Lady Flora of Loudoun

A tragic tale of jealousy, scandal and intrigue

NEAREST LOCATION

Loudoun

RECOMMENDED BY
DISTANCE

7.5 miles (12.1kms)

ASCENT
187ft (57m)
TIME
4hrs
GRADIENT
DIFFICULTY
Medium
STARTING POINT
NS539373

About the walk

On Wednesday 10 July 1839 a strange funeral procession made its way through the streets of London. Strange because it was 4.30am and because this early morning procession had an eerie line of empty carriages following the hearse. The carriages represented the highest families in the land and were preceded by the equally empty state coach of the young Queen Victoria. The hearse was bound for the docks carrying the coffin of Lady Flora Hastings for the sea voyage back to Scotland and burial in the family vault at Loudoun Castle. Despite the hour the streets were lined with people who stoned the state coach as it passed. This was the culmination of a period of deep unpopularity which saw Victoria, Queen for just two years, booed at state events and during theatre visits as a direct result of what the public perceived as her unfair treatment of Lady Flora.

Born in 1806, the youngest daughter of the Marquis of Hastings, Flora, grew up at Loudoun Castle before moving to London to be lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent. Following complaints of severe pain and displaying a swollen abdomen, she consulted the royal physician, Sir James Clark. He was unable to determine the cause but a rumour started circulating that Flora was pregnant. Despite an intimate examination by two other doctors that proved otherwise, the rumours persisted. Lady Flora was ostracised at court and shunned by Victoria. Several newspapers got hold of the story and published a tale of jealousy, scandal and intrigue in court circles, naming the guilty parties.

Flora's brother, Lord Hastings, was incensed and threatened court action and pistols at dawn. Her uncle published a detailed account in another paper and as a result public opinion sided with Lady Flora, who was cheered whenever she appeared. Faced with public hostility Victoria conducted a PR exercise by having Lady Flora attend her in public while continuing to ignore her in private. When Lady Flora died in 1839, an independent post-mortem revealed that she had suffered from a swollen liver. It may have been Victoria who started the rumour rather than her physician, and Victoria continued to consult him. But in December of 1861 he wrongly diagnosed Prince Albert as suffering from a 'feverish sort of influenza'. By the time William Jenner was called in and discovered Albert in the advanced stages of typhoid fever, it was too late to save him and he died on 14 December.

Walk directions

From Lady Flora's Institute, go west along Main Street and turn left into Craigview Road. Cross a bridge, turn right and follow this road to a T-junction. Turn left here, then, where the road forks, keep to the right, go along the side of the factory, turn left into Stonygate Road and follow this to join the Irvine Footpath.

Keep on this path, passing Strath and on to the kennels. Turn right at the gate and follow the path round the perimeter. The walkway continues along the riverbank on a well-defined, if somewhat muddy, path. Keep on this, going through some woodlands until a white cottage comes into view.

Keep right along the riverside and cross playing fields to go through another gate, then along a street to a T-junction.

Turn right, cross the road and continue, heading out of town, crossing the 'Muckle Brig' and the Galston bypass to continue on a pavement heading along the A719 towards Loudoun Academy. Pass the academy on the right, then the entrance gates to Loudoun Castle.

Turn left opposite the gates and head along a narrow country lane for 0.5 mile (800m) to Loudoun Kirk Bridge. Turn left and go into Loudoun kirkyard. Return from there, cross a small bridge and turn right on to the signposted footpath to Galston. After 100yds (91m) the path bends right and a narrow grassy footpath forks left. Take this left fork.

Keep on this well-trodden path to the T-junction at Galston bypass, then turn right and head along a pavement, across a bridge, then turn right and head downhill. Turn left at a waymarker and go through the underpass to the other side of the bypass. Turn left and walk along a footpath, which runs beside the river.

At the end of the path turn right, head along a narrow lane, then turn left into Titchfield Street. Turn right at the next junction, cross the road and take the next left, passing two school buildings and a cemetery to reach a staggered junction. Cross the B7037 and continue along Clockston Road.

Turn left at the T-junction. Take the next right beside a house and follow this road downhill, then back up to pass Piersland farm. Head downhill from here and cross a gate where the road turns left to go under a railway bridge. Turn right after the bridge and retrace your steps to the start.

Additional information

Pavements, footpaths and farm roads

River valley, woodland and town

Keep on lead at lambing time and near livestock

OS Explorer 334 East Kilbride Galston & Darvel

On-street parking near Lady Flora's Institute

None on route

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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 East Ayrshire

Nestled between the Ayrshire coast, Dumfries & Galloway and South Lanarkshire, charming East Ayrshire encompasses the towns of Kilmarnock, Cumnock, New Cumnock and Stewarton. The county is home to a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the form of lochs, glens rivers and uplands. The area’s first Local Nature Reserve at Catrine Voes makes an ideal location to spot local wildlife in their natural habitat such as Atlantic Salmon, water voles, otters, kingfishers and heron.

Following East Ayrshire’s walking trails through valleys, gorges and woodland will show you the best of what the county has to offer. Alternatively, take to the waters of the River Ayr, the River Doon, Loch Doon or Ness Glen for breathtaking views while canoeing. Kilmarnock is the area’s main hub for museums and cultural attractions, and boasts a vibrant calendar of festivals and events.

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