If you’re looking for a cycling or hiking adventure in Scotland, then The Coig’s The Shire route has plenty for you to discover – from ancient castles and shimmering sands to the birthplaces of lore and legend.

No-one can resist the lure of the region, including our official ambassador, TV presenter Lee McKenzie. A local to The Shire, one of Lee’s favourite walks is across the Brig o’ Doon. If it’s relaxation and unwinding you’re after, she also recommends heading to a beach – and The Shire has some of the best to offer.

Here’s just a few of our favourite places to explore by boot or bike – where will your adventures take you?

Lee McKenzie And Bikes
Lee McKenzie at West Kilbride Beach

Follow the Ayrshire Coastal Path through The Shire

You can’t beat a good beach walk – especially if you add in some spectacular panoramic views over the Firth of Clyde to Arran. That’s exactly what this gentle stretch of the 100-mile Ayrshire Coastal Path offers, as you walk from Troon to Irvine.

South Beach, Troon, Ayrshire © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

This section of the coastal path is seven miles long, beginning at Troon’s bustling promenade and following the sweeping sandy curves of Irvine Bay. Be sure to leave plenty of time for stops, whether you’re snapping photos of Arran’s dramatic mountain ridges or climbing the sand dunes to meet the Stone Dragon. The sculpture, known as the Great Protector of Irvine, is perched high on the hill, in an endless watch over the coast and out to the firth and its islands.

Arran in the snow © Peter Ribbeck

The walk finishes at Irvine Harbour, Glasgow’s busy seaport until the late 1600s. Inspired by the coastal walk and the Scottish Maritime Museum’s historic vessels moored at the old jetties, let your feet take you on to the museum to finish the day.

Irvine Beach At Sunset
Irvine Beach © Peter Ribbeck

Discover the secrets of Culzean Castle and Country Park

This magnificent cliff-top castle and its miles of beautiful parkland is a must-visit on any itinerary round The Shire. Designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th century, Culzean Castle is filled to the turrets with treasures telling the tales of its fascinating history. The impressive, extravagant estate is just as spellbinding, rising above the cave-dotted sandy coastline and just waiting to be explored.

Culzean Castle
Culzean Castle

Follow in the footsteps of Culzean’s lords and ladies with a genteel stroll through the flamboyant formal gardens, wander through the Walled Garden, and head a-rambling along the 17 miles of pathways through Culzean’s beautiful woodlands. You’ll find idyllic glades and quiet glens, the large Swan Pond teeming with waterfowl and the Deer Park, home to red deer and llamas. 

Culzean Castle and grounds
Culzean Castle

Down by the shore there’s almost three-miles of sandy bays, rockpool-scattered shoreline and rocky cliffs to discover, all offering picture-perfect views across the Firth of Clyde to Arran, Ailsa Craig and Kintyre. However you spend your time at Culzean, it’s sure to surprise you – will you stumble across one of the secret follies in the woodlands? Or are you brave enough to tour the caves and Culzean’s subterranean secret world?

The view over fields towards Culzean Castle with Ailsa Craig visible on the horizon, South Ayrshire © Paul Tomkins / VisitScotland

Cross the Brig o’ Doon

A stroll or cycle through the picturesque town of Alloway will bring you to the Brig o’ Doon. The bridge, or ‘brig’ in Scots, spans the River Doon – dating back to the 1400s, it’s also known as the Auld Brig. The iconic, narrow, single-arch bridge has featured on the Bank of Scotland’s £5 notes – but it’s been famous for much longer.

A view of the Brig O Doon over the River Ayr
Brig O’Doon Photo © August Schwerdfeger

Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns, was born in Alloway, and the Brig o’ Doon is the setting for the dramatic climax of his poem ‘Tam o’ Shanter’. Here, Tam is chased on horseback by a witch and urges his trusty steed Meg to cross the bridge, making his narrow escape – for witches cannot cross over running water.

Today, the bridge is a peaceful spot to enjoy views of the Ayrshire countryside, the River Doon and the Burns Monument. As you walk or cycle over, you’ll notice the cranked pattern of cobblestones, so designed in the belief that this would stop witches crossing. Extend your route by following the Burns’ Trail, a circular route around Alloway, its winding lanes and woodland paths.

Burns Monument Alloway Ayr
Burns Monument, Alloway © Jim Goodall

Take a two-wheeled adventure through Eglinton Country Park 

Eglinton Country Park is the perfect place to explore by pedal power – the expansive, 400 hectare grounds are easily accessed from the National Cycling Network (NCN Route 73). Whether you want to soak up the park’s rich history, enjoy a spot of wildlife watching or simply enjoy the views, the extensive traffic-free routes have it all.

The estate was home to the Earls of Eglinton and Winton for 600 years, and today their castle ruins still stand proud in the heart of the park. Nearby, follow in the footsteps of knights, lords and ladies as you cross the Gothic-style ‘new’ Tournament Bridge, a replacement for the original, built to provide a grand entrance to the castle’s tournament grounds.

Eglinton Country Park © Jim Mcdowall

Follow the trails further through the park to discover the ice house and dovecot then take on the hills to reach the modern-day Cairnmount Standing Stones. Take a moment to reclaim your breath, standing shoulder to shoulder with the stones, and enjoy the views over the park to the hills of Arran on the horizon. Your return trails will lead you through Sourlie Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve, through woodland, wetland and farmland and past the park’s loch – keep an eye out for salmon, heron, buzzards and roe deer. 

Looking for more adventures around The Coig?

The Coig’s five routes offer unforgettable experiences around the Clyde Coast and Islands – take a look and plan your next adventure along The Shire, The Shiel, The Arran, The Bute or The Cumbrae!

Be sure to download The Coig app to discover the best of Ayrshire and the Firth of Clyde on-the-go, and join the adventure with #TheCoig on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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