Sunday, 31 December 2017

Kilwinning - Glasgow Ultra

On the former railway track, just after Lochwinnoch

The Kilwinning - Glasgow Ultra is a good road run heading all the way to George Square.

The route makes use of the National Cycle Network for the entire distance; easy to navigate, no need for any sort of map!

A route of three contrasting landscapes: Ayrshire countryside, former railway track, and the industrial/urban wasteland of Glasgow & its environs.

Distance = c.34 miles
(run date = 30th Dec 2017)



If you're an ultra runner, this route is never 'difficult', and aside from having to wait at traffic lights in Glasgow, it is fast & relatively quiet.

Glasgow-based runners should consider getting the train down to Kilwinning and running back home.  It is a good afternoon run, and would provide a great introduction to Ayrshire road running.

Plenty of stop-off points if the runner isn't bothered RE time, and just fancies making a day of it.  Transport links are also great: train stations abound only a short distance from the route.

Images are exported videocamera stills; excuse quality, the combination of poor weather & running relatively fast made for some poor shots.  However, they provide a good overview.

Many of the shots are of places people would not normally take images of (i.e. who wants shots from the back of Johnstone!!) - but for the sake of giving an honest overview of the route, I feel showing all of it has value.

In terms of hydration etc - this, of course, depends on weather.  On the day of the run (yesterday i.e. 30th Dec 2017) it was cold & wet: dehydration was never going to be a problem.  I drank c. 1 litre of water, and ate a protein bar and a wholemeal roll with ham & cheese.  More than enough for the distance/conditions.

With regards the above: time for me to have a rant.

Personally, I find the concept of a 'drop bag' on short ultras ridiculous.  I actually find the concept of organised events ridiculous.  Carry your gear and get on with it.  Aid stations every few miles, pacers for sections - it is abhorrent and indulgent.  Imagine, as a climber, your friend sitting halfway up a ledge acting as 'motivator' during a route, shouting 'you can do it!' with every swing of your axe!!  The concept of what an ultra 'is' and 'should be' are product/media/sponsor-driven trash.  

Companies dread the day you run ultras on your own, what with the realisation that all the baggage (literal & metaphorical) surrounding running ultras is complete and utter nonsense designed to keep you paying stupid money to run courses you could run any given day of the year (if so desired).

Back on track.  

I'll divide the description into three sections.



I started the ultra from my house, but Kilwinning is a logical start point (in terms of transport links etc).  That, plus I don't want to look out my window one day and see a bunch of runners lined up outside the front garden!

I timed & filmed the route from the indicated start point. (I'll upload video footage over the next week or so).

There's a bus stop between Ayrshire College & Bridgend Garage - just behind the bus stop you'll see a blue National Cycle Network sign (I'll write 'NCN' from now on).  Start from here.  

Description unnecessary - follow the blue NCN signs all the way to Glasgow!  Most are large signs - some are stickers on lampposts - keep your eyes peeled.  I think this was the 6th time I've ran this course (I run it fairly frequently to remind myself why I love Ayrshire), so it was a case of 'head down and get on with it'.

Take note - stage 1 contains the steepest sections of road (i.e. the Blair Road).  Not 'steep' by any stretch of the imagination - but don't tire yourself out on the first few miles!   

Yes - I know it says 31 miles and I wrote 34 - but there's a few miles added on if running to George Square.  PS if you're not an ultra runner, consider a half-marathon to Lochwinnoch.  It's a great route.  And worth doing before the new bypass at Dalry makes life difficult

What a miserable day!  Dark & wet.  Still, a good run was salvaged from what was a washout.  This is Park Avenue, just behind the bus stop

On the lane dropping down to Waterside Rd

Swans abandon the River Garnock in favour of a housing estate.  They'll be in someone's pot this evening.  Can't beat a good Hogmanay swan stew

At the viaduct over the Garnock (cross this to join the Blair Road)

On the viaduct.  The NCN pillars have recently been painted; this one used to be blue

Heading up to the Blair Rd

On the Blair Road.  Very scenic.  On a clear day, great views of Muirshiel from here.  Take note this road is the steepest part of the route.  Lots of undulations

Gatehouse at the Blair Estate (South Lodge).  The road swings R here

Old kissing gate on the Blair wall

Blair Smithy

Approaching Highfield, looking to Dalry

New bypass being built.  Funny how the bypass was rejected for years - until a conservative politician bought the Blair.  Good money to be made by a bypass cutting through your back garden.  Not that myself & other locals are cynical RE politicians etc

Looking to Roche

Bypass will completely change this area.  Property prices in Highfield must be heading south at an alarming rate

At Highfield

At the A737 (careful when crossing)

Joining the back road to Longbar

Longbar back road (Auchengree Road).  Great running, great views

Fairlie Moors & Clyde Muirshiel hidden by cloud.  Still, the local view is nice

Davidshill House

Crows fly by at Langmuir of Auchengree

Dropping down into Longbar.  This hill is steep.  Lung-buster in the opposite direction!

Old Mill at Longbar

Longbar Community Hall.  Swing L after this 

Heading round to Glengarnock

Lots of extension work to the buildings here recently; still not a patch on the former steelworks heritage of these parts

At the Railway Path (i.e. Stage 2)


Very easy going throughout this section.  Flat for almost the entire distance.  

For much of its length the railway path is hemmed in on either side.  For some, it may feel quite 'enclosed'.  

It is, however, very enjoyable - and very unique.

There was c.20 miles of running through the slush yestrday.  Very tiring.  Similar to running on sand

At the bridge over the Maich Water (feeder of Kilbirnie Loch), the Maich being one of the dividing lines between Ayrshire & Renfrewshire.  Great views of the river from here - and a big drop down!

Barr Loch

Barr Castle (c. 15th/16th century)

Entering Lochwinnoch, on the bridge over the A760.  If dropping down from the A737, this bridge is just before the lights at the village

Crossing Lochwinnoch public park, heading over to Castle Semple

Just before Catle Semple Visitor Centre.  If you plan on taking it easy, stop at the centre for a cup of tea (toilets also in centre)

Back on the railway track

Castle Semple Loch

Very quiet today, what with conditions.  I had almost an entire marathon to myself!

Shoes by On.  Frostbite by Nature

Castle Semple.  The A737 road heads up the opposite side of this

Great sculpture at Howwood, utilising old mill wheels

This is the line of pylons that heads over Muirshiel 

At Kilmacolm.  Again, if taking it easy, consider dropping off the cycle track/railway path and visiting the numerous villages en route

At the A737

Crossing the bypass looking S (i.e. where the road narrows just before the single-lane section)

Morrisons at Johnstone.  This is the first set of traffic lights encountered on the route - and by no means the last

The path continues just off to the side of Morrisons

Still quite a distance to Glasgow!


Rejoining the cycle path.  This is where the twilight zone begins.  The signs are very odd here.  They say 12 miles to Glasgow, then 13, then 12 again!  And they say 'Glasgow 12' for around 2 miles!

Welcome to the jungle

Worth noting in case you are stabbed

In Paisley

Paisley Canal railway station, termination point of the railway path section.  Very bad weather at this point, hence the blurred image


Urban/Industrial all the way.

I'm not a fan of Glasgow.  At all.  My time spent as a student studying there was an exercise in suffering.

Leaving Glasgow is always a relief.

However, it is worth running to/through Glasgow at least once.  It'll remind you why Ayrshire is such a great place for running.

And why cities are hell on earth.  On many levels.

I won't bother adding too many captions - consider the photos as a visual guide of what to expect.

At the Black Cart Water.  This section is actually quite pleasant; the equivalent of finding a patch of healthy skin on a leper

Easy to go the wrong way here.  Swing L, don't head up through the cycle signs.  Follow the main road

Steep uphill pull to the R here

Great tracks in Pollok Park

An almighty downpour broke out here.  Sky was black

Leaving Pollok Park.  Be sure to turn L when leaving, then follow Pollokshaws Rd all the way to the City Centre

Pollokshaws Road, the filthy funnel leading into the depths of The Great Whore

This place is described online as 'upbeat and trendy'.  Ran through 'honest translate', the translation returned is 'a fiver for a cup of tea'.  God save us all from Glasgow hipsters

American junk.  Shangri-La for the gluttonous

Storm eventually passed

Crossing the River Clyde

Argyle Street

Buchanan Street

George Square.  Christmas distractions being packed up for the year

Happy with this.  Fast, given the slush conditions.  Legs still very tired today due to the slush!  Take note - I paused my watch whenever I was stuck at traffic lights.  For an 'actual' time, another 5 mins or so would be added on.

Sky still filled with rain

Some building or other paid for with your money.  Home to criminals whose priority is to squeeze every last penny out of the cattle they refer to as 'citizens'

Have fun

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