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Eglinton Park to Irvine via Dreghorn 13km

Eglinton CastleEglinton Country Park has over 400 hectares of countryside and is popular with families for a day out. There are a number of paths through this scenic and historic parkland. Enter the park at the Kilwinning Gates on the A737 and take the first path on the right. This follows the burn to the suspension bridge where you cross over and make your way to the Visitor Centre. This is open Easter to October 10:00am to 4:30pm, 7 days a week. Pick up a leaflet on the park to make your visit more enjoyable. The centre also has facilities including a tearoom and toilets. For those starting their walk from Eglinton there is a Car Park near the Visitors' Centre accessed via a small road (signposted 'Eglinton Country Park') situated between the A737 just north of the A78 and the large roundabout over the A78.

Also worth a visit is the exhibition that tells the story of the estate Eglinton Tournament Bridge and the Montgomery family. There has been a castle on the site from as early as the 14th century. The ruins you see today date back to 1796 and was built by the 12th Earl of Eglinton. It was eventually unroofed in 1925. Much of the shell remained until 1938 when it was used for Army training and was mostly destroyed. One of the towers and a wall remain together with the outline foundations which give an idea of the extent of this once majestic building. Nearby lies Tournament Bridge built specially for the Eglinton Tournament, a medieval event held in 1839. Over 100,000 people attended the three day event. A stroll past the other buildings, Ice House, Dovecote and gardens will be rewarding.

Belvedere Hill, Eglinton The view from the folly on Belvedere Hill on a clear day is impressive with Arran in the distance. In 1808 it was said that Eglinton was "...equalled by few places in Scotland: perhaps surpassed by none." If you cycle or walk quietly through the park you are likely to spot a variety of wildlife. At Eglinton Loch you may spot swans, tufted duck and heron. The park also hosts woodpecker, goldcrest, kestrel, partridge and cuckoo. The park is also home to hedgehogs, foxes, mink and roe deer if you are lucky enough to spot them. Check at the Visitor Centre for details of the wildlife and birds that can be seen at different times of the year. The North Ayrshire Ranger Service conduct a series of guided walks and events between April and October.

Continue through Eglinton Country Park making your way east to Cairnmount Hill where a stone circle and a great view make this a popular photo opportunity for visitors. The path leads into the Scottish Wildlife Trust Sourlie Nature Reserve. This was previously the site of a gravel works but is now a protected scrub and woodland habitat. Leave the Sourlie Nature Reserve near Sourlie Roundabout on the A736 and follow the path of the old railway line past Girdle Toll. After crossing Middleton Road B769 the route leaves the railway line and winds its way along the west bank of Annick Water to Bourtreehill.

Although this area is more built-up than others there are still some country views and glimpses of wildlife along the river. Crossing Towerlands Road the route meets up with the National Cycle Route 73 from Kilmarnock near Dreghorn. As you pass the town on your bike, spare a thought for John Boyd Dunlop, inventor of the pneumatic tyre, who was born in Dreghorn in 1840. Soon the unusual shape of the Parish Church can be seen as you head west. This octagonal church built in 1780 was locally known as the "threepenny" due to its similarity to the shape of the old three penny coin.

Continue over the Annick Water near Greenwood Academy and follow the south side of the Annick until the roundabout at Annick Road where you cross to the northmost side again. Follow the river until you leave its winding path and cross the A71, near the Bailey Bridge. This bridge used to be part of the old Irvine-Kilmarnock railway until converted for traffic use. Head along the east side of the River Irvine to the footbridge.

The small white Powder House on the right marks the spot where the towns folk used to wash their laundry and then bleach it on the grass, commonly known as the Golfields area. Irvine Parish Church (1772) dominates above the walkway.Cross the bridge and follow the River Irvine to the Rivergate Centre. You will pass a point where a ford used to cross the river, known as the 'Puddlie-Deidlie'. The shopping centre crosses the River at the spot where the Auld Bridge used to stand. A plaque in Rivergate outlines the history of the bridge.

Low Green to Eglinton Park 6 km

This route follows the path of National Cycle Route 7 north out of Irvine and is suitable for all abilities of cyclists and pedestrians. A convenient place to start is from the Low Green near where the shopping centre bridges the River Irvine. The Low Green, together with the nearby Town's Moor, Golfields and Bogside, was used as the town's common for grazing cattle, public events, visiting circuses and so on. Locals could also hire rowing boats for two shillings and sixpence. The footbridge across to the Waterside houses was built in 1888. The town's harbour was situated at the Low Green until 1677.

Following the river on the east bank go under the A737 where it crosses the Irvine and follow the route up from the river to Burns Statue. This statue was erected in 1896 to commemorate the time Burns spent in Irvine in 1781 learning the flax trade (see Glasgow Vennel). Nearby are some cobblestones in the grass which mark the spot where the burgh gallows once stood and where two Covenanters were hanged in 1666.

Continue north across the Town's Moor alongside the railway, through the gorse bushes and wild grasses. It was near here on the Moor that the 6th Earl of Eglinton set up a racecourse in 1636. In 1808 the Montgomeries of Eglinton bought Bogside (on the west side of the railway line) and build a more permanent racecourse. The Scottish Grand National was first run at Bogside in 1867. Few remnants of the course remain. A short stop on the bridge over the railway leading to Bogside golf course provides a view of the surrounding area.

The Ravenspark Golf Course can be seen on the east of Sandy Road. The route continues north to the Garnock Floods Nature Reserve. This low lying flood plain provides a habitat for a wide range of visiting and resident birds.

The path then goes under the main A78 road and follows the Garnock Loop. At the footbridge cross the Garnock River and head east past the houses to the A737. Turn right onto the A737 (take care in traffic) until you reach the Kilwinning Gates of Eglinton Park.

Low Green to Harbourside 2km

This route is part of the National Cycle Route 7. It is an excellent short stroll or cycle from the town centre to the scenic and historic harbourside area. From the Low Green cross the footbridge and follow the path along and then under the railway, through the roundabout at Ayrshire Metals onto Cochrane Street, round to Montgomery Street and follow the road down to the harbour. From the railway station follow the signs for the Magnum and Beach Park.

Although the cycle route quickly leaves the harbour on its way past the beach park and on south, you will want to stop and enjoy the views and activities nearby. The Maritime Museum, Big Idea Inventor Centre(now closed), Magnum Leisure Centre, Beach Park and the great views make a visit worthwhile. Along the harbourside and through the adjacent streets you will find an assortment of public sculptures reflecting different aspects of Irvine's past. There is a wide range of bird life on the Bogside Flats, the wetlands area to the North of the harbour..

The National Cycle Route 7 to Troon passes the Beach Park and several golf courses with some great views of Arran and the Ayrshire coastline to the South.

Irvine/Kilwinning New Town Trail
Irvine and Kilwinning New Town Trail is a circular pedestrian and cycle route, some 12 miles (19 kilometres) in length. The Trail follows the main river valleys and provides traffic-free transport links between communities as well as attractive local recreational opportunities for walkers and cyclists. Download the New Town Trail leaflet.
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