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A sublime panoramic coastline hike — Ayrshire Coastal Path

Ian D (CC BY 2.0)

A sublime panoramic coastline hike — Ayrshire Coastal Path

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

6-13

days

3-6 h

/ day

94.5 mi

3,550 ft

3,575 ft

The Ayrshire Coastal Path is a long-distance hike along one of the most spectacular panoramic coastlines in Britain. With spellbinding beauty, fascinating history and abundant wildlife, it is a much-celebrated walking challenge.

Along this 95 mile (153 km) hike, you are afforded magical sea views which stretch over the Firth of Clyde and its islands to Kintyre and Ireland. There are plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities, too. Keep a look-out for basking sharks, otters, seals and more than 135 species of birds. You also pass many historic castles and see fascinating geology and wildflowers.

Starting from Glenapp Kirk, the trail heads north along wild cliff-tops, old coach roads and rugged beaches, past atmospheric ruins and sleepy fishing villages, to Ayr. The going gets easier from Ayr, taking you along golden beaches and well-maintained paths and lanes to finish in Skelmorlie.

Highlights along the way include: Sawney Bean’s Cave, a beautiful place associated with a dark myth; Turnberry Castle, which survives from 1310; Culzean Castle, a stunning fortification perched on cliffs; Dunure Castle, a remarkable ruin on a rocky headland; Irvine Beach, which boasts golden sand and crystal clear water; the striking ruins of Ardrossan Castle; Ardneil Bay, a pretty beach with excellent views; and Portencross Castle, an atmospheric fortification overlooking the Firth of Clyde.

In this Collection, I split the route into seven stages; 9.8 miles (15.8 km), 13.2 miles (21.2 km), 8.7 miles (14 km), 15.4 miles (24.8 km), 16.8 miles (27 km), 13.8 miles (22.2 km), and 16.8 miles (27 km). On Stages 5 and 7, I have given a suggestion on how best to split the route, should you fancy. Of course, you can divide the Collection into as many days as you are comfortable with or walk any single stage.

The Ayrshire Coastal Path can be challenging in places, especially in the south, which requires some scrambles over rocky shorelines. You also need to be aware of tide times in places (tideschart.com/United-Kingdom/Scotland/South-Ayrshire/Culzean-Beach).

The trail does not stray too far away from civilisation and all of these routes can be divided fairly easily. As such, it is a good choice for anyone with a moderate level of fitness and intermediate ability. You are well-served by accommodation along the route and, as it is Scotland, you can wild camp. For more information on wild camping, visit: visitscotland.com/accommodation/caravan-camping/wild-camping.

Whilst it is possible to walk in any direction, south to north is highly recommended so the wind and sun is at your back throughout.

The route — which the Rotary Club of Ayr created and maintains on a voluntary basis — links with the Mull of Galloway Trail in the south and the Clyde Coastal Path in the north.

To get to the start you can catch a train to Stranraer or Girvan and then take the 358 bus to Glenapp (bustimes.org/services/358-ayr-girvan-or-stranraer). At the finish, there is a train station in Skelmorlie.

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Ayrshire Coastal Path

91.6 mi

3,450 ft

3,575 ft

Last updated: November 9, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Glenapp Kirk to Ballantrae — Ayrshire Coastal Path

    Intermediate
    04:16
    9.77 mi
    2.3 mph
    625 ft
    825 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Ayrshire Coastal Path begins, rather quirkily, as a hike through the hills. The upshot is some fabulous views over the coast and a fine introduction to this part of Scotland.

    

    Easing you into the itinerary, Stage 1 is leisurely 9.8 miles (15.8 km) with 625 feet (191 m) of uphill and 825 feet (252

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:37
    13.2 mi
    2.3 mph
    675 ft
    675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You get fully-acquainted with the Ayrshire coastline on this stage, which explores glorious beaches and a cave shrouded in dark folklore.

    

    Upping the ante, Stage 2 is 13.2 miles (21.2 km) long with an equal 675 feet (206 m) of uphill and downhill.

    

    You leave Ballantrae to the north and hike along the rocky

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    03:33
    8.70 mi
    2.4 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores the fragmented remains of a once-grand coastal castle, visits a beautiful lighthouse, and affords stunning views of Ailsa Craig and the Mull of Kintyre.

    

    As the rest of the itinerary is pretty challenging, this hike is an easygoing 8.7 miles (14 km) with 125 feet (38 m) of elevation

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:33
    15.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    750 ft
    750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Enchanting castles, pretty fishing villages and classic coastal scrambling all combine on this sensational stage.

    

    With 15.4 miles (24.8 km) of distance, an equal 750 feet (229 m) of uphill and downhill, and some tough terrain in places, this is a challenging hike.

    

    You start by hiking north along Maidens

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:51
    16.8 mi
    2.5 mph
    200 ft
    175 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Golden beaches, traditional promenades, and crumbling castles fuse with modernity and industry on this stage.

    

    With 16.8 miles (27 km) of distance and 200 feet (61 m) of uphill and 175 feet (53 m) of downhill, this hike is a great test of endurance. (For a suggestion on how to split the stage, read on

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:39
    13.8 mi
    2.4 mph
    175 ft
    225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores one of the most dynamic sand dune systems in Ayrshire, stops off at golden beaches and visits glorious castle ruins.

    

    Dialling down the intensity a notch, this stage is 13.8 miles (22.2 km) long with 175 feet (53 m) of uphill and 225 feet (69 m) of downhill.

    

    You start by following cycle

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    07:11
    16.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,025 ft
    825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Glorious coastal views and spectacular crumbling castle ruins combine on the challenging finale to the Ayrshire Coastal Path.

    

    With 16.8 miles (27 km) of distance, 1,025 feet (312 m) of uphill and 825 feet (252 m) of downhill, the finale is the most challenging hike in this itinerary. (For a suggestion

    by Dan Hobson

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    7
  • Distance
    94.5 mi
  • Duration
    39:41 h
  • Elevation
    3,550 ft3,575 ft

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