KWBreaks: The Burns Pilgrimage

Competition

the-rupee-room-800x400

Win a £50 Gift Voucher to spend in The Rupee Room in Ayr (Indian restaurant).

To celebrate and to promote this new walking route around Auld Ayr, I have a £50 Gift Voucher to use in the wonderful Rupee Room to give away.

Not only is The Rupee Room one of the finest Indian restaurants in Ayr, but in the entire west of Scotland.

To have a chance of winning this £50 voucher, simply tell me, on this Facebook post, or this Twitter post, what is your favourite Indian dish.

I will select one reply, at random, at 23:59 on June 30 2018.


The Burns Pilgrimage. Alloway, Doonfoot and Ayr Beach, Scotland.

Rabbie Burns.

It is a matter of real personal pride, that the National Bard of Scotland, and someone who is celebrated around the World every year, is a local hero. And celebrated, not once, but twice: with January 25th, or Burns Night, being the most obvious; but did you know that Burns also wrote the words to that wee ditty that you sing every New Year’s Eve (or Hogmanay)?

The instructions for this walk go into some depth though, so much so, that it might seem like a rather busy itinerary. But it’s really not. I’m not a big fan of busy itineraries anyway. Travel should be fun. And, as far as I’m concerned, that means relaxing.

And you don’t have to do the whole walk if you don’t fancy that much exercise. It can be done in 3 different ways: the shortest walk just being a visit to Alloway (where all of the Burns-related attractions in Alloway are located); a slightly longer walk which includes Alloway, followed by a very leisurely stroll through Belleisle Park (although, if it has been raining in the last week or so, this stage is not recommended for wheelchair-users – the path through the park is very muddy in places, and there’s no way around the puddles); and the longest walk which includes both Alloway and Belleisle Park, but is followed by a stroll along the southern reaches of the River Doon, and then along Ayr seafront.

And don’t forget your camera!

[If starting from Glasgow International Airport (GLA), take the airport bus to Paisley Gilmour Street train station, from where you can take the train to Ayr train station. Rail timetable: www.scotrail.co.uk].

[If starting from Glasgow Prestwick Airport (PIK), take the first Ayr-bound train from the airport train station. Rail timetable: www.scotrail.co.uk].

[And, if you flew with Ryanair, remember to show your Ryanair boarding pass for half-price rail travel in Scotland].

 

The Burns Pilgrimage.

Ayr town centre -> Alloway -> Belleisle Park -> Doonfoot <-> Ayr Beach

Ayr town centre (Burns Statue Square):

From Burns Statue Square (which is actually a triangle – and is located just seconds from Ayr train station) in central Ayr, take the number 361 bus from the very first bus stop that you come to after leaving the train station (confusingly, there are two bus stops on Burns Statue Square, with the buses at each serving very different places, so make sure that you wait at the bus stop located directly in front of the red/white Post Office). Just ask the driver for one-way tickets to Alloway, and he/she will soon let you know if you are on the right bus (this is one of the most endearing attributes of the people of Ayr – they are happy to talk to/help complete strangers).

Bus Timetable: PDF (the bus stops at Burns Statue Square just after the stop at “Carrick Street” – so base your times on the bus leaving Carrick Street).

Alloway:

The bus stops opposite Burns Cottage. However, resist the urge to visit the Cottage straight away, as you will be coming back this way in a wee while. And it actually makes more sense, for this walk, to do it as you leave Alloway.

burns-cottage-ntsBurns Cottage; pic courtesy of Burns Birthplace Museum / National Trust for Scotland

Instead, stay on the pavement that you stepped onto when leaving the bus, and continue walking (in the same direction that the bus was travelling – south – past the little roundabout, which wil be on your right) until you see the black and white sign for the “Poet’s Path”. A 100m walk from the bus stop.

Follow the path until it ends (at Broun Drive), where you should turn right and walk towards the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum:

As well as telling the story of Burns, the museum, which is free to enter, also features a giftshop (where you can sate any tartan fixation), a public toilet, and a rather nice cafe (however, if you are in the mood for something more substantial, and luxurious, to eat; or if it is a good day and you have packed a sandwich or two, then hold on for a few more minutes).

robert-burns-birthplace-museumphoto credit : Robert Burns Birthplace Museum / National Trust for Scotland

[When you leave the museum, walk left along Murdoch’s Lone. When you reach the junction, turn left again, onto the main B7024 road, and continue walking, along the same pavement, until you reach the entrance to the Burns Memorial Gardens].

Burns Memorial Gardens:

Entrance to the Burns Memorial Gardens is free (although you will pass a turnstile and kiosk, which reflects the days when there was a charge to enjoy the monument and gardens).

Burns-MonumentGardens - ayrshire-scotlandBurns Memorial Gardens; photo credit Ayrshire Scotland

This is where to eat your picnic if it’s a good day (just find an empty bench). A little gift shop sells snacks & drinks if required (and even ice-cream if it is a really good day).

The best bench to sit on, in my humble opinion, as it affords excellent views of the Brig ‘o Doon, is located at the highest part of the garden near the Brig.

The formal, and very well-tended, gardens are set around Burns Monument (which you are free to wander around).

[There is another exit which is actually closer to Brig o’ Doon, your next destination. However, for fear of confusing you, I recommend that you exit the Gardens through the same gate that you originally came in through].

Brig o’ Doon House Hotel (optional):

If you didn’t eat/drink at the Burns Birthplace Museum because you wanted something rather special to eat, and with a pretty spectacular view, then this is what you have been waiting for.

burns-Brig o' Doon House HotelPhoto Brig o’ Doon House Hotel

The food is sublime (and very Scottish/local), and the view of the Brig o’ Doon, and over the River Doon as it gurgles by, is something special. Get your camera ready to capture a view that you will remember for years.

Viewpoint (for the best view *of* Brig o’Doon):

When you leave the Burns Memorial Gardens (or when you leave the Brig o’Doon House Hotel if you visited), continue walking along this same pavement on the main B7024 road, away from Alloway. Just beyond the hotel another bridge carries the road across the river. This is not the actual Brig o’Doon itself, but this bridge is the best viewpoint in which to see Brig o’Doon (and maybe take *that* photograph). Particularly at the far end of the bridge, as this also allows you to see both the Brig o’Doon and the wonderful riverside gardens of the Brig o’Doon House Hotel.

Brig o’Doon. The main event.

To reach the actual Brig o’Doon, simply walk back past the Brig o’Doon House Hotel and turn right immediately (before crossing the road towards the entrance to the Burns Memorial Gardens). Then continue (downhill) along the pavement at the side of the hotel until you reach the bridge.

brigodoon

This is now a “bridge to nowhere”, so once you have walked over the bridge, you need to return from where you came.

Alloway Auld Kirk:

To reach Alloway Auld Kirk, simply walk back along the main B7024 road until you see a pedestrian crossing which will allow you to cross to the other pavement, where you will find Alloway Auld Kirk and graveyard. It’s not hard to spot – just look for the building with no roof.

Immortalised in “Tam o’Shanter”, this is the scene of the witches’ dance. The witches have long since departed. And taken the roof with them it would seem.

Burnsmuseum-alloway-auld-kirkPhoto credit: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum / National Trust for Scotland

This is also where you will find the grave of William Burns (Robert Burns’ father).

Burns Cottage:

To reach Burns Cottage, return to the same pedestrian crossing and cross to the other side (east). This may seem strange, looking at the map, but trust me on this. If you continue along the same pavement (west), you eventually reach Greenfield Avenue – and it is a nightmare to cross the road here.

burns-cottage-ntsPhoto courtesy of Robert Burns Birthplace Museum / National Trust for Scotland

So, once you have recrossed the pedestrain crossing to the east side, immediately turn left (so that you are now following the main B7024 road back into Alloway village centre – north). After you have crossed one side street (Murdoch’s Lone) you will see, on your right,  a wee path which leads to the Poet’s Path again. Follow the Poet’s Path north (walking along the same path again – but this time in the opposite direction), and continue to retrace your steps towards the place where you first got off the bus. However, you don’t need to walk as far as that. Just after the wee roundabout (to Greenfield Avenue – which is now on your left) you will see a place to cross the road. This is not a light-controlled crossing, but there is a little island in the centre of the road here which makes it possible to cross the road in two stages (and is by far the simplest way to cross the road). [Traffic has actually stopped here to let me cross the road, even though traffic still has the right of way – it’s these little gestures, someone taking a few seconds out of their day to help, that make a poor man’s heart smile]. Once you have crossed the road, turn left (!) (again, this seems daft, because Burns Cottage is actually to your right – however, the entrance is at the start of Greenfield Avenue (where the car park is).

After you have seen the inside of the cottage, return to Alloway village centre, staying on that same pavement (eventually you will pass the exterior of Burns Cottage on your left).

Belleisle Estate. Golf course, house and gardens.

To reach the entrance to Belleisle from Alloway, continue walking down the main B7024 road (heading north back towards Ayr), until you see the wrought-iron gates which mark the entrance to Belleisle Golf Course.

belleisle-map-sacMap of Belleisle Estate – pic credit: South Ayrshire Council

Once through these gates, you will find yourself on a red cinder path (which may be muddy in places if it has been raining recently – it usually has). Follow this path, first down, and then up, to Belleisle House. [Be extra careful when folowing this path as it crosses the golf course. There are no holes which actually cross this path, but wayward shots are not unknown].

Once you reach Belleisle House, turn left towards Belleisle Conservatory.

belleisle-conservartory-sacThe original Belleisle Conservatory (1879) – pic credit: South Ayrshire Council

The Conservatory was recently refurbished. Just think Kew Gardens – but in miniature! The Conservatory holds a lot of childhood memories for me – I seem to remember a fish-pond (now gone), but the old sun-dial may still be in the formal gardens (?).

To reach the gardens form the Conservatory, simply continue walking in the same direction (south).

You actually enter the walled formal gardens by the northern gate, and once you have seen the gardens you want to leave by the western gate.

When you do leave, walk straight ahead (the path curves slightly to the left) and you will come to the deer park, where a small herd of Fallow Deer will come running (especially if they think that you have a bunch of long, juicy, grass in your hands).

Bus Stop.

To leave Belleisle Park, simply follow the tarmaced road to the exit (heading south). This will bring you out onto Greenfield Avenue.

Turn immediately to your right, and continue walking until you reach the main road (Doonfoot Road).

Again, this is not a light-controlled crossing (at this point), but a central island allows you to cross the road in two stages.

Immediately as you arrive on the other side of Doonfoot Road (the western side), you will see the bus stop – for the number 9 bus which will take you back into Ayr town centre, if you have walked enough and don’t mind not walking along the seafront.

However, if you do want to keep on walking, turn left here (heading south – away from Ayr). The road (normally traffic-free) that runs alongside the River Doon to the sea, will be on your right (just before the Spar shop).

The Spar shop, and The Secret Garden.

burns-secret-garden-their-picThe Secret Garden overlooking the River Doon – pic credit: Secret Garden

All that walking in the fresh air is hungry work. And here you have two options to refuel.

The cheaper option is to fill up with snacks and drinks at the Spar minimarket (there are benches down by the seafront, so fill your bags for [a few minutes] later).

The better option though, is The Secret Garden tearoom.

And if it is a good day, walk through to the terrace overlooking the River Doon – and you will soon find out where the name comes from.

The River Doon.

Follow the River Doon as it heads west into the sea, by taking the little road beside the Spar. The River Doon will be on your left. Continue following this path until you reach the Millennium Bridge.

The Millennium Bridge.

The Millennium Bridge is part of the National Cycleway, and links Greenan seafront with Ayr promenade.

burns-millennium-bridge-greenanMillennium Bridge, view south to Greenan Castle – pic credit: Ayrshire Scotland

The bridge makes an excellent view point, as it affords spectacular views: east – back up the River Doon; south to the ruins of Greenan Castle; west to the Isle of Arran (especially spectacular at sunset on a fine evening); and north – along Ayr promenade.

Ayr Promenade.

At the Millennium Bridge over the River Doon, head north towards Ayr, along Ayr Promenade (with the sea, and the Isle of Arran, on your left).

This is a fairly long walk (well over a mile), but there are plenty of benches to rest at (and eat those Spar goodies that are in your bag?). Plus the seawall is always present, and makes for an ideal seat (although you might want to walk further along the promenade to obtain a good view of the sea/Arran, as the beach is covered by grassy dunes here).

Continue following the promenade until you reach the children’s playpark (on your right).

Turn right here, and continue walking until you see Wellington Square gardens on your left (you will pass Ayr County Buildings also on your left).

From Wellington Square, continue walking inland to Ayr town centre. Or….

At the top of Wellington Square pop in to The Rupee Room (one of the finest Indian restaurants in Ayr/the west of Scotland).

Competition

the-rupee-room-800x400

Win a £50 Gift Voucher to spend in The Rupee Room in Ayr (Indian restaurant).

To celebrate and to promote this new walking route around Auld Ayr, I have a £50 Gift Voucher to use in the wonderful Rupee Room to give away.

Not only is The Rupee Room one of the finest Indian restaurants in Ayr, but in the entire west of Scotland.

To have a chance of winning this £50 voucher, simply tell me, on this Facebook post, or this Twitter post, what is your favourite Indian dish.

I will select one reply, at random, at 23:59 on June 30 2018.


These “virtual” journeys are just my way of continuing to see the world, now that the progression of my ataxia means that lengthy travel is no longer a possibility for me. Hence the detail. By planning the journey in such detail, I end up knowing the route so well that I feel like I have been on it myself.

So if this article has inspired you, saved you some valuable time (or even just saved you a few pounds/euros/dollars), please show your appreciation by making a donation to Ataxia UK (registered charity), by following this link:

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100% of your donation goes directly, and immediately, to Ataxia UK (plus an additional 25% if you are a UK-taxpayer and have ticked the “Gift Aid” box).

And a personal request?

Share a photograph, that you take at some point on your journey, with me on Twitter. Not necessarily your “best” photograph, but the one photograph that will forever remind you of your journey.

That way I can live a little piece of the journey through your eyes.

Slàinte Mhath!