Not so many weeks; nearly four, I walked the River Ayr Way with Phil. This is how I remember it. Not necessarily how he remembers it. We had talked about this walk the last time we were out, how I had done most of the sections but not all in one go and not all in the correct order. That it would be a good walk over three days. Split the 44 miles up and do some wild camping and bivvying. Messages were sent and dispatches received. Dates agreed and dates discounted. It was on, then it was off but ultimately we got a date and weekend that suited both of us. It was to be the the long weekend of the Royal Wedding. Plans now made and preparations set, it was only a matter of time.
The Friday morning came with a rosy finger'd dawn and I sneaked out the house. I didn't want to wake my wife or my baby daughter best to let sleeping dogs lie as the say. I was meeting Phil at tookiebunten HQ in Ayrshire. My parents house for 8 am. I got there for just after seven. My lighter weight synthetic sleeping bag was in my parents loft and not in my garage. I had a bit of packing to do before Phil turned up and we wanted to get a good early start. That didn't happen, I think I must have packed and repacked about 4 times before Phil arrived. It's hard when your Dad is hinging o'er yer shooder offering unhelpful advice and then sterts tae rip in tae in front of your friend with funny sarcastic comments. I think my problem was I had no funny comebacks. I hate that. I reminded him, he was only getting a len o' that. I'd get it back.
Eventually I got packed and also received a nice MountainGoat Gear hat from Phil. Sweet and luxurious. More on that at some point in the future. We got the Tookie taxi loaded up for the short drive to Glenbuck and the start of the walk. Glenbuck is a funny place in that it doesn't actually exist anymore. It's an opencast mine. Needless to say you can't get there. The bus stops at Muirkirk and then sometimes there is a wee bus that shuttles to Douglas past the Glenbuck road end. Once in a blue moon I think as I couldn't find a timetable but it didn't matter as Auld Tookie nae knees had agreed to drop us off. The drive out was funny for me, not sure about Phil though. I had to bite my tongue and I probably shouldn't have. My Dad had is 'proper' phone voice on talking to Phil. I could have had my own back but thought better of it. He was being a good guy giving us a lift out to the loch. It I'll keep.
On the drive over the weather was not looking promising. Big black clouds as we drove through Muirkirk and out the other side. I think we said as much but I still took the decision to leave my full waterproofs in my car. I was beginning to think that might not have been the best idea. My apex wind shirt is waterproof to a point. Hopefully. We turned in and followed the road up and round to the Fisherman's car park at Glenbuck loch. We got out and sorted ourselves. Maing ready. Said thank you and goodbye to Tookie Senior then we set off down the path to where we thought the start was. Not realising we had actually passed it. We came across a nice carved totem pole but that's not the start. Still following the path. We walked round, then realised that we were back to where we turned into the car park and there was my Dad reading the board in front of a massive block of stone.
The stone is interesting in that it's not stone. It's actually sand from the beach at Ayr and the structure is lined up with the harbour at there, creating an imaginary line straight to the end. Now officially at the start, we said out cheerios again and set off properly. I switched on the e-trex GPS and got the track recording and Phil fired of a SPOT beacon and switched on ViewRanger to record a track. That was it. Hi ho hi ho and off we went. We hadn't walked far when we came to out next monument. In fact probably only 20 steps but we had noticed this one on the way in. How we missed that massive other one I'll never know. This monument is a memorial to the legendary and revered football manager Bill Shankly. He was born in the village of Glenbuck. Their most famous son. We turned and continued down the road following the directional marker.
We crossed the main road to the other kissing gate which led onto the old railway line, it had a warning about new born lambs and how hill sheep are skittery in general and asking us not to walk through the fields till the next day. We politely ignored the warning or request. What difference is a day going to make. I know this sounds callous and ignorant. Ignoring a farmers wishes. However it was an educated decision. I'm a country boy; I've worked on farms, I have a certain amount of knowledge and experience of the beasts. Also we weren't walking with a dog, we weren't going to be lifting and cuddling the lambs or chasing them around. We were probably the ones in danger from the sheep coming at us thinking they were getting an extra feed! Not that us being there bothered the farmer, scooting aboot on his quad bike. If he had a problem, he would have asked us to leave. It's just about being sensible. Closing gates and leaving the animals be. Leave it as you found it.
It's nice walk along the old railway line. The weather was threatening shaking fists at us, big heavy clouds but doing little about it. Blowing hard, nothing to worry about. We were walking away from it anyway. It was clear where we were heading. The landscape is juxtaposed here; on the one side of the road you have good green Ayrshire hill farms, nature being managed, on the other side a massive opencast coal operation, nature having her heart ripped out and us in the middle walking along on a past man-made scar that's now, apart from the well kept track, slowly turning back to be green and wild. The only hints of it's past life; the occasional wooden sidings of the old stations, or where it cuts straight through a bank.
Enjoying the walk on the old line. Passing through the numerous gates. Talking about this, that and the next thing, as you do. When suddenly I had one of those; not quite a flash back, more of a depth charge going off in the back of my mind. BANG. More like ****. ****, ****, ****, ****! Or something along those lines is what I vocalised. Much to Phil's mid sentence surprise. Much to my own as well. **** just for good measure. In my rush to repack my rucksack I hadn't put my main meals in. How stupid. I had packed my breakfasts plus my snacks. No dinner. Maybe it was a subconscious thing as I'm not all that keen on the dehydrated meals. Whatever it was, was not good. Really not good. Phil being a good guy though said he probably had enough and we would work something out. That he had plenty. I still felt like a dick though, amateur hour on prime time. On we went, me silently cursing and kicking myself.
Heading for Kames, were talking about how you don't get see many walkers out on these Ayrshire paths or even the hills. How great and under rated it is. If you know me, a favourite rant of mine and one subject I can talk for hours on. Other than leaving my dad back at Glenbuck the only person we had seen all morning was the farmer on his ATV. Talk about the De'il and he's sure to appear, especially in Ayrshire. No sooner had we got into full flow on the subject than we were passed by three. Yep count them, one, two, three cyclist on their mountain bikes. Which is great to see. Mind you, don't know if I could be jucked being on bikes though. All those gates, kissing or otherwise, stiles and these weird new upside down Vs that they have put in place. Looks like it's to deter the cyclist rather than encourage them but good on them and away they went, peddling into the distance. Us wondering if they were going to do the Way in one go.
The first few miles were being knocked off at a fine steady pace. The walking was easy as it is when you are in good company. I would like to say we reached Kames without noticing it but that's not strictly true as it is obvious. There are houses, but you understand. You see the old parish church of Muirkirk to your right. Muir as in moor from Scots. The church on the moor. It is interesting from here as you get to see that Muirkirk as people and passersby think of it is wan place it's actually three distinct areas. Kames where we were standing but also Muikirk itself, the oldest part and Smallburn a later extension. Most of those from Kames were moved there. Better housing. The path here takes you round the back of Kames which is a shame as you only get to see the back of the 'Institute'. A common thing in these old mining villages. Built by the owners for their workers. It is a pretty building as these things go, of old red sandstone.
Here there is also a walkers car park where you can set off on a few excellent walks around the Muirkirk area. This is a good jumping off point. There is even an audio tour to accompany the walks, stating the links with Covenanters, local history and natural interests. However if the information board's map is anything to go by, it's a little bit confusing. It even left Phil scratching his head never mind me. Somebody needs a lesson on orientating maps or a compass at the very least. I can understand as well why the path goes roon the back. People now live in a row of houses, all that is left of Kames. You can see the parts of walls that formed the other rows as you follow the path.
The path continues up through some new planted woods and joins the old Sanquhar road. Famous locally for being the first tarred road in the world. Maybe even famous internationally? The process invented by a local engineer, John Loundon McAdam. He introduced the process of macadamising, using the by product from the local coal mines to produce coal tar to bind stones together to make a smooth hard road surface. I always get a little shiver of pride when walking on that road. To think that the world's modern road system started here. Chalk another one up for Ayrshire. Not sure how much of the original surface is left but it the thoughts that count. We stopped to let a car pass, there is another unofficial car park at this end of the road. Then the local Game keeper all camoed up for war drove by us on his quad. We had stopped opposite what was once John McAdam's house. Not much remains but a few walls but it seem that it wasn't a modest home.
From here we turned right or in a general west direction. Here the landscape looks natural, wild moorland but it is anything but, nature has just over grown and laid a blanket down over what is left of man's ruins. We were now walking through the old tar works themselves. There are the tell tale lumps and bumps and even the obvious lade cut from the burn if you know what your looking for. Stuart Ainsworth from the Time Team's territory. We were now heading to yin o' the twa brigs. The Garpel Bridge or as it's more commonly known as Tibbie's Brig. The other brig being the Sanquhar Brig but that was not on our path, not today. The bridge gets it's name from the fact that a local poetess lived next to the ford of the burn. The bridge not being built when she lived there. Her name was Isobel Pagan or Tibbie to everyone. As the legend goes; not the most attractive of ladies, a deformed foot and lame from birth. She also had a squint and a hump back by all accounts. Her fame comes from running a howff and serving beer and usquabae to the local miners as well has her singing and poetic recitals. She is most famous for a rhyme that Robert Burns quoted. Wither the poem was actually written by her is debatable. It just maybe part of the oral tradition and it just so happened that someone wrote it down after hearing Tibbie sing it. Ca' the yowes tae the knowes is the title.
Ca' the yowes to the knowes,
Ca' them where the heather grows,
Ca' them where the burnie rows,
My bonie dearie
Burns took the song and rewrote to suit himself but keept the original chorus. Isobel had a book of works printed with some of her favourite songs. Here there is also a cairn marking the spot where her howff sat next to the water. It is a nice spot to sit some time under the bridge with tumbling water. It was the first time we had been next to the water for a while. Almost since the start.
From here the path climbs up and back onto a section of the old railway line and away from the river again via a set of stairs. Here I was greeted by an over enthusiastic Border Collie puppy. I would normally say much to the owners embarrassment. No amount of shouting commands would get the dog to heel. The dog just being playful and wanting to be clapped. Luckily both of us are not scared of dugs. Well unless they are big rabid hounds of the Baskerville, fangs dripping, teeth snarling, devil dog beasts. The old Billy Connelly joke springs to mind; must be able to smell my dog, they call it puppy love. Once the owner had the excitable pup back on the lead Phil and I continued on. Still the only walkers that appeared to be out to do the River Ayr Way.
We were now past Smallburn and getting close to the old parish boundary. Entering into the policies of the old Wellwood House. Now no longer visible. A ruin, destroyed and the stone probably quarried away to use else where. The only clue to the fact is the ubiquitous rhododendron bushes and the purple flowers scattered here an and there. It was the sight of an ancient tower house and with all auld castles there's a story to go along with it. This particular one goes along the lines of a maid was murdered in the house and for years no amount of scrubbing could remove a mysterious stain from a flagstone step. The new owner decided to call in a local mason. A stone mason and possibly a brother on the level to cut out the offending step and replace it with a new one. The local man duly complete his task, got paid and ended up dead. All with in a few hours, so the story goes. It was about here that we decide to take a mid-morning break. We were making good time but it was not like we were yomping on. The pace was easy, it was that it was a good well made track we were following.
I found myself checking the E-trex while we were sitting watching the green hued water flow by. Something that worried us both, trying to figure it out. Was it the run off from the fields or some other thing from the opencast. Either way it wasn't pleasant looking and to think I used to swim in these deep slow meandering bends. I don't remember it being like that but I don't think it did me any harm? Me and the E-trex were heading for a fall out. It was my own fault and much to Phil's amusement I had manged to switch it off and I couldn't get it back on. How I managed to record my route on the Merrick I'll never know, One thing it did know was I wasn't going to be recording this. Off. Phil was tracking the route anyway and as the good gentleman that he is said he would send me on the GPX.
As we sat there, low and behold two other walkers. Proper walkers in full on walking gear, rucksacks and everything appeared from around the bend in the burn. Now we weren't the only ones walking the River Ayr Way. When they reached our resting spot we exchange pleasantries and they stopped to chat. They were staying at the Sorn Inn. They had driven from Sorn to the start at Glenbuck. Walking back to Sorn where their bikes were, them cycling back to Glenbuck to pick the car up. Keen, I remember thinking. It's all up hill on the way back if your cycling to Muirkirk. It's a big pull out of Sorn. We wished them well and hoped to see them later on.
Fuelled and ready to move on, we got our packs settled and ourselves ready. Still within the Wellwood polices and close to what is now Upper Wellwood farm. We made our way across the Proscribe Burn towards a martyr's grave. One of the may that litter the moss's here. Another thing that Ayrshire was famous for, renouncing the King and his Episcopalian faith in favour of their own Presbyterian faith. There are many battles and many graves marked around here from the Killing Times, for both sides. Sorn where we were heading for, was one of the main garrisons in the area for the Red Coats. From there they would strike out searching for Covenanters but the would soon just question anyone that they came upon and hell mend you if didn't answer their questions to their liking as happened to the poor William Adam. Shot on the spot. No judge or jury. The grave sits in a lovely little wooded glade which would be pleasant place to sit if there wasn't such a sad story.
We followed the river to the road, the A70 and crossed over to the other side. Not in a spiritual way but in the physical sense. From there we followed the track over a well made foot bridge. There was some pride in that construction. Once over the bridge we were into Airds Moss. Airds Moss is now a nature preserve looked after by the RSPB. I think they describe it as an upland bog. Yes, very pleasant. It is home to a variety of wildlife and all manner of birds. I'm painting a pretty picture of the place but it can be a brutal place if the weather is bad. It is open moorland and not a place to be caught in bad weather. Luckily for Phil and I, we were enjoying some fine Ayrshire weather. That was to say it was dry and not cold. However Ayrshire is always a fine place when I'm home.
Airds Moss is another of these areas recovering from man's intervention. It is starting to get some of it's wild beauty back but there are still signs of the industrial revolution. One in particular is what I though was the parish mill. A big building in it's own right. All the farms were tithed to it so it would be producing a lot of flour and grain. I was convinced it was. I could see the lade cut but then it open up massively. I would have to have been the biggest mill in the world. There would have been and immense amount of water turning the wheel. Time to get the guide book out. Dane Love to the rescue. Not a mill but an Iron Works. A big Irons Works.
The moss was also a favourite hiding place for the Covenanters due to the many secluded farms and steadings dotted about. It was also heavily grazed in the past. It was also the site of a battle between the Covenanters and the Red Coats. The monument is on another path and in the opposite direction from our heading. It commemorates a battle of 1680 where the preacher, Reverend Richard Cameron was killed after having prayed, "Lord, spare the green and take the ripe". He was one of 9 Covenanters to die that day including his brother. The Cameronian's (26th Regiment of Foot) of the British Army are said to have taken their name from him.
The moss is a weird place there's lots going on but not much to look at, if that makes sense. The place is full of history, steeped in but it's not there to see. If your a twitcher the place is probably a haven for you but for the walker. The landscape is flat and probably why I've just given such a history lesson and no photographs to show, well a couple. I have more to tell as well. Airds Moss was also home to John Lapraik, another 18th Century poet and friend of Robert Burns. We do like oor wurds in Ayrshire. He was a wealthy farmer until the banks crash in Ayr and he lost it all, ending up in the debtor's prison. Moving to the farm at Dalfram. Burns wrote three Epistles to him an old Scottish bard. The were known to be friends and supposedly Lapraik is where Robert got is inspiration for A Man's a Man for a' That. For all his woes he lived a long life dying at the age of 80. He is buried in the churchyard at Muirkirk.
I'm not sure but I think Phil was glad by the time we had reached the end of Airds Moss and I would shut up for a bit. I'm sure I saw him wiping a trickle of blood from his ears. We crossed over another stout and well made bridge. We were now at Greenock Mains and off the bog on the other side of the river. It was only just past one in the afternoon and we were close, only a couple miles short of where we were going to camp for the night. I think at this point we were both starting to think that Sorn was a distinct possibility. Not at that point had we vocalised it but I know I was feeling fine then. No problems with walking further. It was around here we caught back up with the cyclists/walkers. They had stopped for a spot of lunch or a break. We said our hellos again and left them to it. However I think they planted a seed as not long after that Phil suggested we stop or was it me? Matters not. We found an agreeable spot next to the water. I broke out more energy bars and some of that sweet sweet sickly thick energy syrup. It makes me gag a bit but it doesn't half give you that kick. For me anyway.
It was then that Phil said that he thought he recognised the guy that was one half of the walkers/cyclist pair; to which I laughed, but not in a mocking way. It was funny. I had been thinking the same thing since we had seen them back at Wellwood. I thocht I kent them baith. That they were local folks, Cumnockians at the very least. Phil reckoned the guy was another out door blogger (If your reading this let us know). I still haven't figured it oot. Maybe he just had one of those faces. It was decision time, 2 miles to the proposed bivvy or do we walk on to Sorn and take it from there. There's not much distance between Sorn and Catrine so it would probably be best to bivvy at the back end o' Ca'in. I pointed out that from there is wasn't far to the campsite but then Phil reminded me, no tents. Ah. The wids would be fine and the chance of some fine pints and a meal in the Sorn Inn. That's an attractive offer at any time. Never mind when your out having a great walk. Done deal, Sorn it was. We got our pack sorted again but not before I got to see and try out some great glorious gear porn from Phil. Which I won't disclose here has he hasn't posted anything about on his blog. I'll just tease you all. You'll have to keep an eye on http://lightweightoutdoors.com
Back to the path it was and the thought of good beer. It's not long from where we stopped at Limmerhaugh Muir that you have to climb up the river bank and out as starts to cut deep into the surrounding countryside. It's at the Crook Moss. It's not until you get to the top of the bank do you realise just how far down the water has eroded. Again you are on raised moorland but further on the land rises away from you to the north with Auchenlongford Hill and Wedder Hill higher still but only being about 1200ft. The path here seems to follow an older track with a ditch cut along one side as well as remnants of a windbreak or tree planted boundary. When you get to the end of this track and enter Merkland the path descends steeply along side some waterfalls. You can hear the water falling hard but it takes a bit of peering between the trees to see it. Once down you are along side the river again. I was starting to find that I missing the river when the sections forced you away from the water. It's soothing sound and tranquil flow. I don't know what it is about the water, it just draws me in.
From here the path turns into a board walk that's attached to a steep bank above the water. This section takes you round an old Motte and Bailey castle. Don't get too excited there's only the Bailey left. Even that is hard to make out, as it's now completely wooded over. I think it would be hard to see even with out the trees as the builders of the castle took a natural feature and enhanced it somewhat into a strong defencive position. It's not that the walk is precarious here but I think that if yourself and heights didn't get on too well you might find this section some what uncomfortable. It does give you a different view of the river. If you look hard enough on the way into Sorn from Daldilling past Glenlogan House and up to the cottage at Dalgain. You'll see more of tell tale signs of Ayrshire's industrial past. There are ruins of iron works and coal mines. Water filled holes and fallen masonry arches of the kilns for the smelting.
It was here that I was starting to feel the strains of the day. My legs were starting to get tired. Especially with the up and downs of the last few sections. I was looking forward to a beer. It was then that it looked like it was finally going to rain, the weather that we had left behind in Muirkirk had finally caught us up. There was some big drops falling and I thought it felt that it could thunder. It was close feeling and I could almost sense the electricity in the air but it came to nothing. Just a little shower but the skies stayed overcast after having such great weather most of the way to Sorn.
Sorn is a two bridge one street sort of village and I was glad to see the cottage it was all down hill to the pub. It had been a long time since I had done mileage like that. My calf's and hamstrings had taken the brunt. My feet in my Roclites were doing great, a hell of a lot better than they would have been in my usual Scarpa SLs. Phil and I joked as much but half knowing that it was probably true. I would have flooded the river with the all my greetin'. The legs were going, getting really stiff and the hard packed tarmacadam pavement wasn't helping. Every step was a step closer to the pub. Hmm closer to a cool pint of beer. A fair reward. It was about here that our new 'friends' passed us on their bikes on the way out of Sorn going back to get Glenbuck.
Much to my dismay the pub was shut. Shut on a Friday afternoon. Yep, never mind no room at the inn, the shop was shut up tight. It wasn't even 4pm yet and these weary travellers were in need of a refreshment. I say we but you should probably read me. I think Phil was fine. My fitness is definitely better than the last outing but nowhere near fit Phil's. My heart sank. There is nothing in Sorn. Remember two bridges one main street. Nothing for it but to walk back to the other end and the post office stroke local store stoke news agents. IRN-BRU would have to suffice. That walk back to the shop was lucky if it was 500 yards but to my legs it was another ten miles. It was a good pain but it was still pain. Oh how a pint of beer would have slaked that and washed away the pain.
It wasn't all bad, in the post office looking for chocolate and IRN-BRU my Ayrshire boy spider sense was sent tingling. Whoop, whoop. Like a bee to a flower's nectar or dug tae chocolate. There it was like a shining blesha beacon, a bottle of Curries Red Kola. I knew this before I knew IRN-BRU. I grew up guzzling this stuff by the gless cheque. It was delivered to the house, yes delivered to the house straight from the factory by the crate load, weekly. Along with all sorts of other exotic flavours. Grapefruit Cup, Dandelion and Burdock, Special Limeade and Lime Crush. This is the fizzy juice of all fizzy juices and as far as I'm aware only known in Ayrshire. Please correct me if I'm wrong. IRN-BRU can't clap wind on Curries Red Kola erse when it comes to pure sugar and artificial colouring. All the good natural stuff you need after a long walk. I was a happy boy again. The pub could wait.
We went a cross the road; I hobbled like pony with a stone in it's hoof, like I said Phil was good and sat on the bench next to the bus shelter to consume our treats while we waited. As it is with all things nature takes it course and starts to call. Well I had nearly drunk 750ml of natural goodness that is Red Kola and Phil had some artificial day glow Mountain Dew concoction, I think. It was that or Lucozade. The guide informed us that there was indeed local facilities available however not where. Phil, feeling a bit sorry for me nipped back across the road to ask the fine upstanding women in the shop where we could find the public conveniences. He came back and said that they were next to the Church. The Church was beyond the inn, the very last building of the town. Ouch. I hadn't moved for a good 'our as we talked and watched the world go by and a mangy old dog saunter up and down the road with impunity. There was nothing for it, I downed the last of the sweet liquid and got up. Ouch ouch ouch ouch aaahhh, that was how I crossed the road. I returned my empty glass bottle to the shop and got my 30p return fee back. Nice. Aaahh ouch ouch ouch aaahhh ouch as I crossed the road again. The more I walked the more the stiffness eased. I probably shouldn't have sat so long.
After that; you don't need the details, we sat in the church yard for a bit. It was a nice afternoon and it was peaceful, dead quiet. The clock ticked and the hands moved. Time to walk back to the pub. Dinner and beer. Which was handy for me, remember I had left my meals in car. We were a few minutes early but they let us in and through to the bar anyway. Nice folks. They've done a bit of work since the last time I was there. The bar is a bit smaller but it was never big in the first place and they have increased the size of the restaurant. We ordered a couple of pints; for the life of me I can't remember what, other than I think it came from the Houston brewery over in Renfrewshire. It was a good beer and well worth the wait. On top of the fine pint the bar had some excellent snacks on offer of pigs in blankets. We scoffed a few as a 'starter' as we perused the menu. Phil ordered a burger and chips, I went for the steak pie and tatties. It was then cyclist/walkers returned. It had been a hard cycle for them back to get the car, into the wind for most of the way and of course up hill.
The steak pie was a treat. A blessing in disguise leaving those dehydrated meals in the car at Cumnock. Not that couldn't have phoned my Dad and he would have met us somewhere and handed them over. We were never far from home. Time was getting on, we were already 3 or 4 pints down the road as it was. A new suitable bivvy spot was still to be found and there was still a couple of miles to walk. It wasn't going to get dark for a while yet but it was time to move. We said our good-byes and settled the bill. Heading out the pub and over the auld brig at Sorn.
Climbing up out of the village we entered in the grounds of Sorn Castle. There has been much work going on here recently. The track was a wide and broad avenue. Obvious that the work was still continuing but still able to walk. I'm unclear to the reason for the upgrading here but it makes for a nice walk here and you are afforded good views of the castle. The castle is now a fine house, and far from the original tower structure as you can get. The pain was gone but the stiff legs were still there. Beer has amazing properties and I sure I was probably about a jar away from sporting a nice warm and comforting beer jacket. Every step was getting easy again. From the great views of the Castle it's all downhill and the polices make for a very pleasant walk now that the path has been improved.
It's not far from Sorn to Catrine along the river and it wasn't long until we approaching Daldorch House; once the mill owners house, now a bank school or special needs or whatever the current term is. As we were nearing the back of the house, we noticed a boy fishing and I asked if anything was biting. The River Ayr is good for trout and the sea trout, salmon run is getting better every year. Just getting some minties was the reply. I smiled, been I long time since I did that. He was fishing in a competition and gathering up minnows for some live bait.
Here is were the hand of man is most obvious even although the mills are gone. All the workings are still here. The lades, weirs and voes as well as the sluce gates are all still in place. A reminder of the industrial revolution, of when it started here, continued in use up until the late 60s and early 70s. My Dad started his apprenticeship in the mill and my Gran, his mum worked there also. It must have been something to see in it's hay day. The power of all that water. This side of Catrine up on the hill is actually quite nice the large reservoirs that held the water in case the river ran low has been turned into a nature reserve and the mill workers cottages over look it. However down the hill where we were heading was a different story. It's all run down, boarded up shops and graffiti. Nothing for the kids to do. An all to familiar sight.
It was getting late and the buckfast crew were beginning to assemble like zombies in the streets as we passed through. Not really a good time to be hanging about and seeing the sights. We crossed the river yet again to Cartine's Institute and followed the signs for the River Ayr Way. Now heading along the water towards Ballochmyle and the Howford Bridge. The river cuts through another deep gorge here but we were not going to go as far the road bridge. Two runners passed us running along the water next to the Ayrshire tattie fields with it's shiny plastic furrows. I've never seen the machine that lays down the miles and miles of the stuff. It would be interesting to see how it worked. Soon we turned west following the river climbing into woods again and way from the village. Once enveloped by the trees we started to look for a suitable spot away from the path and any possible prying eyes. Somewhere nice to bed down for the night.
We weren't long in finding a good place. The river turned again creating a large meandering bend and the path turns leaving the river to climb up and over the Howford towards Catrine House. We didn't, we headed down to the bank and followed the river further into the woods. The track high above us. Phil found a nice glade, a good a place as any. Off came the rucksacks and out with the bivvy bags. Mine's being bright red and not very subtle especially against the lush green carpet of the wood's floor. Phil on the other hand had a nice green one. Anyway I had my tarp so I suggested, for extra protection and some cover from the path above, that we set it up. Not that onybuddy was aboot ken. The tarp was pitched simple fashion. All Bristol and ship shaped. Will not quite but you get the idea. Nothing complicated.
We got oorsels settled in and sorted. Sleeping bags and mats in place. When probably one of the strangest things that has happened on any of my walks but I've got broad shoodirs so I'll talk about it. Phil got out some foot cream. Not the most manly of things. I think I may have ribbed him about it but I'll be honest, I was intrigued. He explained that it was good for tired sore feet and by the gods they were tired and sore. What the hell gies a shot, I'll give that a bang. There I am in the middle of the Ayrshire wids rubbing some lavender smelling cream into my feet. I've never rubbed cream into my feet before. It was nice and we'll leave it at that. I will also point out Phil did not rub my feet and I did not rub his and no, there is no truth in the rumour that we walk holding hands. Behave yoursels.
Now it was time to kick back and get some zeds. It had been a brilliant day walking. The weather had been fine mostly. However all the fun and games hadn't finished yet. Sitting on my nice new Alpkit sleeping mat was fine, feet anchored in the grass but it was a different story as soon as I lay down. It was like a slipper chute. Straight off. Try again. Nope. A greased monkey wouldn't have been slipperier. Phil suggested letting some air out to see if that would help. Unfortunately it didn't. My own fault for being so desperate to try out the new mat. My only recourse was to cast the mat aside if I was to get a decent night's sleep. I managed after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing to get myself comfy and that was that. Out like a light. The switch had been flicked. The last thing I remember, the sounds of the running river. Day one was done and so was I, but in a good way.
The Saturday started bright and early. Despite having to toss aside my sleeping mat and having to sleep on the woodland floor. I had a great night’s kip. I slept like a log. Feeling refreshed, rested and feeling stiff at the same time. It's not everyday I walk 20 odd miles. It had be a good day walking with Phil and I was looking forward to more of the same. Firstly though, I had to extract myself from my sleeping bag and get some breakfast. This was proving harder than I expected. I was stiffer than a stiff thing now that I was trying to move and this was no morning glory either. I wasn't feeling stiff, I was stiff.
Once I got myself out of my bag and had a big stretch I noticed a blister. The walkers menace. I hadn't been there last night, remember I had thoroughly rubbed my feet down with some cream but there it was glaring angrily at me. Not from a normal blister place, on my second toe on the side of my big toe. Weird. Never ever had a blister there. Blisters appearing in the night in strange places, bizarre. Nothing for it than to deal with. If you’re squeamish jump the next few sentences. I'm blister burster, I don't like the pressure point they create when full of liquid. I got it drained and after much faffing around got some moleskin attached to the offending toe. With the protection added I got my socks and shoes back on. After taking a few steps I realised I couldn't even feel where the blister was, let alone figure out how I manage to rub those two toes hard enough to cause it. Nothing to worry about. Pain free walking.
After a breakfast of kings, breakfast energy bars and water for me and a Fuizion Freeze dried just add water super calorie laden meal for Phil. Once we were fed and watered, we made busy and packed up camp. One of these days I'll beat Phil. I seem to do so much more fanny about and sorting stuff out than he does. One day I'll be first. Maybe. We checked around and double checked, nothing left. Unless you've a trained eye and notice the couple depressed areas where we slept but soon, even they would no longer be there. All trace gone. Instead of heading back the way we came to catch the path, we headed as the craw flies to intercept it further down.
It was a fine quiet morning if a little chilly but my MountainGoat hat was doing a good job of keeping my lugs and heid warm. Just us and the fermer bombing about the field in his tractor. Heading along the path towards the Howford Bridge. Well the first of two Howford bridges. One the new road one and the second the old road one. When I say new I mean 1960s new and when I say old I mean a couple of hundred years old. Both are old to me but maybe not some of you readers out there. We climbed steadily up towards the road, the A76. When we got to the road the path goes under the road and its all downhill from here to the old bridge. At the road the path splits and you can go off up to Catrine House or what's left of it. Here there's a petting farm and farm shop/eatery. It's serves great food and excellent ice cream. The shop sells good local produce. I would recommend stopping off there but we were a little early.
We made our way down to the old Howford Bridge walking in the woods. When I suddenly noticed in my periphery vision, something moving. A Deer. I called to Phil in my best covert voice and pointed in the direction of the beast. It was well in the thicket of woods off the path. Well hidden but as usual, flashing its white arse gave it away. Phil and I tried our best stealthy silent walks to get as close as we dared for a photograph. However; as these things go for me, the deer high tailed out of there just I as lifting my camera. No shot. Next time, maybe. We continued on down the path and joined the old Mauchline road and made our way across the auld Howford Bridge which doesn't look unlike the brig at Sorn. You would think that they had the same builder.
There's a good fishing 'hole' here at the auld brig and my Dad always tells the story of how this was the place he first went fishing with my Papa and that his fishing rod was made from a tank's communication aerial. Apparently it weighed a ton. I've never been lucky enough to hook into anything at this fishing hole but there are others more fortunate than me. We headed over the bridge and up towards Mauchline. Towards Mauchline is a loose term, more like skirting it and heading to Haugh farm and the old Mill through a wood walk. Around here are some cups and ring marked stones. As cup and rings go they are very famous in that they are carved vertically on the sandstone cliffs rather that the standard horizontal. The discovery of this changed the interpretation of the other carvings. However I was to busy talking all about them that we walked passed them and didn't see them. Lesson learned, sometimes it's better to shut up and show. Not to worry, they haven't moved in a few thousand years. The path here takes you through what was once the polices of Kingencleugh house and castle (read tower house) as well as under the Ballochmyle Viaduct. Famous for being the world’s largest masonry span arch. The viaduct was built around 1845 and is still in daily use as part of the Glasgow to Carlisle main-line route. It's a fine piece of masonry work with attractive detailing and great to see it from below instead of passing over it and hardly noticing it.
Phil and I continued on through the wooded gorge. The sun piercing through in places, illuminating glades of bluebells here in there. From Catrine to here it's a bit of an up and down walk but a very pleasant one indeed. It was still early and no-one but the two of us about. This is another part of the walk where you find yourself far from the river itself due to geography and the wishes of the local land owner. Once you reach Haugh farm, you leave the river entirely as you make your way around the borders of the Barskimming Estate. It was interesting for both Phil and I when we reached the mill as we realised that the guide books we were carrying were different. It wasn't obvious as Phil’s; the newer version did have anything to indicate that the route had changed here. His version has you walking up the road to Haughyett then taking a left at the junction there to Woodlands. Where as the edition I have has you going through the old Barskimming works, the Bostonbank woods and past one of the Barskimming Lodges to Woodlands.
We must have looked dodgy from a distance, how I'm not sure. Two guys standing in the middle of nowhere comparing maps and point in numerous directions. However we must have as local fermer out on his morning rounds came over to us and said as much. He initially thought we were a pair of burglars but as he got closer, he realised. Don't think I've been mistaken for a criminal before. It was probably Phil's fault. After having a chat with the fermer, he suggested that we continue to follow the original route. It was much more attractive than the new way up the tarmac. We took his advice and crossed the field to the old stile. Once in the Bostonbank woods it was obvious that a lot of people were still walking this way, the track was well worn and not over grown. We exited the trees and now only had a short road section to walk, past the lodge to the Woodlands cottages.
Now a good distance from the water, we turned in through a new gate at the cottages and followed a very new section or recently repaired part of the walk. Basically we were on the boundary of the estate and we wouldn't be back near the river until we were passed Stairaird another local estate. It's a shame and blessing in a way. You don't get to walk past and see these beautiful old country houses hiding the trees but you also miss out probably the windiest part of the river. It turns north, south, east and west twice in a two mile stretch or so. Four big massive loops. There was no point in worrying about what we would miss and got on with walking. We continued on and were soon walking past the massive old sandstone quarry at Barskimming. Now hidden from view by trees and filled with water. The glimpses that you get only hint at the size and depth of the quarry.
Leaving the quarry behind, we crossed a couple of fields and entered the Kipplemoss wood. Wood is being generous; more of a plantation, forestry commission style. All dark and unappealing. Luckily it's not long before we are back out in the open and crossing the Avenue, one of the main private roads to Barskimming house. At this point we're not far from Failford, maybe only a couple of miles. Walking downhill from the avenue we followed the old estate wall and crossed the Mauchline burn before coming upon another estate road which we followed up to the entrance lodge and the main road, the Ayr Road, the B743. Another short road section of tar took us into Failford. If it wasn't so early I would have welcomed a fine pint of beer at the excellent Failford Inn and I think Phil would have too. I think if it had been open I would have enjoyed a pint that early in the morning, fine Ayrshire Ales. Not sure what that says about me.
With a great morning of walking all ready under our belts. We decide to take a break just at the start of the Failford gorge. The river is wide here and sits on a large slab of rock which allows you to sit far out in the water when there's not a run on the river. The perfect spot for a break. We got right down onto the bank and found a fallen tree trunk ideal for bench. Phil got out his kuksa, not a euphemism and his Foster’s can stove caldera cone combination and some esbit tablets. I say some but I’m certain it was only half a tablet. He got the water boiling for his coffee an intriguing little number. I'm not a coffee drinking but it's the first time I'd never seen coffee in a tea bag, or should that be coffee bag? Ingenious, I thought. Very clever.
Apparently we looked like a pair of anglers. Which was better than earlier and being mistaken for a couple of house breakers. A passing dog walker saw us and enquired about the state of the morning's fishing. Probably an easy mistake to make this time as there was an angler already fishing the bend in front of us and the guy may have assumed we were together. I don't think I helped commenting on the fact it was a good spot and we had seen a few fish jumping. After our short conversation he left after his dog. I left Phil to enjoy his coffee in peace for a while and walked out across the sandstone slab to the waters edge and took a few photographs.
After a bit I wandered back across as Phil was clearing up, leave no trace. We climbed back up the bank and onto the walks. There are a few here; a couple of circular ones all well laid out and marked. Most of the paths start by having you climb up a wooden staircase and out of the gorge, on to the wooded cliff tops. This section is probably my favourite. The path through the Coilsholm Wood is idyllic to say the least at this time of year. Spring was in full bloom. Glades and glades of bluebells and pungent wild garlic littered the forest floor. It's an almost magic call place to walk and again other than the angler and the dog walker. We had the best of Ayrshire to ourselves. Climbing up and down of the path following the gorge and before we knew it the woods had ended and we were making our way down towards Daldorch and Stair beyond.
It had reached mid-morning and the day was heating up nicely. I was enjoying the walk, no bite back from the blister and my legs were feeling fine. After all of yesterdays walking, the planned 3 days was definitely looking like a do able 2 days. The other side of Stair would be the point of no return. The closer we get to Ayr the less choice if any would we have for a wild camp. We had now settled into our comfortable walking pace, Phil a couple of steps in front. Like I keep saying he is much taller than me and has a bigger stride. We had just passed Daldorch Farm when we noticed a dog walker coming towards us. Phil was a bit further in front as I had stopped to snap a few photos. I started off after Phil; as I was approaching the dog walker, I stopped to let him and his dog pass, I said good morning to him. His reply was and I quote, "Christ! I thocht it wiz yir fayther there". I have an uncanny resemblance to my dad; a chip off the old block, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, a spitting image. Personally I don't see it but others do. The Bunten curse. I should point out I'm the taller, younger, better looking one, if you ever see us together.
This particular dog walker had grown up in the same street as, and went to school with my dad. We got talking, as you do. I apologised because I couldn't remember him as he hadn't seen me since I was a boy. That he was now living in Mauchline and had seen my dad the other week; driving by Poosie Nancy's, peeping the horn and waving. How that he hadn't been in my dad's company for a few years but the last time there was a lot of drinking, merriment and good laughter. I hear this quite a lot when people talk about my dad. We talked about the River Ayr Way and how he regularly got the bus to Ayr and walked back to Mauchline. We talked for nearly a long time; possibly 20 minutes, before I said my good byes. In my head the alarm, OH ****, OH ****, OH **** was going off. Phil would be wondering where had I got to, maybe even starting to walk back to make sure I hadn't befallen some terrible accident.
I needed have worried such, as I hoofed it double time on the last bit to Stair, passed Stair house and the church on other side of the river. Stair is old parish and has it's part in dark page of Scottish history, the Glencoe Massacre. The Master of Stair having his hand in that. Almost but not quite running passed the mill lade out to the road at Milton. I looked down the road and found Phil patiently waiting for me at Stair Bridge. He waved in acknowledgement at seeing me. Walking up to cross the bridge, I noticed my legs were not happy. Don't think they were pleased with the last half mile or so of power walking to catch up with Phil. Nothing a cold pint at the Stair Inn wouldn't fix. Once on the bridge I explained to Phil what had happened but he had already guessed as much. A similar scenario had unfolded at the Ayrshire Beer Festival in Troon last October. We headed over to the Inn.
I stiffly sauntered over to the Inn and Phil noticed and asked if the blister was bothering me. To which my reply was no, hadn't felt it since I burst it this morning. My problem was my legs were seizing up a bit but not that it was bothering me, it might slow me down a bit. It was jus after 12. A really good time for that pint and lunch. I said to Phil that we could eat out the front in the sunshine. We reached the Sorn Inn and it was shut! What is it with us and Ayrshire pubs being shut, we laughed. 12:30 before it opened. Not much of a problem, I just sat my weary body down on one of the benches out the front. Nothing for but to sit and wait. We weren't the only ones waiting. A couple of cars had pulled into the car park. It's a very popular place for something to eat. Like I said I have family that live less than 5 minutes from where we were sitting and are regular vistors here. Jokingly I said it wouldn't surprise me if we bumped into my Aunt and Uncle. I also said that I would probably get into trouble for passing and not dropping in.
Finally the pub opened. It was one of those really long 20 minutes; you know the ones, feels like time has stopped. Especially as we could see the staff walking about inside. Get a move on clock. The key scraped in the lock and the door was swung inward. I was like a shot out of a gun; probably the fastest Phil has ever seen me move. I ordered a couple of pints and a couple of pints of juice as well as lifting a copy of the menu. I went for the steak pie again. This time it was steak and sausage compared to the straight up steak pie at Sorn the day before. I love a good home made steak pie. Clean plates all round. I did warn Phil that not every pub in Ayrshire served food as good as the two inns we had visited.
We finished our beers and got ourselves set to go. Over lunch we came to the natural conclusion, that for this leg of the Way, we had passed the point of no return. There were still plenty of hours left in the day and Ayr wasn't that far away. I think we both knew that and had come to that conclusion seperately. The country-side was becoming far more populated and we had long entered the agricultural heart of the county. Not many suitable camping spots left, if any. What was another 20 odd mile day? Getting up from the bench and walking back toward the bridge to get back onto the path my legs were protesting greatly. I had seized up and was thinking that no amount of WD40 was going to loosen my joints but with every step I started to feel freer.
Back across the bridge and walking through the cottages at Milton, I was explaining to Phil that just up that road and take the fork to the right and that's where my Aunt and Uncle live. It was then when I was pointing that I noticed a blue car with a personalised plate parked in off the road where the next section of the path begins. I recognised the car, you guessed it. With exclamation I said I know that car then I noticed two people walking back along the path towards the car. Yes, my Aunt Judy and Uncle Les. Brilliant, couldn't have planned that if I had tried. I would normally say pure luck but I suppose the chance of that happening does increase when your not 5 minutes from their front door. I introduced Phil to them both and Tammy the mental Springer Spaniel. They had been out with dog in the car and had stopped on their way home to let Tammy stretch her legs. My Aunt Jud even said they had been wondering whereabouts we would have been but hadn't expected us to be this far on. We said our goodbyes and parted with some wise words from my Uncle Les.
This next part was towards Annbank through policies of another Ayrshire estate this time it was Enterkine House, now a very nice hotel and restaurant. The sun was out in all its glory now and it was nice, feeling its warming heat penetrating me. It is glorious by the river on these days. In fact it was one of those days where you really would love to take a dip in the cool waters. I know my tiring feet would have loved it. I was soon back in step with Phil and we were making good progress again. Heading towards the Enterkine Viaduct were suddenly aware of a small herd of dairy cows approaching us. Luckily we were on the other side of the fence and when I say luckily I don't mean it in a bad way. It would have been awkward to move through them as they are big beast but the cows seemed very tame and not at all jumpy. Maybe they were used to walkers feeding them, I'm not sure. I think they thought we had some feed for them but it was funny as they joined us for a short while as reached the viaduct. Interesting smelly company and I'm not talking about Phil.
The path climbs a bit up into Annbank and I really felt myself slowing down especially when I came to one of those wooden steps that are built for giants. Every step up one of those felt like my knees were smacking off my chest. Having to take them one at a time. Step, up, step, up, step, up. Had the stairs been any steeper and I would need a harness and rope. Reaching the top you enter into a park at Annbank. We knew we have another little road section to Auchincruive so we took advantage of been in the village and headed to the local shop for a juice break. Much to my annoyance, no cold IRN BRU or Curries Red Kola. Shocking. A warm bottle of IRN BRU it was then but it was wet and what was needed. On leaving the shop we noticed a few buses parked up the road and then we heard the shouts. Annbank Juniors must have been playing. Probably where all the cold juice had went, up to the park with the supporters.
We headed down the road to St. Oswald’s Bridge and Auchincruive. Auchincruive is another fine old country house. It's now an agricultural college with some really nice walks in its grounds. The gardens are particularly well tended and beautiful in the summer. My feet were now starting to get very tired. I hadn't walked this much in two days since my last jaunt on the West Highland Way. I was very happy though that I wasn't wearing my big heavy Scarpa SLs. I would have been crippled by now as we were on the road section of the walk and looking at the guide it looked like tarmac pavements and roads all the way to the end. We reached St. Oswald’s Bridge, meaning that we only had about 3 miles or so as the crow flies to go to the harbour. Crossing the road here and heading for Mainholm, I phoned home, well my Ayrshire home and arranged for the Tookie Taxi back to Cumnock for Phil and me. My dad was well impressed that we had reached Auchincruive so quickly as my Uncle Les has spoke to him earlier about meeting us. I said that I would phone him when we reached Ayr proper; it's only a 20 minute drive from Cumnock to Ayr so he didn't have to leave just yet.
Plodding along the farm roads to Mainholm I was really really starting to struggle. I could feel every step on the hard roads. I think if there had been some grass or something maybe feet and legs wouldn't have been as sore. I was really starting to feel it in my calf muscles as well as my hamstrings but there was nothing for it, to the end or nothing. Death or glory and I am partial to being glorious like Tam. I think Phil sensed I was struggling a bit and slowed his pace and was more or less walking beside me instead of our usual couple of steps in front. It helped and he did point out that I had walked 40 odd miles in nearly two days. Good point. Maybe if I was fitter too I wouldn't be finding it so hard? The good news, the blister still hadn't made a re-appearance and was not even noticeable in the slightest but it was in a weird place to start with. Were reached the Mainholm Cottages and the A77, only just escaping death by stupid van driver who couldn't reverse his little van. Slight exaggeration there but he hadn't a clue what he was doing. Weaving in and out. He gave Phil and I a worry, we gave him a wide berth.
The 77 is a busy, busy road. Luckily you don't have to dodge the traffic here you walk along the pavement to the south. You cross the river on the road bridge and then take a flight of stairs down to a path along the bank. Heyzeus, in the name of the wee man and any other invocation you could think of, including several sweary words went through my head along with the jolt of pain that accompanied every step down those stairs. No pain, no foul? No pain, no glory? If I was made of lesser stuff, I would have jacked it in then but were in Holmston and Ayr properly. I could see Kyle Academy one of Ayr's many secondary schools. The south pier was calling and so was Phil. It was from this point onward that Phil was a driving force; he was a good few metres in front now and sometimes out of sight as the path followed the bends in the river. He was a magnet pulling me to the finish. I was glad of that. Focus on catching Phil and focus on the finish. Not that I had stopped enjoying the walk but there in Holmston I was struggling.
Nothing for it but to catch up on Phil. I started to pick up the pace as much as I could and started again to focus on the river and how great the weather was, fine beautiful sunshine. Anything to forget about the pains in my legs. Here there were loads of people enjoying the water. Kids splashing in the water and making use of the wide open spaces. Lots of young teams out enjoying the sun and showing off. Drinking; not buckfast but good old bottles of cider, White Lightening. Been there and done that. I caught back up with Phil at the Craigholm foot bridge that takes you over into Craigie. When I say I caught up I mean Phil waited for me. We crossed into the grounds of the Craigie Estate, now a park and the grounds of one of the campuses of the University of the West of Scotland and Ayr College itself. It's a beautiful big park and busy with families and dog walkers. The whole aspect of the walk had changed since we crossed the A77. Gone was the rural and agricultural landscape to be replaced with a townscape. No bigger contrast.
Now in the park we headed onwards, Phil taking the lead and pulling me onwards. I was walking on the grass as much as possible now. I was finding this much easier than the hard packed pavement, knowing that as soon as we passed Dam Park Stadium and reached the Victoria Bridge I would have no choice. I took advantage of the soft springy grass. We passed under the Victoria Bridge and now had only one bridge to cross and then we would be on the last, last and final leg. My legs would be happy. I always find it weird at this part of Ayr as one side of the River all the houses look to the water but the other side that back of the old town always look away from the water. I'm sure there is some old historical reason for it but it gives a feeling that this side of Ayr is almost completely separate for the high street. It has turned its back on Wallacetown. The old town wants nothing to do with this expansion across the river.
We passed Turner's bridge another foot bridge this one leads over into the centre of Ayr. The Auld Bridge was now fully in view, our last crossing of the river. Phil waited for me again. It was busy on this side as Ayr United must have been playing a home game over at Somerset Park. Tons of people streaming into the centre of town wearing the black and white strips. No doubt searching out their local pubs for a few pints before heading home. Either they had a good result or because the sun was shining the fans were in a good mood and in good voice. The Auld Brig was a choke point as we had to do a bit of weaving. Five in the afternoon people heading home from the shops, fans heading into town for the beer. Two tides clashing on the bridge, Phil and I in the middle. Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses for honest men and bonie lasses. Exiting on out onto the High Street we turned right, away from the water for a bit was we negotiated the last of the shoppers and headed towards New Bridge street and the harbour beyond. I said to Phil I was surprised that I hadn't heard anyone shout 'Tookie' as we walked along the High Street; he said he was surprised too. He'd been half expecting it.
Luckily no delays here and we crossed into the lane, the Boat Vennel that leads to one of Ayr's oldest houses, Loudon Hall. It dates back to 15th Century and was built for one of town's wealth merchants and was later a town house for the Campbells of Loudon. We passed through the little square there and out onto South Harbour Street, crossing at Fort Street and heading towards the Citadel which is what they're now calling Ayr swimming baths. Time to make that call to Tookie HQ back in Cumnock confirming that we were nearly at the end and it was time to send the Tookie Taxi down to get us. The call made I followed after Phil.
A lot has changed down here since I was a boy and a lot has stayed the same. As with most places the industrial ness of the harbour has been replaced with houses and attractive flats and restaurants looking out of over the water. Fish are no longer landed here and all the heavy industry has been pushed elsewhere or across to the North Harbour and the dock there. The trawlers and fishing boats replaced by pleasure craft and yachts. However the ever present folly is still there. Miller's Folly is a later addition to a Cromwellian Citadel Fort that was built to help control Scotland and one of the largest made. The merchant added a corbelled turret to one of the corners, making what's left of the ruins more spectacular. If you walk about here and know what you’re looking for you can see more fingerprints of the fort.
Walking passed the new housing development and over the south dock and onto the esplanade. I'm pretty sure by this time Phil was actually at the end of the south pier. He was no longer in view. No matter I was nearly done. Just the length of the pier to go when I must have inadvertently turned on my magnet and set it to attract young drunken whallapers. I had only just stepped on to the pier when a young skelpt erse of a boy staggered over to me and asked what I was doing. I should also point out that along with his lobster looking skin his friends felt that it wasn't enough that he was sun burnt, had set about with a set of magic markers and given him a rather intriguing false makeup look. How this was going to impress his drunken girlfriend, I'm unclear or how she was still impressed with him. I responded by saying to the end of the pier. Then I was asked where I had come from; my reply was Muirkirk yesterday, I had walked all the way to here. He was drunkenly impressed. Saying it out loud I was really impressed, even if I do say so myself. Obviously he was feeling rather inadequate in front of his girl after that revelation. He asked me if I thought he could jump off the end pier. Trying to appear macho I suppose. I said he could if he wanted to but that I wouldn't. I don't think he understood that around the pier that water wasn't very deep as it was built on large rocks and boulders. He would have to jump out a fair distance first and that personally he wasn't in the best state to attempt it.
Finally me and my new buddy had caught up with Phil. I explained to Phil what my buddy was wanting to try. Apparently he had seen sense and decided not to jump. Thankfully. That was it I was done. I took some photographs of the beach and Arran. There was some great views of Arran and the Ailsa Craig. Can't beat Ayrshire on a fine sunny day. Then it was time to head back to South Harbour Street and meet my dad and the Tookie Taxi home. Not before stopping off at a wee shop for a celebratory bottle of IRN BRU. I couldn't get the smile off my face and I told Phil that I was so chuffed that we had managed the 40 odd miles in just two days. I never thought I would have been able to do that. I still smile when I think I've done it in two days. For all those painfully last few miles it was well worth the effort. Two glorious days of walking through the heart of Ayrshire.