The Culzean Way
We have a dream. Imagine walking or cycling along the beautiful and rugged South Ayrshire coastline from Greenan Castle to Dunure. And onwards to Culzean Castle and beyond to Maidens, Turnberry and Girvan. On an easy, attractive, safe and traffic free path that is suitable for all abilities and user types including young children, babies in prams and wheelchairs. And stopping off for a well earned coffee, cake or lunch at Dunure Inn, Culzean Castle and Country Park or Turnberry Lighthouse. We, and everyone we have talked to so far, want to turn this dream into reality.
The South Ayrshire Paths Initiative want to improve access to the coastline south of Ayr by using the track bed of the dismantled Maidens and Dunure Light Railway where possible to create an all abilities traffic free path between Doonfoot and Girvan with Culzean Castle and Country Park as it’s centrepiece.
Current access to this coastline
At the moment walkers have two options to access this part of the coastline by foot.
The Ayrshire Coastal Path is a magnificent scenic route along or close to the beach. It is a remarkable achievement developed by volunteers of the Rotary Club of Ayr and maintained by their squad of ‘Pathminders’. It’s a great way to explore this coast and well worth the effort, but walkers need to be reasonably fit and they need to plan ahead as some sections are not accessible when the tide is high. The other option is to walk along the grass verge of the Dunure Road – not recommended.
Cyclists need to follow the same 60mph Dunure Road with it’s hills, bends and fast traffic – not recommended for young children.
Between Ayr and Girvan there are settlements (Dunure, Maidens, Turnberry), many holiday parks, a farm park and Culzean Castle & Country Park. These are somewhat isolated – most are only accessible by car with limited options to explore the surrounding area by foot.
The proposed path will connect isolated coastal communities and businesses and make them accessible by all abilities. The aim is to create a path that will attract residents and visitors all year.
Maidens and Dunure Light Railway
A short history of the railway line.
The Maidens and Dunure Light Railway opened on 17th May 1906. The Turnberry Station Hotel opened on the same day as the line.
The last train
On 14 September 1968 the line finally closed with the last train from Heads of Ayr Holiday Camp railway station.
NCN7 cycle route opened
National Cycle Network route NCN7 opened between Irvine and Heads of Ayr. This included a virtually traffic free section to Dunure Road, Doonfoot.
Alloway Burton cycle path opened
The 2 mile Alloway Burton cycle path was completed using the track bed of the Maidens and Dunure Light Railway from Maybole Road, Alloway to meet NCN7 at Dunure Road, Doonfoot.
It’s been 50 years since the line closed and a lot has happened in that time. Butlins is now the thriving Craig Tara Holiday Park and numerous caravan parks have opened on or near the line.
The Culzean Way?
It can take years to gather support, plan, fund and develop a multi-user path like The Culzean Way. With your help we can make it happen…
Here we go again!
It’s true, we’ve been here before. There have been numerous attempts by various organisations to develop a multi-user path along this coastline and railway line, with some success. In 2000 Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, developed a National Cycle Network route NCN7 between Irvine and Heads of Ayr Farm Park, with some off road sections. About 2005 South Ayrshire Council (SAC) created a tarmac surfaced cycle path on the start of the Maidens and Dunure Light Railway track bed from Alloway to Burton, which connects to NCN7 at Dunure Road, Doonfoot. It’s from this point on Dunure Road where these cycle paths meet that we want to develop a path heading south and eventually to Girvan. There have been a number of feasibility studies, the latest commissioned by SAC in 2015.
Despite numerous attempts to kick start a project to develop an off road multi-user path south of Dunure Road, they have never got past the feasibility study stage.
So what's different this time?
Local councils are under increasing pressure financially, but they are also under pressure to get people walking and cycling more, also known as active travel. There are many projects throughout the country to create and improve path networks to support active travel, but also to attract visitors. Funding for such projects is increasingly from central government initiatives, transport organisations and charities like Sustrans. The Scottish Government has pledged to double its investment on active travel from £40 million to £80 million from 2018/19. They recently published ‘A Nation With Ambition: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-18’. This states they will promote ‘the south of Scotland and Ayrshire as a tourism destination for coastal and forest tourism activities, with enhanced visitor experiences, development of walking opportunities and cycling routes’.
There has been limited success in gaining public access to this coastline in the 50 years since the line closed. But attitudes are changing with increasing funding from central government for active travel and increasing recognition of the benefits to personal health, businesses and tourism. Also walking and cycling are becoming more popular pastimes.
A few challenges
The land between the 60mph road and the coastline is quite narrow with most of the railway track bed in between. This means that where a caravan park has been created or the track bed has been returned to productive farmland, there may be little room for a path. For the path to be safe for all, especially young children, it needs to be some distance from the main road. If it is too close to the coastline, it risks being damaged by severe weather. Some bridges and viaducts have been removed and will need replaced or the path diverted.
With no vision or plans to turn the railway track bed into a public path, landowners have understandably made the best use of the land by building caravan parks and turning it into productive farmland. Despite this, much of the track bed still exists…it just needs some TLC to bring it back to life…and a bit of imagination to work around the obstacles.
A few concerns
Building a path that enables residents of a caravan park to easily access the coastline and places like Dunure and Culzean by foot or bicycle should be a good selling point for that business. Building a path through or next to productive farmland where people are likely to be walking their dogs is more of a challenge. Good quality fencing and gates will be required to segregate the public from livestock, crops and private land.
The process of designing a successful public path has to take into consideration the concerns of residents, farmers and business owners in the vicinity. Finding a solution that suits all stakeholders over such a complex landscape will take a lot of time.
Local councils need to continually improve their network of paths in order to compete with other areas and to encourage both residents and visitors to spend their leisure time and money in the area. Standing still is not an option.
There is a risk that people will visit this coastline, find it is difficult to access especially with a family or less able person, and never return again. There is also a risk that without a long term vision to create a path and protect the railway track bed from further development, the cost of the path will escalate or obstacles will be difficult to resolve.
Lots of benefits
If you’ve walked along this section of the Ayrshire Coastal Path, you’ll know how attractive this coastline is, at all times of the year. We have no doubt that if a path is created, the people will come and it will be popular. An attractive route like this will encourage more residents and visitors to get outdoors. Communities and businesses along the route will benefit from increased trade e.g.
- NTS Culzean Castle and Country Park
- Links to NTS Robert Burns Birthplace Museum & Ayr communities
- Craig Tara Holiday Park
- Ten more holiday parks
- Heads of Ayr Farm Park
- Dunure Inn, cafe, harbour and castle
- Many B&B’s
- Maidens Wildings restaurant, cafe, harbour
- Turnberry Golf Resort & Lighthouse
- Dowhill Country Fare
- Girvan Quay Zone, harbour, cafes and restaurants
There are many potential benefits to the creation of The Culzean Way. South Ayrshire will become a more attractive place to live with an easily accessible stunning coastline on it’s doorstep. Both residents and visitors are more likely to visit the area out of season and help keep tourist businesses afloat during these quieter months.
We’ve started talking to councillors, community councils, politicians etc. to make them aware of our ambitions. And we’ve researched previous attempts to develop a path along this coastline. There’s a lot more talking to do…especially with land and business owners.
The next step is to make key stakeholders aware of our ambitions and understand their initial concerns. From this we can start to develop a detailed Community Aspiration Plan for The Culzean Way.
Want know more? See the contact information below.