Maidens to Dunure
My friend and I met at Dunure, a small village in Ayrshire, where she left her car and I drove us to Maidens, another small village in Ayrshire, from where we would walk along the coastal path to Dunure.
It was raining. The first stage of the walk was across the beach, deserted apart from a woman walking her dog. The rain became a bit heavier. The last time we did a stretch of the Ayrshire Coastal Path we walked from Ayr to Dunure and it rained non-stop then, too.
We headed up from the beach into the grounds of Culzean Castle and Country Park. The huge cliff-top castle is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.
In 1569, the 4th Earl of Cassilis, who lived at Dunure Castle, gave Culzean Castle to his brother Sir Thomas Kennedy who expanded the tower house. It was not until his descendent, David Kennedy, inherited Culzean in 1775 that major transformation was begun. He commissioned architect Robert Adam but both men died before the work was completed. David Kennedy died with debts of £60,000 (£4m today), mostly from the costs of rebuilding Culzean. However, he ensured the castle (and his title) passed to a distant cousin, Captain Archibald Kennedy, a wealthy naval captain from New York who had the means to finish the work.
It was his grandson, the 3rd Marquess of Ailsa, who completed the final development of Culzean Castle, providing modern accommodation for his family by building the three storey west wing. In 1945 the widow of the 4th Marquess handed the castle and grounds over to the National Trust for Scotland, keeping the right to use the west wing for the remainder of her life. She also insisted the top floor of the castle was converted into a flat for General Eisenhower as a gesture of gratitude from Scotland, for his part in securing victory during World War II. Apparently, you can hire the flat for your wedding.
We tramped along in the rain, passing the Swan Pond and a line-up of small cannons pointing out to sea, round the back of the castle and down a path to the Gas House. As the name suggests, it provided gas (coal gas) to the castle from the mid- 19th century.
Back on the beach we looked back up at the castle on its clifftop. The views from there must be stunning but both Ailsa Craig and Arran were well hidden from us.
At least we had the wind at our backs and not driving the rain into our faces. walked on, sometimes over firm sand, sometimes rocky outcrops, sometimes over seaweed slimy rocks until we reached Croyburnfoot Holiday Park. A burn ran across our path and the bridge was gone. We wandered through the caravan park hoping we’d find a route back down on the other side of the burn. Finally, we climbed over a barbed wire fence and back down onto the shore.
Then we had a nasty bit over a rocky outcrop which was lethally slippery. I decided to climb up and over through bracken and brambles; only realised the next day how much the brambles ripped my jacket.
The next bit was uphill off the shore. The walk guide I read (but left in the car) said we passed a Protected Ancient Monument called Katie Gray’s Rocks. If we did, we missed it as we ploughed on through the rain over farmland, though some woodland and finally onto a path leading to Dunure Castle. The rain began to ease and we were granted glimpses of Arran beginning to show through the clouds.
Dunure Castle was once the main fortress of the Kennedy family although it has been a ruin for at least three hundred years. One member of the family married a daughter of King Robert III and another went on to become Bishop of St Andrews. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here for three days in August 1563 as the guest of Gilbert Kennedy, the 4th Earl of Cassilis.
On reaching Dunure village we discovered the pub where we had intended eating had shut down. Luckily, the café was open. The macaroni cheese was excellent.
I am determined to do this walk one day when the sun is shining. It must happen. I’ve seen photos.