River Doon Walk – Part 1

Snowdrops, Dalrymple Woods

Today was a bit different: a walk with some friends. When we have these occasional walks things always go slightly wrong and the organiser (usually me) gets the blame.  But not today: I had nothing to do with it, and took every opportunity to remind everyone.  But what could go wrong?  It just was a pleasant stroll along the banks of the River Doon, surely? It was a little hard pinning down just who was responsible for the route. The impression I got was that Stuart, Carol and Archie had all done various reconnaissance trips to ensure all was well. It turned out that there were gaps…

The walk involved cars being left at the Riverside Inn on the A77 near Dalrymple and then a drive to the start at Skeldon Mills (see the map icon in the table at the end). This is a strange place: the old mills (famous for blankets our local guide Stuart informed us) are now abandoned but were most recently a warehouse for a bed company. It must have been fun getting their lorries up and down the very narrow country lane.

Anglers' bench, Dalrymple Woods

The path starts along the side of the Doon heading downstream. It’s all very easy walking and the scenery beside the river is lovely, especially around the gardens of Skeldon House. Dalrymple appeared surprisingly quickly and the path follows the river bypassing the town. Jazz met up with a new friend as we were leaving the village: the most powerful looking Rottweiler we’ve ever seen. He was playing with his stick – a 2 metre long bough of some tree he’d probably toppled. Jazz threw caution to the wind and headed off to play with him. Fortunately he was a gentle giant otherwise her skull would have made a nasty crunching sound if he decided to have a lunchtime snack…

Jazz and ladies on Snowdrop walk, Dalrymple Woods

Boardwalk, Dalrymple Woods

After Dalrymple the walk just gets better as we enter Dalrymple Woods. The path was obviously well constructed in the past but is now in need of attention. The path is covered in Snowdrops as it winds past Cassillis House before a loop back. Here the path started to get a bit less well defined, and responsibility for choosing the route was passing faster than the buck in a coalition cabinet meeting. The first sign of trouble was a board-walk over a boggy bit of ground: this was made out of old scaffolding, ladders and assorted metalwork. While Indianas Archie and Stuart braved the assault course, the sensible people just walked around it. Then the path just gave up and we were left with a scramble up a steep bank: even Jazz was leaving claw-marks as she slid back down. 1 But with us all safely at the top things got easier after we passed the railway viaduct.

Auchendrane Mill

The path now skirts Monklands and Auchendrane: two very attractive riverside estates. If the owners wanted to leave either to me in their wills I wouldn’t complain too much. As the path nears the A77 and the end of the route it passes a watermill that looks in decent condition: if the price of oil keeps climbing this will soon be back in working order. The end of this stage is marked by the old Monklands Bridge sitting next to its ugly modern twin.

Old Monkwood Bridge

Plaque on old Monkwood Bridge

River Doon from Monkwood Bridge

This was an unexpectedly enjoyable walk along a very attractive part of the River Doon: it was much better than the River Ayr walk. It would also be well worth repeating the Dalrymple Woods section in spring for the bird-song and flowers, and again in autumn for the colour. Our plan is now to walk the entire length of the river from its source at Loch Doon down to the sea at Doonfoot: a nice project for the year – stay tuned for the other sections.



  1. Cathy has pointed out that this description doesn’t begin to give the feeling of terror of tackling Ayrshire’s Annapurna holding onto tree roots on a mud precipice knowing that a tiny slip of concentration means a long fall to the River Doon thousands of metres below while scenes from your mis-spent youth play out in Cinemascope and Dolby sound (if you are a lawyer feel free to stick ™ as required in that sentence – I couldn’t care less). Jazz was terrified: the Sherpa with her lunch took a nasty stumble and looked a goner. Don’t get me wrong: I was concerned about this ascent — I was wearing my new walking jacket and I was seriously worried that it might get some mud on it (relax: it didn’t). I’ll leave it up to you, Dear Reader, to gauge where reality lies…
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