the long distance route on a sunny February day which felt more like spring than winter. As we’re members of the National Trust we got free entry into the gorgeous grounds of 18th century Culzean Castle and it was a joy to visit this beautiful place again, even if we hadn’t had the walk planned.

Lovely Culzean
Culzean Castle

Culzean is one of my Top 10 castles anywhere. It has a stunning cliff top location with gorgeous garden grounds and views to mountainous Arran and Ailsa Craig – Northern Ireland if clear enough too. You could easily spend the best part of a day in and around Culzean. There is an older 12th century castle at its core. The interior tour is well worth doing.

Heading for the castle
Culzean Estate

Unfortunately, haze robbed us of Isle of Arran views so for me, that dropped the walk scenery rating down a notch; also ideally this walk would be better done one way. As it was it felt VERY long coming back the same route.

This walk is very tide dependent but the stars had aligned and the sands which line most of the route were well exposed and really good to walk on today.

The end of the route at Dunure Harbour is an Outlander location. The village has the impressive remains of a 14th century castle glowering over the rocky shore.

Start of the path below Culzean
Initial woodland path

We set off around 11.30am with the tide falling and descended down the steps near Culzean castle, down to the shore. After a short section on a path through the woodland, we were able to walk on the sands pretty quickly – I always prefer walking beside the sea and the  crashing surf.

Culzean Castle
Looking back to Culzean

It’s a long beach stretch of about 4km  and it took us along Culzean Bay and past Croy before reaching an area called Katie Gray’s Rocks. There was an ancient settlement here, abandoned in the 18th century.

I really loved this first section of the walk (which is more than half way to Dunure)– endless sands, lovely sunny winter weather and an azure sea.In fact, this section in itself – there and back to Culzean – makes for an ideal 8km/5 mile return coastal walk.

Ailsa Craig on horizon
Ailsa Craig just visible

The only disappointment was not seeing the shapely mountains of the Isle of Arran on the horizon. Arran holds such great memories for me and our whole family – my first holidays on the island were when I was only a few months old. My parents honeymooned there and we spent every June in a stone terrace house in Douglas Row, Brodick until I was 5 years old. Arran is in my DNA!

Near Katie's Rocks
Katie Gray’s Rocks

Once at Katie Gray’s Rocks, the path contoured up onto farmland, initially giving fine views over the bay towards Culzean. We stopped for some water and a sandwich , just enjoying the crisp, sunny February weather. It was like stealing a little summer’s day while still in winter, though I always think of February as the start of Spring as our winters have become so mild.That said, I was walking most of the time with my light duvet jacket on and a woolly hat not far away!

Heading back down to the beach
Looking back from above Katie Gray’s Rocks

We now had a section of 3km or so which skirted farmland, still giving us views over the sea but I didn’t enjoy this section quite so much. It was VERY boggy given the time of year, the fields were just ploughed earth (rather than golden crops)but in summer it would be more attractive and drier.

The farmland section - very boggy in places!

After a couple of hours of walking since leaving Culzean, finally Dunure itself came into view with an easy track taking us up to a car park and then on along the coast to the village.

From our picnic spot
Approaching Dunure
Dunure Castle and Dovecote
Dunure Castle

There is a small restaurant and coffee shop here but it was nicer to sit outside with our sandwiches and flask and enjoy the sunshine. So after a look at the old harbour, we retraced our steps to the castle and its impressive Dovecote  (dookit) which held all the pigeons that once made for a ready food supply.

Dunure village
Dunure village

It’s quite a structure, the castle, though fencing kept us out of most of it as the ruins are unsafe. A grand sight though beside the sea.

Found a bench to sit on, protected from the quite fierce wind which had whipped itself up out of nowhere and scoffed the rest of the Coronation Chicken sandwiches I’d made up. I have to say, they were tasty! We had a flask of hot water and some fresh milk for tea so that went down well too.

Very relaxing to just sit and contemplate the sea though here on the west coast it feels odd not to be admiring an island or two or some mountains, on the horizon.

No Arran on the horizon today
Nice sea views all the way

After half an hour, we set off again back to Culzean. If anything, the day was even better (the wind had dropped again), the sun was out in full force and it was almost paddling weather!

Tide well out now
On the return walk, tide well out

I can’t remember the reason now but we had some sort of timescale to meet and the walk back was more of a route march of 4.5 miles! Oooh, my hips felt it by the time Culzean came back into view and I was glad we didn’t have far to go, finally, to the car.

The walk took us round the bay to the last headland where it headed inland
We walked right round the bay to the furthest headland
Culzean appearing
Culzean in silhouette

Had a few minutes up at the terrace where the canon aim their barrels out to sea, before getting a seat and some tea from the Visitor Centre. The place was going like a fair!

Castle esplanade
The esplanade and canon
Culzean Estate
Must have been cold…woolly hat on!

Nice to finally rest,  sit in the sun and have a sense of achievement that finally, we’d walked this (very small) part of the Ayrshire Coastal path. Normally we walk from Culzean to Turnberry – the opposite direction – so it was nice to explore this alternative and lovely part of the coast.

A good ‘winter ‘ walk but keep it for a sunny bright day to enjoy the colours of the sea and sand – and hopefully, on a non hazy day when Arran’s beautiful outline is clear all the way.

4 thoughts on “AYRSHIRE COASTAL PATH – CULZEAN CASTLE TO DUNURE CASTLE AND HARBOUR

  1. Hi, really enjoyed my visit to your blog. Fantastic photography & brought back fantastic memories of all my travels in the mountains of Scotland. Looking forward to looking at your wider travels! Thanks for sharing, Jez 😃

    Liked by 1 person

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