Located on one of the most beautiful coastlines of the British Isles, the Ayrshire Coastal Path is a fantastic choice for hikers who are eager to explore nature, wildlife, as well as memorable historical sites.
The path is part of the International Appalachian Trail, and it was declared one of Scotland’s Great Trails by Scottish Natural Heritage. It is considered a great adventure for excited walkers but, since some areas run alongside beaches, the middle and north sections are also suitable for horse riding. In addition, there are parts which cyclers can very well enjoy, in the northern section between Ayr and Largs.
If you are a hiking enthusiast and decide to have an unforgettable adventure on a Scottish walking holiday, continue reading this article and find out how to properly plan your escape.
When to Plan the Hike
While the Ayrshire coastline is lovely and welcoming in the sunshine, bad weather might make it quite the opposite. To make sure you will have a fantastic time during your hike, you should check the MetOffice weather for precise local forecasts.
If you don’t want to risk too much, you should think about planning your adventure during the summer or spring. Not only will you get better weather and longer daylight hours, these two seasons will also give you a better chance to admire the flowers and spot different species of wildlife.
How Fit You Need to Be to Hike the Ayrshire Coastal Path
The route stretches along cliff-tops, over rough rocky shores, and up gullies. But there is no technical rock climbing ability required. However, to make sure you tackle the route in one go without any physical issues or injuries, you will need a good level of fitness. So, if you don’t consider yourself an agile walker, you might want to train before going on this adventure. Also, keep in mind that many areas are remote and getting lost is quite easy. So you will also need good navigational skills.
What you Need to Pack
Packing for an adventure “into the wild” is not always easy. This is why you need all the info about the route, the weather, and the difficulty. To safely hike the Ayrshire Coastal Path, you need walking boots. Yes, slip-on shoes and trainers might be enough for the other walks and sandy shores, but the rest of the route requires more. Also, to keep your balance over slippery shore rocks, you will need walking poles. And waterproof clothes, as well as a pair of plimsolls, two items that should not be missing from your backpack.
How to Get There
There are several ways to get to the Ayrshire Coastal Path, so you can make a choice based on your preferences. You can travel by bus since there are several companies providing services to all towns and villages en route. If you prefer taking the train, you should know that the northern start of the walk is covered by service from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay, while ScotRail Services from Glasgow to Stranraer cover all the coastal towns south of Kilwinning. There are also main roads running parallel to the entire length of the coast, so you can use your car. Also, the path is located close to Glasgow Prestwick Airport, and there are ports on the ACP route, so you can also arrive by ferry.
If you want to adventure into walking the whole path, you should find overnight accommodation along the route. Since the Ayrshire coast is a holiday destination, you have many accommodation options, from self-catering and Bead & Breakfasts to luxurious hotels. You can also choose to camp, but keep in mind that in Scotland, wild camping is subject to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Visiting the official website for listings that will help you with choosing your accommodation.
Other Useful Advice to Keep You and the Environment Safe
Hiking the Ayrshire Coastal Path will give you the chance to admire not only its beautiful landscapes but also its fascinating wildlife. Thanks to the diversity of terrain, you will encounter a variety of flowers, trees and shrubs as well as an impressive number of bird species and other animals, like seals, porpoises, basking sharks, otters or wild goats.
If you want to see wildlife, you should avoid wearing bright colours, try to keep quiet, look carefully around, and walk in small groups, from two to six people.
When you pass close to houses or farm dwellings, try not to make a fuss. These are not museums, and respecting people’s lives, privacy and peace of mind is mandatory.
Be safe! Around High Spring Tide, on the south section of the path, the rising tide might delay you for several hours. Make sure you have a guide book, and check the exact points where this can occur.
Last, but not least, protect the nature you are walking in. Don’t leave your garbage behind, and don’t do anything that could harm either nature or the wildlife.
Three Guidebooks to Prepare Yourself for a Memorable Adventure
To get more information on the route and to properly prepare for this adventure, it is advisable to check one of the guidebooks that offer some extremely useful information.
A great option is the official Ayrshire Coastal Path Guide Book. The book is written by Dr Jimmy Begg, a local author and historian, and offers you not only updated indications about the route, maps and tide details, but also great info on the geography as well as the history of the area.
Another option is Keith Fergus’s Ayrshire and Arran Coastal Paths, a complete guide filled with maps, route descriptions, great info on transportation and accommodation, and everything you need to know about the Ayrshire Coastal Path and the Arran Coastal Way.
A third option is Alan Forbes’s 25 Walks Ayrshire and Arran, a practical guide that covers both Ayrshire and Arran, and describes 25 walks you could enjoy.
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.