It’s time to enjoy the best of the season in Ayrshire, with healthy walks in the crisp winter air. Here is a selection that offers family fun, exhilaration, breathtaking views and lashings of hot lattes and empire biscuits.

The Herald: EglintonEglinton

1. Fun for all: Eglinton Country Park

A perfect option to blow away the cobwebs on a chilly winter day, Eglinton Country Park in Kilwinning is criss-crossed by cycle paths and walking routes to suit all abilities. There are about 100 acres to explore with woodlands, a castle ruin, an ancient bridge, an adventure playground, a loch, standing stones and a picturesque burn. Although the visitor centre is closed in winter, the car park and trails remain open … as does the tea room.

The ruined Eglinton Castle was once home to chiefs of the Clan Montgomery and apart form clambering on the castle walls, there is plenty to interest mini-explorers and historians such as the references to the 1839 Eglinton Tournament, a colourful medieval jousting contest, or the ancient standing stones embedded with fossils. The adventure playground is always a draw for little ones, and little eco-warriors will enjoy hearing about the park’s conservation work.

Enjoy a cuppa in the Tournament Café afterwards, open daily in winter from 10.30 to 3.30 in winter.

Find out more: Eglinton Country Park

The Herald: CumbraeCumbrae

2. A different view: Isle of Cumbrae

Many of us have taken the ferry from Largs in summer to enjoy a round-island cycle. But there is a less-travelled route across the centre of the island to Millport via the highest point.

The route starts about 400m from the ferry, at a road marked Portyre Farm. Walkers will cross stiles, fields and a quiet road to reach points of interest including the Glaid Stone with its nearby trig point and panorama indicator, as well as The Cathedral of The Isles – Britain’s smallest and an architectural gem.

Treat yourself to a warming drink at The Dancing Midge Café in Millport, open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm.

Find out more: Cumbrae inner circle

Cathedral of the Isles

The Dancing Midge

The Herald: LochranzaLochranza

3. A challenging  scramble: Sannox to Lochranza

This is one of the most exciting sections of the Arran Coastal Way and is not for the faint-hearted... it is a nine mile stretch across rocks with some scrambling for starters, and some parts of the north of Arran go into semi-hibernation in winter, so planning ahead with bus and ferry times is a must. But the rewards are great. Take the forestry path from North Sannox to Fallen Rocks and the An Scriodan boulder field, walk on to Newton Shore and then head into Lochranza.

Along the route are several rocky talking points, including a dramatic blue cliff and Hutton's Unconformity - a slab of granite and pink sandstone that inspired the 18th century founder of modern geology, James Hutton.

Reach Lochranza before 3.30pm and your reward can be a visit to the Isle of Arran Distillers. It’s a busy wee place even in winter so if you want a tour you had better book. But it’s also perfect for a soup or a hot coffee. Open daily, last orders at 3.30pm.

Find out more: Arran Coastal Way Sannox to Lochranza

Isle of Arran Distillery

The Herald: Irvine BeachIrvine Beach

4. Forget the car: Irvine beach

There is a bit of a buzz about Irvine just now … is it because it has a sandy beach with views over to the mountains of Arran? Because car-less millennials can hop there on the train? Or is it the lure of a certain organic, ethical and dog-friendly café taking Instagram by storm with its piles of homemade pancakes, pizzas and empire biscuits? Very possibly.

Make GRO Coffee the start or finish point of a wonderful day out at the seaside. Take a long, low-tide walk along the south beach sands and return via the the sheltered path behind the dunes - past a giant stone dragon sculpture. And with GRO Coffee open daily until 10pm … there will be no latte-last-orders panic if you want to watch the sun sink into the sea.

Find out more: GRO Coffee

The Herald:

5. Magnificent vistas: Turnberry beach

Turnberry beach makes a wonderful walk at any time but low-tide offers the chance to reach the iconic Turnberry Lighthouse for a warming cup of soup … so check tide times. Park at the Trump Turnberry clubhouse and follow the path south along the road to reach a sandy track down to the beach. The broad beach is a great place for spotting sea birds such as Oystercatcher and Redshank and Ailsa Craig will be your constant companion. The lighthouse beckons you north and those suitably attired (with walking boots or shoes that can take a briny dooking if need be) can stride out for the rocky outcrop at the north end of the beach. From there a small path picks its way through the rocks and grass and then around the golf course to the famous lighthouse – now a halfway house café offering one of the most magnificent views of the Ayrshire coast. Open Friday to Sunday, 10am to 2.30pm in winter. Retrace your steps or take the shorter, drier, golf buggy track back towards the clubhouse.

Find out more: Turnberry Lighthouse

The Herald: Burne Anne Burne Anne

6. Keep calm and carry on: The Burn Anne Walk

On windy winter days, enjoy the comparative shelter of this inland route, starting and finishing at Barr Castle in Galston. The Burn Anne Walk, locally called Burnawn, is now part of the wider Irvine Valley Trails Project so it is signposted and interspersed helpful interpretative boards. The delightful path winds through the Burnhouse Brae and Cessnock Wood, climbing steadily to give increasingly wide views to Arran and even as far as Ben Lomond in clear conditions.

Avoid Sundays so you can take advantage of the Balmoral Mill coffee shop in Galston (Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm) to enjoy traditional scones, and homemade cakes as well as hearty soups and toasties. And if you lose your scarf on the route … it’s the perfect place to choose a replacement.

Find out more: Burn Anne Walk

Balmoral Mill