Irvine and the Scottish Maritime Museum

Scottish Maritime Museum
Scottish Maritime Museum
A bright, sunny day in Scotland at the moment is worthy of note. Two in a row are as rare as hens’ teeth – this lovely day was the same weekend as last week’s Monday Walk. We started our visit to Irvine with a wander round the Maritime Museum – separately as John wanted to look at the great hulking engines and boats …

… whereas I preferred the items with more human interest.

I particularly liked the “shipbuilders” working high up in the roof.

The Harbourside area around the museum is picturesque.

Across the road is the café (what do you mean, did we go in? of course we did!) and more boats.

As we walked downriver, we noticed a series (we spotted seven, there might have been more) of special paving stones with Scots words. Each stone was themed: here are two – any guesses what the themes are? Bonus points for defining any of the words.

We passed The Ship Inn and a sculpture of a carter and his horse.

Then we came upon a flock of swans and a very aggressive goose who advanced, hissing, on John when he pointed his camera at it. No wonder some distilleries use them to protect the whisky.

Next, we came to The Big Idea, a museum devoted to Scottish inventors which was opened to celebrate the millennium and closed through lack of custom in 2003. It’s rather sad looking, and its massive carpark seems to be its main legacy – although John enjoyed photographing the footbridge with the names of some of his heroes.

By now we had reached the sea – I thought this picture made me look quite sinister, as if I was standing on the edge of the world. That was the intended effect anyway.

On the jetty at Irvine
On the pier at Irvine
On a previous visit, we walked from this point along the beach to the next town, Troon – see Twixmas at Troon. There be dragons! This time, we retraced our steps to the museum and headed home to Glasgow.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

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Twixmas at Troon

Ok, I hate the term “Twixmas” too, but I like alliteration! We set off for three nights of relaxation by the Ayrshire coast between Christmas and New Year, our stay at the Marine Hotel, Troon, being quite a bargain. And the sun shone on us again, especially the first day.

Irvine to Troon

On Day 1, we caught the train one stop to Irvine and walked back along the beach. Irvine is one of Scotland’s 1960s New Towns, but the Harbourside retains the charm of an older world. It also has a cracking view of Arran.

Leaving the Harbourside, we soon came across a dragon – a red sandstone one, anyway – which we stopped to admire before making our way along the sands back to Troon.

Dunaskin

The next day, we drove inland to the old ironworks at Dunaskin. A relic of the Industrial Revolution, the works had previously been open as a museum but that failed about a decade ago and the site is now used by the Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group. Climbing the hill behind Dunaskin, in the path of an old horse-drawn tramway which was used to transport the iron ore, you come to the ruins of two old villages, Lethanhill and Burnfoothill (collectively known as the ‘Hill) which were built close to the mines. They were only abandoned in the 1950s and are now being absorbed into the forest. The plateau is crossed by several old railway tracks – we followed one of these for a while before descending back down to Dunaskin.

The way down was very boggy and didn’t please me much – especially when it transpired that the last part of the route we were following was blocked by a new landowner. Fortunately, there were people in the ironworks working on the trains so we were able to find our way out through an open gate.

Troon at dusk

Finally, we had some beautiful sunsets. The volcanic plug rising from the sea in the first picture is Ailsa Craig.

 

Costumes and quilts at Dalgarven Mill

Something seemed to go wrong with the weather settings over Scotland this Easter – yes, four days of sunshine. Unheard of for a holiday weekend! We made the most of it to get out and about, and on Saturday visited Dalgarven Mill in Ayrshire which had been recommended to me as a good place to go. We weren’t disappointed, although given that its title is Museum of Ayrshire Country Life and Costume, I was expecting something larger and more “official”. What we found was much better – a little gem.

There has been a mill on this site since 1203, with the current buildings dating from the 19th century – the water wheel has been restored and still turns. Until recently Dalgarven was family owned – it has now been passed to a trust, but the family still runs it and we met three generations on our visit. The granaries have three floors of exhibits with artefacts from rural trades of the past, room settings and a magnificent costume collection (most of which is in storage – Victorian costumes are currently on display.) I liked the informality of the information, telling us how items were obtained. For example, a knife grinder was purchased at auction and then, as is often the way of things, another was donated shortly afterwards. The kitchen cabinet in the pictures below belonged to an old lady who was so wedded to it, when she moved to modern accommodation she made her family rip out the fitted kitchen and install the cabinet instead. There was also a temporary exhibition of beautiful quilts by Rosalie Furlong and, last but not least, a café. I had looked into other places to eat (there’s a hotel just down the road) because museum catering is not always great, but this was amazing; freshly cooked – and home baking to die for! You will note that didn’t last long enough to make it into the pictures.

Carrying on beyond the mill, a single track road with passing places takes you to the Blair Estate. This is private, so leave your car outside – however, walkers are welcome and it’s well worth a stroll round the grounds.

Finally, we took the long way home, dropping down to the coast for a walk on part of the Ayrshire Coastal Path at Portencross. We were just too late to get into the castle, but enjoyed the views in the late afternoon sunshine.

Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle
Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle, which has a beautiful cliff-top setting on the Ayrshire coast, was the home of the Chief of Clan Kennedy until the family donated it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945 in lieu of inheritance tax. These days, you can tour the 18th century house with its Robert Adam architecture, relax in the gardens or walk the trails in the surrounding grounds of the country park. My sister and two nieces have just been up visiting from London, and this was one of the places I took them – it satisfied the teenagers and the 50+s, so comes highly recommended. We did all the above, and enjoyed a good lunch in the Home Farm Restaurant too – very tasty baked potatoes. That sounds basic, but we visited other places (which shall remain nameless) where the lunches were not nearly as good for the same sort of price. Our only complaint about the day would be that the leaflet you are given on arrival is rather inadequate for walking the estate – there are far more paths than are shown on it, and very few signposts on the ground. However, getting a wee bit lost is part of the fun, and there are so many paths you couldn’t walk them all in one day anyway. A reason to go back!