Helen Rose’s Outdoor Diary: Ayr. Dunure Walk and Horse Races

Sea at Ayr

August, 2023 

This blog is in two parts and the connection is Ayr, a coastal resort in the South West of Scotland. The first part is a visit to the Ayr Horse Races and the second part is a walk from Dunure to Ayr.

Ayr Horse Races

I have never been to a horse race so was delighted to have the opportunity to go with a group to Ladies Day at the Ayr Horse Races. I am not a gambler but I was interested in the spectacle of the races. We travelled by bus from Glasgow to Ayr using the Seniors Free Bus Concession on a journey of about an hour and a half. The race course is situated outside the town and we were all dressed up for the occasion. The idea is dress to impress but I am more Vivienne Westwood style. There were prizes for the best dressed at the Races being Ladies Day but alas we did not win!

Ayr Race Course is the most westerly race course in Britain. The Grand National at Aintree, near Liverpool, and the Scottish Grand National, which took place the following day, are only a week apart. The only horse to have won both is Red Rum.

The horses are paraded round a ring led by the stable hands, before the jockeys in their colours and after weighing, mount their horses  I saw the horse I had bet on which looked very docile but others were more frisky and needed two stable hands to lead them. Some looked very small, not much bigger than donkeys! Needless to say, my horse lost.

When the race started, I was very disappointed that the horses were so far away as I was looking forward to hearing the thunder of hooves. The course is only two miles long and the horses go around twice on the jumps in three minutes forty two seconds so pretty fast. Fortunately, the weather was kind to us although we had come to the course wearing layers to allow for our usual four seasons in one day weather in Scotland. It’s a good day out and the group had small wins on the five races. The ticket was for the Grandstand but as the weather was dry we did not need the shelter.

Dunure to Ayr Walk

Ian from Glasgow Ramblers has been leading the sections of the Ayrshire Coastal Path for some years now and last year we reached Ayr.  The Path starts at Skelmorlie in the north and ends at Glenapp in the south. It is 106 miles long and we still have to do about 38 miles to reach Glenapp from Dunure. We travelled to Ayr from Glasgow and then by local bus to Dunure. There was much to see on the coastline starting with Dunure Castle. Today the castle stands in ruins on a rocky promontory on the Carrick coast, overlooking the small harbour of Dunure, The site dates from the late 13th century; the earliest charter for the lands dating from 1256, but the remains of the building are of 15th and 16th century origin. One tradition says that the castle was built by the Danes. Another, claims that the Mackinnons held the castle from Alexander III as a reward for their valour at the Battle of Largs..

The castle is the point of origin of the Kennedys of Carrick (not to be confused with the American Kennedy family), who once ruled over much of south western Scotland and were granted the lands in 1357. Sir James Balfour described Dunure as “a grate and pleasand stronge housse, the most ancient habitation of the surname of Kennedy,” In August 1563, Mary Queen of Scots, visited the castle for three days during her third progress round the west of the country.. The Celtic name Dunure or Dunoure is said to derive from the “hill” or “fort of the yew tree”. The late medieval “beehive” shaped dovecot of Dunure Castle dates probably from the 15th century. It would have held some 200 nesting boxes and would have supplied the castle with fresh eggs and meat.

It was a lovely time of year in early summer to see the wild flowers at the side of the path.


Portugese Man o’War

We continued to walk along the coast and we saw something surprising on the beaches. I counted over 40 scattered Portugese Man o’ War jellyfish lying on the beach waiting for the tide to take them out to sea again. The name man o’ war comes from the man-of-war, a sailing warship, and the animal’s resemblance to the Portuguese version (the caravel) at full sail. The stings are nasty but not deadly. Later, I found out that the stranded jellyfish had been washed ashore as the sea had been turbulent.


As we continued walking towards Ayr, we had to round the high rocky promontory on the beach which is not passable when the tide is in at the Heads of Ayr. Fortunately we made it round on the beach without having to resort to a much longer walk inland.

Greenan Castle

Greenan Castle is a 16th-century ruined towerhouse, around 212 miles (4 kilometres) southwest of Ayr. Situated at the top of a sea cliff, it was originally a promontory fort converted into a motte-and-bailey castle in the 12th century. Windsor Castle is another example of this type of building. In the 15th century a tower house was built by the Lords of the Isles which later passed into the hands of the Kennedy family.

The lands of Greenan were forfeited by John Earl of Ross in 1476 for treason against James iii. In 1493, James IV granted the Lands of Greenan to William Douglas, son of Archibald Earl of Angus. The first known defensive structure on the site was a promontory fort, probably a fortified farmstead, enclosing around 1 acre (0.4 hectares). Four concentric curved ditches, each around 3 metres (10 ft) wide, cut off the headland with the exception of a single causeway to provide access. It is not known how long this settlement was occupied, but the site was re-used in the twelfth century. It was a very hot day and I have to admit that I did not climb up to the castle but had a refreshment break in the shelter of the rocks on the beach away from the sun. The first time I have ever complained about too much sun in Scotland! We walked along the promenade to Ayr to catch the train back to Glasgow. I hope to finish the remaining sections within the next few years to complete the Coastal Path

Thanks to Margaret for arranging the day at the Races and to Ian for leading the spectacular walk on the Dunure to Ayr section of the Ayrshire Coast Path. Hopefully, there will be more sections to write about.

Coming attractions; Cullen and Fife East Neuk.

Bob Law's Blog: Photography and Walks – David Livingstone Centre and River Clyde Walk
Wullie Davidson's Bus Pass Ramblings: Inverary to Dunoon

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary, Walks

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