Location: Culzean Castle cliff walk, Ayrshire

Grade: Easy walk

Distance: 3 miles/5km

Time: 2 hours

THE first time I visited Culzean Castle I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of the place. Robert Adam’s cliff-top mansion overlooks the Firth of Clyde near Maybole in Ayrshire and is certainly a huge symbol of privilege and wealth. However, standing as it does in a 260 hectare estate of parks, woodland, beaches and clifftops it makes an excellent destination for an autumnal daytrip and this shortish walk enables you to see the best of it.

The castle itself was built in the late 18th century and was commissioned by David Kennedy, the Earl of Cassillis, a man who was apparently ‘keen to impress with his wealth and status’. He wanted the ‘country house’ to be the seat of his earldom.

Later in its life Culzean Casle became the home of the Marquis of Ailsa, Chief of the Clan Kennedy but in 1945, facing crippling inheritance tax, the family gave the building and grounds to the National Trust for Scotland who continue to look after it to this day. A suite of rooms on the top floor were given to US President Dwight D Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. When I was a youngster I was more impressed by the fact that the Scottish entertainer Jimmy Logan lived in a rented apartment in the castle.

I’m not a great fan of country houses but I was keen to have a walk around the grounds and, as much as possible, gaze on its cliff-top setting from the sea-shore. To reach the cliffs I dropped down some steps by the castle entrance to reach the castle gardens from where a path through a gap in the wall led me into a grassy area. A track led me through some fine deciduous woods before dropping down to reach the very attractive Swan Pond. I passed along its north shore before following a signpost to the cliffs.

This is the best part of the walk with views across the Firth of Clyde towards Arran and the low-lying Kintyre Peninsula beyond. There are good views too of Paddy’s Milestone, or the Ailsa Craig as it is properly known. And it’s here that you get the best appreciation of how well situated Culzean Castle is. It absolutely dominates the shoreline, and I guess that was the intention of Robert Adam the architect.

I wandered along to the end of the path before returning to the Swan Pond and the road back to the car park. All the way along I kept wondering what the view from the Eisenhower apartment must be like, gazing out onto that great spread of water and the wonderful skyline of the Isle of Arran. Alas, Eisenhower only visited his apartment half a dozen times. What a waste.



Map: OS 1:25,000 Explorer sheet 326 (Ayr & Troon)

Distance: 3 miles/5km

Time: 2 hours

Start/Finish: Culzean Castle car park (GR: NS238105).

Information: www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/culzean

Note: There is a charge for entry to the Country Park (NTS members free).


Leave car park, turn R and follow road to reach castle entrance. Go R and descend steps to reach gardens. Turn R and follow a path through a gap in the wall. Cross grassy area leftwards to reach a track that leads into woods. Follow this track downhill then keep R to reach Swan Pond. Near end of pond there is a signpost for the cliff walk (on R). Path climbs through the trees, then follows cliffs back towards the castle. At path end you reach a path you used earlier. Turn R now, repeat this part of the walk but when you reach a fork keep L to follow the S shore of the pond. Soon reach ice cream shop and adventure cove so follow the path L out onto a tarmac road called Piper’s Brae. Turn L and follow road back to car park.