The walk In the foot­steps of St Anne

The Herald Magazine - - etc OUTDOORS -


Grade: Mod­er­ate wood­land and cy­clepath walk

Dis­tance: 6.5 miles/11km Time: 3-4 hours

This walk starts and fin­ishes at Barr Cas­tle. Once known as Lock­hart’s Tower, it (or more likely its pre­de­ces­sor) is said to have given sanc­tu­ary to Wil­liam Wal­lace and his troops from English sol­diers try­ing to cap­ture him. It is now cared for by the lo­cal Ma­sonic lodge and con­tains a small mu­seum, which is open by prior ar­range­ment (01563 820739).

The Burn Anne Walk, lo­cally called Bur­nawn, is now part of the wider Irvine Val­ley Trails Project. As a re­sult it ac­quired, some years ago, way­mark­ing, pic­nic ta­bles and help­ful in­ter­pre­ta­tive boards. Some of this trail “fur­ni­ture” could do with a bit of TLC, but I found this air of gen­tle di­lap­i­da­tion added to the charm of the walk rather than the re­v­erse.

The burn is named for St Anne, mother of the Vir­gin Mary – there is a St Anne’s Well marked on older maps. She cer­tainly had a good eye for a walk. You’ll surely agree as you fol­low the de­light­ful path that winds through the Burn­house Brae and Cess­nock Wood, climb­ing steadily with the burn be­low. The path even­tu­ally breaks free of the denser woods (where you might see squir­rels or hear the un­mis­tak­able yam­mer­ing of a wood­pecker) to give in­creas­ingly wide views, ex­tend­ing west­ward to the hills of Ar­ran and north as far as Ben Lomond, given clear con­di­tions.

Part­way up, a rather bat­tered wooden sign points to a di­ver­sion on the right (se­ri­ously over­grown on my last visit) which leads to a site where James Smith, a Covenan­ter, was cap­tured in 1685 by the troops of Gra­ham of Claver­house, known as “Bon­nie Dundee” and also more grimly as “Bloody Clavers”. Smith was taken to Mauch­line Cas­tle, where he died. His grave­stone can be seen in Mauch­line Kirk­yard.

It is hard to imag­ine some­thing so vi­o­lent hap­pen­ing in such a peace­ful place. The path even­tu­ally swings to the right and meets a mi­nor road where you start the de­scent, soon reach­ing Three­p­wood Farm. Here the Gibb fam­ily are very ac­tive in agri-en­vi­ron­ment schemes and have done a great deal to en­hance the area, in­clud­ing tree plant­ing and the cre­ation of a wildlife pond.

The Burn Anne Walk re­traces its steps for most of the way back down to Gal­ston, but I have added a wee ex­ten­sion which I hope you will en­joy. Sim­ply fol­low the mi­nor road down past Stony­hall and Windy­hill to the out­skirts of Newmilns. In Septem­ber, my wife and I gath­ered a bag­ful of juicy black­ber­ries from the hedgerows here.

In Newmilns you pick up the lin­ear Irvine Val­ley Trail on a track that has been con­verted to a cy­cle­way. It pro­vides a very pleas­ant, flat river­side wan­der back to Gal­ston. If you have time, Gal­ston has an ex­cel­lent her­itage trail – see the no­tice­board out­side the

Pub­lic trans­port: Reg­u­lar buses to Gal­ston from Kilmarnock (ser­vice 1). See www.trav­e­li­nescot­ In­for­ma­tion: www.ayr­ walkirvineval­ley.htm

Route: From car park turn R then L on Ceme­tery Road (past Grant’s fac­tory). Fol­low road to end, cross B7037 and turn R. In 150m turn L at blue sign, into woods. Fol­low path through woods and down to a mi­nor road. Turn R then L at sign into Cess­nock Wood. At fork keep R then drop to cross burn on a foot­bridge. Turn R and con­tinue with path, less clear now, as it climbs through scat­tered wood­land. Path even­tu­ally bends R to reach mi­nor road. Turn R and walk down road past Three­p­wood. At junc­tion turn R. Cross out­ward route, go R then L on road past Stony­hall and Windy­hill to reach Newmilns. Turn sharp L on Brown St then L on Stoney­gate Rd then R on Stratholm Ter­race to reach start of river­side path. Fol­low this back to meet Bar­rmill Rd in Gal­ston. Turn L on Pol­warth St to re­turn to start point.

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