Thursday, 27 April 2017

Ardeer Beach. Stevenston. River Garnock. River Irvine Trip.

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The wild emptiness of Ardeer Beach at Low Tide. A sunny weekend and many of Ayrshire's more popular beaches would be busy with day trippers soaking up the sun. I did think of the Troon to Irvine beach walk, as that used to be my favourite but in recent years the numbers walking that have increased to the point that it's no longer a joy for me, except in mid winter or on a free day mid-week.
As a contrast here is a photo taken on the same day (a Saturday a couple of weeks ago) of the beach walk at Irvine, heading for Troon.
Far too many distractions for a young dog to encounter and not much feeling of a 'wilderness walk.' Dogs, horses, young families, girls, etc.
My new favourite. Looking back towards the car parked on the esplanade/pier at Stevenston. (car marked.) You can also park at Saltcoats in the main car park there and either walk or cycle along the esplanade beside the railway line there, then across Stevenston beach to reach Ardeer.  A while ago we did this in mid-winter but cut inland to explore the maze of abandoned buildings and infrastructure half buried in the sand dunes. This was Alfred Nobel's explosives factory, one of the largest in Europe and also the reason why he set up the Nobel Peace Prize as he didn't want to be remembered as a warmonger and arms dealer to future generations.
On this remote peninsula that was a proper sand dune island in the distant past, before the course of the rivers changed, the Swedish inventor of dynamite set up his factory- a small town by any other name- with a railway station, docks, its own harbour, workers sheds, canteen and HQ.
The sand dunes here were perfect for sculpting around the huts, as seen in this well preserved example above so that any accidental explosion got soaked up in the dune and didn't spread to all the other huts dotted around, also busy manufacturing -the 'Devil's Porridge.'
This area has something of an unsavory reputation I suspect. I've been here several times now- a few on my own- where I looked behind me a lot- and once with Alan where we walked from Saltcoats to Kilwinning then got a bus back in the early darkness of winter. A really enjoyable epic trip that did feel as remote as anything up north- and less populated. It also felt like a long way so I'd recommend a hybrid or mountain bike (smooth hybrid touring tyres work best on sand) as the sands at low tide are firm to ride across and numerous paths and tracks lead inland across the peninsula.
One of many dunes in this area. One of the reasons it's my new favourite beach is it's scale, lack of visitors, and strong feeling of empty wastes stretching to the horizon. From what I can gather it does have a history of nudest activity (mainly men) dogging,( not the puppy love kind either) and occasional local teenagers roaming around, curious about the World War period ruins, barbed wire, old buildings, and dark tunnels scattered around.
I've never seen any families or children roaming around here and girls are conspicuous by their absence. Well, you would not want to be a lone female, wandering in the maze inland, encountering dubious characters in such a lonely location.  If females are going to visit, out of curiosity, I'd suggest going in a group, even walking on the beach to the river mouth as you may well encounter dodgy masculinity of the sausage variety.
Anyway, being a rare warm day, we got into the vibe of the place by stripping off- boots and socks removed anyway- then trousers rolled up in typical 1950s beach attire style. Alan finding a raised sand bar here out to sea. Dog over- excited by the sea and sand and all that macho testosterone floating over this district.
Dog's passion/ ardour quenched by cold water.... and quite right too. It may be a manly beach but there are limits.
The main attraction for us was its remote location and lack of visitors- a real novelty these days when so many places are stuffed full of day-trippers on a sunny weekend and we still had a few spots on this peninsula we hadn't explored yet. Jet skiers out to sea.
Paraglider over Ardeer. It may be central Scotland's least visited beach but the folk that do show up are interesting characters.
Even Stevenston Beach gets few visitors except for locals but I like that as well. I had a great cycle across here at low tide a few years ago with a summer thunder and lightning storm raging across the peninsula but myself, peddling like mad under increasingly darker skies, keeping just ahead of the rainstorm moving ever closer behind me in a dash for the car at Saltcoats. This is also a wild flower haven along the cycle track to here in spring/ summer.
The desolate and forgotten appeal of the River Garnock Estuary. Old dock.
Old Crane for loading/ unloading. There are dangers here in this area. Crumbling buildings, unsafe docks, holes in the ground- mud flats you wouldn't want to fall or stumble into. A place to use your own judgement and common sense.
Obviously, there are certain areas where it's not a good idea to cycle or walk across. Basic stuff though. i.e. test planks and buildings before you stand on them or enter inside....avoid mud flats.
But the rewards are great-  very few people here... so you win the keys to a lost kingdom.
River Garnock-River Irvine meeting point. The town of Irvine in the distance.
The wide open aspect and huge skies of the Ardeer Peninsula.
A very special place.
Irvine esplanade lies just across the river mouth but it may as well be on the moon as you can no longer get across to here with a section of the modern bridge removed.
As seen here. This used to lead to the Big Idea building- now shut up and boarded off as a white elephant as not enough visitors appeared when it was open.
A lot of money had been spent on this project though as you can tell by this ornately carved entrance bridge.
Other pedestrian bridges onto the peninsula do exist however if you know where to find them and you are not put off by a lack of maintenance.
Large carpets of flowering gorse inland makes a colourful addition with that sweet and spicy coconut aroma wafting across the dunes.
And superb scenic vistas like this one are your reward.
Swan Love. Two's company but three is just annoying.
What a place and again a full day trip lasting around six hours and we only bumped into half a dozen other folk here- all adult males and a pair of teenagers exploring the ruined buildings. We definitely picked the right spot to spend a busy spring Saturday. No other beach near an urban area compares for lonely grandeur in an increasingly busy over- populated world.
Robert Burns Mural. Ardeer Beach.

Extreme parkour compilation video taken on high buildings. Obviously illegal, very dangerous, mad, bad, and also rather pointless to risk your life on but fascinating just the same. Top rock climbers get applauded for new routes by their peers, often with commercial rewards and sponsorship money but this is pure athletic climbing and jumping for it's own sake and you will not believe most of the stunts here for ultimate commitment without any safety net and also the levels of dedication, training and skills required to complete them in certain cases. I can't imagine being a parent though and seeing your own child doing this stuff online as many participants have died. No surprise there after seeing this footage. People will always find new ways to push the boundaries though- as in wing walking and going over Niagara Falls in various containers in the past.  Nobody dies or is injured in this but it is not a video for the fainthearted. As an ex- rock climber it is both stunning and unbelievable that certain humans can actually do these stunts and live to tell the tale. When you are young though you usually believe your body is indestructible until you have a serous accident or illness and it's only as you get older life seems a precious gift it might be worth sticking around for to appreciate fully.



Anabel Marsh said...

I've done the Irvine -Troon walk between Christmas and New Year which was quiet except for the bits in the immediate vicinity of the towns. Will investigate this some time - but will definitely not be watching the parkour video. Eep!

Linda W. said...

It seems the popularity of posting stories about favorite local "secret" places on social media has drawn the crowds to some of these special spots. I know it's contributed to the crowded hiking trails here in the Columbia River Gorge and Mt Hood (although I suppose blogs like mine don't help either...)

Interesting information about the creator of the Nobel peace prize. Glad you found a wild spot to get away from it all!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel.
Irvine to Troon is a nice safe family walk. Ardeer is much rougher, wilder and feels like it's still off limits in many ways. I certainly wouldn't go there on your own or even with hubby without other company as back up as lone males or teenagers roaming around are all I've ever seen exploring there... and occasionally local dog-walkers on the beach. I've never seen females or families on it except near the parking pier area any time I've been there and exploring on my own inland a few times it did feel creepy. Similar to walking under the River Clyde pedestrian tunnel at night where you turn around a lot to see if anyone's sneaking up behind you.

Linda said...

Beautiful photos, as always! I love the ornate carvings and beautiful views. And the 3 swans made me chuckle, I can just imagine that they might have ended up in a fight at some point. LOL! Thank you so much for sharing.

Carol said...

Did they ever decide for definite whether you're safe on a pedal bike in a thunderstorm (rubber tyres and all that)?

Surprised to see nudists and dogging in one sentence - pretty different motives involved!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
I've noticed that effect as well and I'm as guilty as anyone for posting stuff on here but most places would get reported at some stage anyway by someone else at some point. I still keep some stuff secret and off-line in the best 'Awoo' tradition.

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Linda.
Yes, it was funny with the three swans courting as they danced around for ages with the third one not taking the hint it wasn't wanted... or necessary.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
Don't know but I was well in front of the lightning flashes anyway. It used to be an official nudist beach but with Scotland's cold climate and remote but dodgy location I think it may have degenerated over time into some sort of unofficial dogging beach and as I say it's only males I've ever seen here. On the plus side it's really quiet and peaceful usually. Probably because there's no women :o)
You could go there and tell them off in no uncertain fashion :)

Rosemary said...

I knew about the Devils Porridge Museum near Gretna Green, but didn't realise that it was also made near Troon. The weather looks much better than that shown on the TV news where it had snow covering all of the daffodils, but perhaps that was higher up the country in the Highlands.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Rosemary,
As far as I know Nobel had factories at Ardeer and South Africa first and Gretna was based on them and came slightly later during the First World War. Cordite using nitroglycerine,(the Devils Porridge)was also produced at Ardeer for many years along with a range of other explosive materials, including the main product dynamite. 13,000 workers were employed at Ardeer at its peak and it had many of the facilities of a small contained town. It was a sunny weekend just before the cold snap happened further north when we were on the beach but every weekend is sunny in blueskyland :o) Hardly a raindrop tasted in 8 years of the blog which is not bad going for Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Hi just to let you know the bridge doesn't have a section missing it's just left in the open position for boats to pass , it retracts towards the Ardeer side, the last time I was there the mechanism looked heavily corroded so I don't think it will operate easily for a while.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anon for the extra info as I just assumed they'd removed that section altogether but it makes sense with a harbour upstream it would retract when it was working properly.

Tom said...

Glad to hear at least one well kept secret is still absent of crowds as they are fast dissapearing.
I passed the devils pulpit today on a sunny bank holiday, and was astonished to see the verges chewed up and at least 40 or 50 cars parked in every way imaginable. It was just a few years ago i discovered this place and only because i stopped at the layby out of curiosity, having passed it countless times empty and wondered what was through the gate. now its been showcased on tv and it will never be the same.
There are very few places left now where you can get true peace and quiet within minutes of leaving the car on a busy holiday now....the funny thing is most of the ones i know are within just a few miles of the central belt! Like when i choose to go abroad on holiday, i quite often end up regretting not staying closer to home when we try to escape for the day.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Tom,
Sad to hear that about the Devil's Pulpit but even a few years back I was surprised at just how dangerous, slippy and muddy the central descent path down into that gorge had become. 12 years ago we took my mate's little girl and her grandad down there and it was still a little used stone staircase back then. I'm mostly shielded from the influx of numbers as the hills we do away from the Munros are still empty and pathless and as you say a lot of the lesser known Central Belt region is thankfully still people free because it's not fashionable to go there yet or the beauty spots lie beside rough or ugly districts.
Never mind, as we will all be cyborgs living a computer connected virtual existence in 30 years time with 3D generated girlfriends/boyfriends... and nanobots will repair all the trashed landscapes overnight. I hope :o)

Anonymous said...

Fascinating area and a little edgy by the sounds of it. The Parkour video has just turned my lunch inside out!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
Edgy is good nowadays as it keeps some places quiet.