Sunday, 28 June 2009

A Dean Castle Tour.(The Lucky Dip Day)

This Sunday I really thought the game was up.Forecast showed thick cloud Scotland wide and predicted it wouldn`t lift until mid afternoon, if at all.Looked out window at 8.00 am to mist and dull leaden skies.

Rain wasn`t a problem, it just looked an uninspiring crap day and I`ve grown used to better.About a dozen rainy days on weekend outings during the last 5 years.
Pottered about the garden,watching my bumble bees (got a wee hive in my cellar) until 10.00 am.

Distinct lack of motivation without a sunny morning to drive to or Alex to go out with.Also didn`t want to miss any sun by leaving too early as this is a trend past few weeks for weather to improve later.

Watched updated forecast on internet at 10.00 am as it can change considerably once current info comes in from people on the ground.A mere suggestion of a hole appearing in the murk mid Ayrshire by 12 oclock.It was enough. Time for a lucky dip day.

I would put my faith and fate in their hands once more.

I didnt think if Alex was here he would approve of this method of jumping into the complete unknown without any sort of plan but I`d done it in the past when faced by a similar forcast and came up trumps.

Chucked bike in car and headed for Castle Semple water park where the cycling is excellent but the weather wasn`t (still crap) then carried on towards Irvine (darker skies, some drizzle) looking upwards for this illusive hole.
Suddenly cut onto the A71 as I could see lighter clouds in this direction and 10 minutes later a thin crack in the gloom appeared and I was there under a small opening of hazy golden light with darker clouds all around.It was like storm chasing ( See Alexs U.S.A. trip) only in reverse.
I found myself near the outskirts of Kilmarnock, only problem was I`d never been here except passing through in a car usually having taking a wrong turning somewhere and ending up lost.
I`d found my hole- now where to go?

Quick study of the map showed Dean Castle Country Park as the most obvious starting off point.Car parking,place to get local maps and info , stop and pick an interesting day out.I suppose most people wouldn`t want to do a day out like this but sometimes its good to be fluid in your plans and get surprised.
Dean Castle Itself was a real surprise. Nice wooded park with streams, ponds and trails ( bike and walk) and a well maintained 14th century castle and courtyard fully furnished and free.It looked good but I wanted to get a move on and enjoy the now improving day with a decent bike ride. After toilets and visitors centre I had a plan.

Thanks to the land reform act (2003) local councils have been busy gathering together a network of local trails and cycletracks and making them known to the public. For £2.00 I obtained a pack of 31 walks, cycle rides and maps (a bargain), my passport to the local area.
Off we go.

About bloody time I hear you say.Take a closer look at the map to see my route cheeky people.
Lucky dip indeed as a network of cycle tracks crisscrossed this park,one going to Eglinton castle park near Irvine via a disused railway line,others heading for Kimaurs,Newmilns and Crosshouse.
I picked the last heading out via Onthank (fairly posh scheme) and Knockinlaw (not so posh.) Knockinlaw was a good laugh as it looked an estate full of character so instead of taking the recommended outer route along the edge I went for a trip through its interior to get a proper feel of it.They certainly like their dugs in Knockinlaw.
I don`t mind teenagers and big dogs on a bike as long as I get a head start and its not up a steep hill.Adds a little spice to a run when youve got a shouty young team to navigate past and the odd huffing hound trying to sink its teeth into your bum. Growing up in Glasgow I,ve been chased and bitten by better.Good fun though.
Soon I was out in pleasant countryside....

.....following minor roads past farms then through Knockentiber and Crosshouse.I`d also found my challenge for today

The only hill within range and an obvious landmark for this area as it had a large mast and Oh, whats this.... A trig! (must be getting the bagging bug, eh Alex?)

Also, looking at the map, it had a hilltop castle at Dundonald so I headed for that and presently it came into view.An Impressive pile.
The day was starting to really hot up ,ribbons of blue sky replacing the grey overhead ,cycling shorts and suncream going on.The hole had arrived in style bang on cue.
Stopped for lunch at the castle after pushing my bike up its large grassy mound to the entrance.(£3.10 entry) .Also found out about the smugglers trail nearby
There`not much in this castle,it being a ruin, but it does have a creepy dungeon and extensive views from the rooftop area.

After lunch cycled up to the trig and mast where I found a couple of hairy pals
Also had a good view down towards Troon and Lady Isle from the highpoint of the pass.
Return was via Symington ,Bogend (great names) and Craigie hills back to Kilmarnock.Good rolling cycling through a nice area.Near the centre of Kilmarnock stopped to admire this fine old church built in a dominant spot with the world busy changing beneath its iconic stare.Shame it was now surrounded by car tyre sales and industrial outlets as it was rather grand in its day.

A cycle trail stumbled on nearby ran along the banks of the river Irvine and took me right through the city centre shopping area (now quiet) then back to the car for 4.30pm.
I had just time to nick in to the castle before it shut but what I did manage to see looked interesting,plenty of weapons, armour and furnishings to explore.Worth a return visit sometime as indeed the whole area looks to be.
There is also a 44 mile source to sea walk down the river Ayr from Glenbuck to Ayr harbour .A gorge section at Failford looks impressive, so plenty to do for other days.
Everytime I think I`ve ran out of new places to explore serendipity lends a hand to prove me wrong.Thanks lucky dip day.

Ps. Took this pic of of the sun looking as if it had just arrived on the descent into Glasgow off the Fenwick moors as there was still a lot of cloud around the city.Happy days.


The Glebe Blog said...

Turned out to be a good day then Bob.Alex's got a lot of catching up to do when he gets back.Is he coming back?

Anonymous said...

Hes away buying a motor.At least thats the excuse this week. As you can see he,s the computer wiz ,I,m the one fingered typist that canny spel very wel.Its his turn to do a post next sunday. I enjoy the outings but this posting lark at nights is really cutting into my drinking time! Bob.

blueskyscotland said...

I`m back Jim :)

I had to go down to Ilkley to pick up a car last Sunday.