Hunterston and Portencross Circuit

First Peacock butterfly of the year

I hereby declare Spring 2011 has arrived. OK, so the equinox isn’t for a couple of days, but Spring certainly looked like it was here today as we did our usual circuit around Portencross and Hunterston. We do this walk a few times a year and it has a lot of variety and good scenery to keep you entertained.

Ardneil Bay

Farming with a fish-box

We park at the car park at Portencross.  While I get my boots on, Jazz checks under all the benches for any discarded picnic items – a service she does willingly and at no charge to North Ayrshire Council.  Sadly today the cupboard was bare.  In the summer this can get busy and I always feel that those of us who come in the depths of winter should get reserved spaces in preference to the only-when-it’s-warm brigade.  Today there were only a few cars – the raw sou-westerly wind 1 was obviously keeping them at bay.  The walk is an anti-clockwise circuit that first goes down to Ardneil Bay 2 with a lovely view over to Goat Fell on Arran, which still had quite a bit of snow despite this now being Spring.  We then go through Ardneil Farm 3 and head up Goldenberry Hill.  This is only 140m high yet gives a great view all around from Ailsa Craig and the Merrick in the south, to Arran, the Cumbraes and Bute in the west, to the Arrochar Alps in the north, and the Muirshiel Hills to the east.  Today was a bit hazy so the view wasn’t great.  However, as I’m sure you’ll want to see it, here’s a 360° panorama I took in 2005 from the summit on a perfectly clear day that I’ve annotated with landmarks and their distance (note: this is a big picture so will take a while to load.  Remember to zoom in to see the detail and annotations).

Sheep and lambs

After pausing to admire the view we head down towards Hunterston castle.  On the way down I spotted my first butterfly of the year: a very early Peacock that was sun-bathing.  To confirm that Spring was here the fields were full of lambs enjoying the sunshine.

Beech avenue, Hunterston

Sun-dial at Hunterston Castle

We join the cycle path skirting the castle going along a nice beech avenue.  The castle has a nice looking sun-dial that actually had some sunshine to work it. A couple of things to note here: firstly, it’s 40 minutes slow, and secondly, it has a nice Latin motto around it that I’m told means “The end lies hidden I complete the course” – all very inspirational. 4

Colt's Foot

Lunch and SPOT location

Now we are back at the coast and it is hardly pristine.  There’s a coal terminal, a disused oil-rig construction yard and, oh yes, a nuclear power station.  Given the on-going nuclear disaster in Japan at the moment it is sobering to walk past this site with its steam venting off and cooling water surging out off-shore.  All around the site are wind direction indicators.  With the stiff SW wind today, if a reactor blew up here it wouldn’t take the fallout long to reach Glasgow…

We like to do a circuit of the old construction yard because Jazz has a ball chasing the smells.  My view that Spring was here was re-enforced with Colt's Foot flowers bursting out along the banks, Lapwings getting very territorial with their great calls, and even Meadow Pipits doing their parachute display flights.  All very agreeable and a decent spot for lunch out of the wind.  The photo on the left shows where we had our sandwiches: it’s hardly a great shot but it’s where I sent a SPOT message so have a look at the map link below to see just how accurate this is!  Bang on, I’d say.

Fishbox garden, Portencross

From here we follow the Ayrshire Coastal Path beneath the wonderful Three Sisters and past the newly restored Portencross Castle back to the car.  In the village there is a great sea-shore cottage that makes great use of flotsam in its decoration, including fish-boxes. Great taste.


  1. A nice nautical feel suitable for being next to the Clyde.
  2. One of the nicest in North Ayrshire with nice shallows for paddling a Spaniel
  3. Who, I was pleased to note, make use of a nice yellow Campbeltown fish-box in their farming.
  4. Naturally, I used Google to find what this means rather than drawing on my classical education.  I did a year of Latin back in the 1970s as a way of avoiding school PE and the sadistic, football-obsessed perverts that “taught” the subject.  The Latin teacher was Mr Smart who was from the West Indies and teaching us as a way of paying his way through the Bar. The pupil-teacher cricket match that year was a bit one-sided…
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