Byne Hill and the Firth of Clyde

Enjoy the views across the sea to Ailsa Craig, the source of the world's curling stones

NEAREST LOCATION

Byne Hill

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

3 miles (4.8kms)

ASCENT
571ft (174m)
TIME
3hrs
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Medium
STARTING POINT
NX174953

About the walk

The lone sentinel of Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde, which dominates the seaward views on this walk, is the plug of a volcano, extinct since prehistoric times. First mentioned in the charters of the Abbey of Crossraguel in 1404 as the Insula de Ailsay, the island was part of that estate until the Reformation in 1560. Since then it has belonged to the Cassillis family, and has given its name to the senior family member, the Marquis of Ailsa.

 

To generations of immigrant Irish it was known simply as Paddy's Milestone as it is located approximately half-way between Belfast and Glasgow. But Ailsa Craig's main claim to fame is as the source of granite used in the world's supply of curling stones. The fine micro-granite from Ailsa Craig has been used to make curling stones since the beginning of the 19th century. On the island there are several kinds of granite, Common Ailsa, Blue Hone and Red Hone. All three have been used in curling stone manufacture but the Blue Hone, a finer grained variety, produced the best running surface. Quarrying stopped in 1971 and Welsh granite was substituted. But each stone still had what was known as an Ailsert, a small coaster of Ailsa Craig Blue Hone granite, inserted in the base. Originally, quarrying on the island was carried out by the Girvan family, who had a lease from the Marquis of Ailsa. They lived in a cottage on the island during the summer months, blasting and extracting the rock for transport back to Girvan harbour and onwards to the curling stone factory in Mauchline. A small railway line was built to carry the rocks to the island pier for loading on to small fishing boats.

 

During the summer Ailsa Craig was a busy place. As well as the resident lighthouse keepers, the Girvan family and their workforce, there was a constant stream of day-trippers on cruises from Girvan harbour. They could climb to the small ruined castle, take a tour of the lighthouse and wander around the island. Mrs Girvan supplied afternoon teas in a small café. By the 1950s the Girvans had given up quarrying, shut the café and removed their sheep and goats, leaving the rock to the lighthouse keepers and the birds. Kays of Mauchline, the world's only manufacturer of curling stones, started using Welsh Trevor granite to produce their stones with the Ailsert to preserve the smooth running surface. However, in the summer of 2002, Kays removed some 1,500 tons of granite boulders from the old quarries on the island. No blasting or quarrying took place. They simply collected what was already there to avoid disturbing the island's population of seabirds. Now they will be able to make curling stones entirely from Ailsa Craig granite again.

Walk directions

From the car park go along the path at the front of the restaurant to the left and round to a path towards the woods. Go over a stile to a track leading onto the hill.

Head uphill on this track to a junction and go left. Follow the track round a hairpin bend to reach the end opposite a small quarry. Climb up the banking to a farm road and go right.

Continue along this farm road until it ends at a gate just before the Ardmillan Monument. Go through the gate.

Continue on to the saddle between Mains Hill on your right-hand side and Byne Hill on your left, passing the remains of a monument which was erected to the memory of Archibald C B Craufurd of Ardmillan Estate. As the monument is in poor repair keep a safe distance from it. There used to be a plaque on the front, but some years ago this was removed and dumped in the woods below. When you reach a gate in the fence turn left through it and and head up the side of Byne Hill to reach a prominent commemorative cairn at the summit. From this vantage point there is one of the finest views of the Firth of Clyde. On a clear day you can see the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, the island of Arran and the Mull of Kintyre to the north and west, and, about 8 miles (12.9km) out to sea, the distinctive outline of Ailsa Craig.

With the cairn at your back, walk straight ahead. Cross a saddle between the summit and the lower part of the hill, keeping at first to the higher ground then towards the north side of the hill. Descend very carefully and at the bottom, turn left and follow the wall. 

Go through the second gate on your right, cross the field keeping the fence on your left then go left through another gate and keep straight ahead to reach a farm road. Turn left onto this, heading uphill to go through a metal gate. When you reach the next gate, a double one, cross a stile by it then veer right, away from the road and follow the fence on your right to reach another gate. Go through it and turn right onto the farm track which heads back to the start of the walk.

Additional information

Farm roads, dirt tracks and open hillside, 1 stile

Hill, pasture, woodland and seaside

Keep on lead, this is sheep country

OS Explorer 317 Ballantrae, Barr & Barrhill

Woodland Bay Hotel car park

Just over a mile away on the shore at Girvan

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WALKING IN SAFETY

Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.

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About the area

Discover South Ayrshire

With a mixture of wide sandy beaches, cliffs and rocky coves, the Ayrshire coastline looks out towards the Isles of Arran and Bute and enjoys a fine, mild climate fanned by the warm currents of the Gulf stream. Like so many parts of Scotland, Ayrshire is excellent for walking and the area is renowned for its superb championship golf courses, as well as boasting a wealth of historic landmarks to seek out, including lots of castles and ancient strongholds.

A favoured holiday resort on the Clyde coast, with its 2.5 miles (4km) of seafront esplanade, spacious gardens and parks, Ayr itself is a Royal Burgh dating back to 1202. It is also home to Scotland’s premier race course, where the Scottish Grand National is run, and, more importantly to fans of Robert Burns, the literary heart of the Burns Heritage Trail. With its modern facilities, good shopping and wealth of family outdoor recreation, it makes an excellent centre for exploring Burns country.

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