Today I expected a bit of a bland affair with a simple walk up the coast with a major detour inland, in actuality it was far from bland!
I parked my car at Newton-on-Ayr rail station, just around the corner from where I stayed the previous night. It was very dull and overcast as I set off. The tide was ebbing again, so I was able to walk along the beach. The cool air and the absence of any wind enabled me to get up a good head of steam. After rounding a small headland I transferred onto the promenade at Prestwick. Few people were about and Prestwick looked deserted. I heard little coming from the airport as yet, which actually dwarfs this small town. I’m back on the beach again but must make a small detour inland to get over Pow Burn. I continue along the beach and have just entered Royal Troon Golf course. I keep well away from the shoreline, trying to take a direct route towards the town of Troon. I begin to pick up the dog walkers and joggers from Troon itself.
Although the views are minimal in the morning mist, a small piece of land offshore has captured my attention. I speak to a couple of lady dog walkers and ask what that island is, they tell me its called Lady Isle, a small uninhabited isle with lighthouse 2 miles offshore from Troon. I press on into the town. As I enter the town, I see the first of many flights beginning their descent into Prestwick. This first one of the morning was a really strange plane, I could read the markings which had it as an Airbus Beluga cargo plane, in fact No.4 of a fleet of 5 planes used for shipping Airbus parts around the world – a very strange beast. I walk out to the far tip of thin strip of land that juts into the Firth of Clyde. The majority of area is one huge wood-processing plant, taking raw timber and producing a host of wood products. It looks extremely busy. I round the tip and begin walking back into town and heading north again.
As I near Barassie Beach I hear sirens coming from a police car, which turns off the nearby main road and into a car park about 100m ahead of me. Two police officers get out and speak to an elderly man on the beach. There seems to be a lot of pointing out towards the sea. As I pass them I try to catch what is going on, but no joy. I continue on for about 200m and pass three neatly folded jackets, with nobody in sight. I decide to return to the two police officers and ask them if the jackets have anything to do with why they are here. It turns out that the elderly gentleman had spotted some splashes some 300m offshore. I offer the Police the use of my binoculars. I have a look myself and can pick out three swimmers with buoyancy aids swimming. They don’t look in distress. I show the Police the 3 jackets I found and get on my way. I think the elderly gent was right to call the emergency services, although really it should have been the Coastguard and then perhaps the Police.
I now have a good 3.5 mile walk along the beach towards Irvine and my inland detour. Eventually, I come to the mouth of the River Irvine, which has been confluenced about 300m inland with the River Garnock. The connecting bridge, which is retractable, has been left in a retracted state for some time; thus my 4 mile inland detour! The Science Park or Big Idea, which sits across the river, went bust over 10 years ago. As I pass the bridge I notice a chap taking pictures of something on the ground. I look closely and can see a Stoat going about its business. I take a photo, but have not got a zoom lens. I’m pretty sure it was a stoat, as it appeared to have a black bit on its tail.
I turn inland towards Irvine and alongside the old dock quays. I notice amusing set of adverts on the side of a shop called The Roll Shop – check out the centre advert. Its getting quite warm now as the sun has just shed its mantle of cloud. I skirt around Irvine, crossing the River Irvine, continuing towards the busy A78. I meet a couple who have just been harvesting fruit from a long overgrown orchard. They offer me an apple and advise that there is a possible short-cut to Stevenston. I think about it and then decide to have a go! Big mistake, there are 3 challenges i) Getting under the main rail line – which was easy through an underpass; ii) Crossing the River Garnock via an old bridge which was part of the huge ICI Noble Explosives works that covered virtually the whole of the Ardeer peninsular – which was easy iii) Getting through the complex and overgrown section back onto public roads – which was not easy. In fact an hour and a half later I was still thrashing about in extremely dense undergrowth. I passed around an incrediable multitude of derelict buildings, all overgrown. I also came up an against a seriously high fence, which had all the hall marks of KEEP OUT. As the majority of the fencing was gone or destroyed it was a case of working my way around the site. Later I realised that ICS Noble and Chemring still have an operational presence on the site. My shortcut didn’t save me time or distance. I was absolutely knackered when I eventually emerged from the overgrown hell.
I headed to the beach and continued towards Saltcoats. I did originally intend to walk to Ardrossan, but I was becoming fatigued after my exertions in the Ardeer jungle. I decided to call it a day at Saltcoats and hopped on the next train back to Ayr.
NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:
Distance today = 22 miles
Total distance = 2205.5 miles