Sunday, 26 November 2017

West Kilbride Fells

Glentane Hill, Kaim Hill, and Caldron Hill from the summit of Blackshaw Hill

c. 7.8 miles
c. 1450ft ascent

Fantastic fell running ticking off every hill between Ardrossan and West Kilbride.  

Starting & finishing at sea level allows the runner to enjoy a full ascent of the hills.  

Wear good studded fell shoes - underfoot conditions can be very wet indeed!  


Route Overview

Park on the seaward car park N of the Rowantree Restaurant (see route description for more details RE start point)

Boydston Road to Boydston Farm
Farm track to High Boydstone
Pull up on to Ardrossan Windfarm (to turbines T5 & T6 i.e. Haupland Hill (509 ft))
Hinglie Hill (719 ft)
Knock Jargon (741 ft)
North Hill (794 ft)
Pt. 194m (637 ft)
Hidden Loch
Blackshaw Hill (712 ft)
Law Hill (584 ft)
Tarbert Hill (453 ft)
Descend to Glenhead Farm
Glenhead road back to seafront


Route Description

(No route video yet - I'm waiting for a frozen winter's day to film it, as the area looks fantastic under snow)

I tend to hold back from giving estimated times for fell runs due to the variation of fell-running ability.  However, as a guide, assume if you're a fast fell-runner comfortable on very rough farmland & relatively rough moorland, the route will take you about an hour.  

If you're new to fell-running, allow c. 1hr 30 minutes (or more). 

If you're not a runner, get some good boots on and make an afternoon walk of it.  It's a great route!

Take note - despite the relatively modest height of the hills on this route, during poor weather they are often shrouded in cloud/mist.  If unfamiliar with the area, save for a clear day.

I assume most people running this route will be driving to the start point.  As such, park on the seaward car park N of the Rowantree (the first car park i.e. the one closest to the Rowantree).  Directly across the A78 you'll see a small road heading uphill - this is Glenhead Road, and is the descent when finishing the route.

Access to the fell running proper is gained via Boydston Road (small road leading up to Boydston Farm).  There are two options for reaching the road:

1)  (recommended) Drop down on to the beach just behind the car park, run along the beach, cutting back on to the road/path just before the small caravan park.  If opting for this, you'll have to cross the outflow of the Gourock Burn - it is a very shallow burn.  You'll likely get wet feet, but make no mistake - your feet are going to get wet anyway!

2)  Follow the path until across from the entrance to Boydston.  Given you'll be wearing fell shoes, I'd suggest running on the grass next to the path to save your studs. 

Heading along the beach.  Note the caravan park - turn off before it (small exit from beach) and you'll be directly across from Boydston

Entrance point to Boyston.  I use this as my start point - you'll see my bike tied up.  Preferable to leaving the bike tied up at the car park!

When running up to Boydston, I'd suggest running on the grass either side of the road.  Again, this will save studs from prematurely wearing out.  

Looking to Tarbert Hill (final hill of the day) en route to Boydston Farm.  The long ridge dropping off L of the summit is the descent (leading to Glenhead Farm)

After crossing the railway you'll reach Boydston Farm - pass through the yard to join the farm track heading over the hillside.

Boydston Farm.  Pass directly through the yard

On the farm track heading over the hill to High Boydstone

Looking to Arran.  Great stuff

Before reaching Ardrossan High Road you'll pass through what looks like a construction yard.  Continue through, reaching High Boydstone thereafter.  

Join the farmland behind High Boydstone - field choice will be livestock dependent.  Avoid fields with cows.  

Head up to the small pine plantation. 

Yip - pull up to the forest

Looking to Mill Glen Reservoir.  The distant white building is the Paper Mill

After passing the forest edge, aim for the two turbines closest to you (T5 & T6) - these sit on Haupland Hill (unnamed on OS map).  

Don't use the windfarm track here - the hill is slightly higher than the track itself.  

Haupland Hill, just to the L of the closest turbine

Atop Haupland Hill.  Tarbert Hill is on the far left, Law Hill (with pylon) on the R.  It's a good circuit! 

After running along the micro-ridge on Haupland Hill, join the windfarm road, dropping downhill and over a cattle grid.  You'll see a track dropping down to the L (to Hauplands Farm) - avoid this and pull uphill (to the R) on the windfarm road.  The road continues ahead, so make sure you pull uphill.

Once uphill, break off the track on to the moorland and pull up to the summit of Hinglie Hill.

On the summit of Hinglie Hill.  Knock Jargon - next on the list - is off to the far R, behind which the tower on North Hill is clearly visible

In no time at all you'll be on the summit of Knock Jargon.

Small cairn on the summit of Knock Jargon.  Law Hill is behind the leftmost turbine, with Blackshaw Hill to the R of the R turbine

Descent from Knock Jargon is a little steep for 20 or so feet - be careful if running full speed!

Head over the moor, aiming for North Hill.  Head for the gate (see below image). 

North Hill.  Highest hill of the round.  Note the gate in this image - aim for the gate.

Join the windfarm track and pull up to T15, then rejoin the moor and head up to North Hill.  

Sheep enjoying some food

The pull up to the summit of North Hill

Be careful when initially joining the moor - there's a little ditch that could cause a nasty ankle injury!

You'll soon be at the summit of North Hill.  Note the access road heading up to the wireless station - this is for the CIA to catch you if they see you tampering with any equipment.  They will kill you.  You've been warned.

There's a trig point on the summit - within the station!  Very odd.  However, the boundary fence is falling to pieces.  There's no access problems.  Baggers will be happy to know they can enter and touch the trig.

Looking to Beith from inside the boundary fence on North Hill.  Roche factory also clearly visible.  Despite the metalwork & wireless tower, it's a fine viewpoint - and the highest of the route.

North Hill is actually the broadcast location for the numbers station known as Swedish Rhapsody (click Here to hear the broadcast).  

The above is a complete lie, but it'll send the conspiracy theorists into overdrive for a few weeks.

Law Hill, Blackshaw Hill, and the Hidden Loch from North Hill.  Photographers take note - under snow this is a spectacular spot for a panorama.  If planning on a photo or two, park at the entrance to Knockewart and head up the access track

When descending from North Hill, head for Pt. 194m i.e. the NW summit of North Hill.  Avoid a direct route (the ground is terribly boggy) - keep to the green grass (see image below).

Note the green grass to the R in this shot.  Head for this - the going is far easier

Caldron Hill, Glenton Hill & Gill Hill, beyond which can be seen the Kelburn Windfarm.  The farmhouse is Gill Farm

Small boulder marks the summit of Pt. 194m.  Fine viewpoint for Goatfell & Blackshaw Hill

Whatever you do, don't make a beeline direct to Blackshaw Hill from Pt. 194m.  The terrain is horrendous.  Instead of heading directly W, head NW, dropping down to almost where the pylon line meets the forest.  

You'll see a grassy track on the opposite side of a small burn - head uphill in the direction of the loch, following a wall/fence, where you'll soon meet a gate.

Cross the gate and follow the grassy track.  The loch is off to your L here

Avoid a R turn on to a stonier track - this leads to an old quarry.

Avoid this R, and continue on the track

Looking back to Pt. 194m and North Hill

Don't follow the track for the full distance - instead, break off R, joining a grassy track on the opposite side of the wall.

Great wee track that soon swings R

This track heads up and through a mini pine plantation.  The pines are only about 12 ft high - their diminutive size gives Blackshaw Hill the appearance of being far larger.

Great section of the route.  Blackshaw Hill is a fine little hill!

Aim for the gate:

Over the gate

And you'll see the summit trig point on the top of Blackshaw Hill.

On the summit of Blackshaw Hill, looking to Law Hill.  North Hill may be the highest hill of the round - but Blackshaw is certainly the finest.  Great views in every direction.

Note the viewpoint indicator on the summit:

Viewpoint indicator.  The spot height of 709 ft is slightly off

Looking back to the route thus far

The initial descent from Blackshaw Hill is very steep grass.  Go as fast as boldness will allow!

No navigational/terrain issues between Blackshaw & Law hills.  Aim for a break in the trees:

Note the break in the treeline heading across the hillside.  This gives access to Law Hill

Finding the 'true' summit of Law Hill can be slightly confusing.  To be sure, just run to every point that looks like the highest point.  

Looking N from the summit of Law Hill - yet another fine viewpoint

West Kilbride from Law Hill.  Law Castle very prominent

Tarbert Hill (next on the list) from Law Hill.  The diagonal break in the gorse gives access to the summit

On the opposite side of the tower is a track.  Follow the track down to the road.

Good track heading down to the minor road

Sign at bottom of track pointing up to Law Hill

When you reach the road, turn R, heading in the direction of West Kilbride.  In only a few yards you'll see another sign on your L (near a summer seat) - follow the sign into the field:  

Yip - head L here, turning off the road

Follow the sign for Ardrossan High Road

Be careful here - there's a little wooden plank crossing a small burn.  In fell shoes it is terribly slippery - likely the most dangerous part of the entire route!

You'll now be running down a beautiful avenue between the trees (known locally as 'Cubrieshaw Lane')

Cubrieshaw Lane.  Really pretty
Yet more slippery stiles

Cubrieshaw Lane leads out to Ardrossan High Road.  Cut straight across the road and head up Tarbert Hill.  

Note the break in the gorse high up on Tarbert Hill.  Aim for this break

Looking back to Law Hill from the ascent to Tarbert Hill

Tarbert Hill is a fine viewpoint.  No cairn, no boulders marking the summit - but don't let that put you off.  This is probably one of the best viewpoints for Arran.  

Holy Island from the summit of Tarbert Hill

Storm surge ripping its way through Glen Sannox

West Kilbride from Tarbert Hill

Tarbert Hill is actually very prominent from Saltcoats seafront.  If there, you'll see its ridge rising behind the buildings on the Ardrossan seafront.

From the summit of Tarbert Hill you'll see Glenhead Farm - aim for the farm.

Glnhead Farm.  aim for this, descending the SSE ridge of Tarbert Hill

The hill is split by fences.  Avoid any fields with cows - there are a few bulls up here that can, at times, be slightly 'rowdy'.  

And they can run.  Fast.  

Livestock shouldn't be a problem, as they'll likely be on one side of the hill or the other.  But don't make problems for yourself - or the farmer - by running through a field with cows in it.

The land here is very boggy.  Expect very wet feet:

If you're a fell runner (AKA bog jockey), this is normal.  If you're exclusively a road runner, this is likely hell on earth!

However, in summer the ground is often baked & difficult to traverse due to the uneven nature underfoot.  Potentially ankle-twisting.  

Personally, I prefer muck/bog.

En route to Glenhead

Looking to the Waterside

Pass through Glenhead Farm, heading round to the R on the road.  The road crosses the railway bridge and drops downhill, returning you to your start point. 

Oh yes, it's a mucky one!!

Fine wee route :)

Have fun

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