After my Smugglers’ Trail and Dundonald Castle adventures I was drawn back to the ancient woodlands in Dundonald, Ayrshire. I noticed so many trails on my last visit and wanted to know where they led. Follow the unknown path!
I knew autumn was almost at an end, so it was also my last chance this year to soak it up. Old Auchans House, close to the castle, was my next adventure.
Old Auchans House
Over the years this 16th/17th house belonged to three powerful Ayrshire families, the Wallaces, the Cochranes and the Montgomeries.
I knew of a different path that would take me to the Old Auchans House ruin. I was excited to walk a different way and the autumn leaves were more plentiful in just one week.
Once I crossed the bridge I could see three paths. The path to the left takes you through the Smugglers’ Trail.
The high path (right and up) and the low path (right and down) takes you to Old Auchans House. I’d already walked the low path so it was high heights for me today. Off I went on a surprisingly emotional adventure.
Golden leaves spread out in front of me everywhere. This bendy old tree really had character.
As I walked further up the hill and deeper into the woods the carpet of golden leaves were more breathtaking than ground level. Straying off the normal path brings so much beauty.
The sound of the wind blowing through the trees made me feel happy. It was raining autumn leaves.
I lost my way a little as the path wasn’t too obvious, but I eventually came to the quarry area and knew where I was. I felt sad that the landscape was being carved away like this, but a lady at the Visitor Centre told me that once the quarry company are finished digging an area they plant new native trees.
I was pleased to hear that eventually the land will return back to its natural state. Perhaps our future generations will never know the quarry existed.
I was standing quite high up on a hill and I could see my favourite island, the Isle of Arran. I can now look at the island’s highest peak, Goat Fell, and say to myself: “I’ve slept overnight on top of that peak!”
Walking downhill, I knew that I’d soon be approaching Old Auchans House. Having never walked from this direction I wasn’t sure where the house was though. Then all of a sudden when I was looking for the path I glanced over to my right.
I don’t know why, but I was overcome with emotion and surprised by the ruin peeking through the trees amongst the autumn colours. I wasn’t expecting it. It was like finding a hidden treasure, even though I had saw it before.
It was there, sitting pretty as a picture.
It was a beautiful house once. Have a look at Auchans House in its heyday on Wikipedia!
To help build this grand 16th/17th century house stone was taken from Dundonald Castle. Possibly from the roof and the courtyard walls which are now gone. Hundreds of years later my tiny feet have possibly followed the same path of the castle stones.
I wanted to touch the walls of Old Auchans and looked inside, but a high fence surrounds the house as it’s unstable.
The Montgomeries, the last family to live here, were the Earls of Eglinton. Auchans became the Dower House of Lady Susanna, (third wife of the 9th Earl of Eglinton). Lady Susanna was born a Kennedy, her family from the stunning cliff top Culzean Castle.
Susanna was known to be a Jacobite, supporting the Bonnie Prince’s cause. She also received important visitors at Auchans, James Boswell and Dr Samuel Johnson. It is said that she was a beautiful lady, a painting of her still hangs on the wall at Culzean Castle.
She lived a long life and died at Auchans in 1780 at the age of 91 years. Wow, living to that age, after giving birth to eleven children in those times is wonderful!
I love this old beech tree beside Old Auchans. I wonder what age it is?
I wandered around taking photos for a wee while then I headed back to the castle.
As I was sitting outside in the crisp fresh air, looking up at the castle, I felt like I was in a different time. The emotion and strange feeling I had when I saw the old house really got to me. I took a bite of my soft crumbling scone and a sip of tea … I was back again.
I created this video of the ancient woodlands and Old Auchans House in May 2019:
Back to Old Auchans House and finding the old farm ruins
One week later I was back again! Another friend wanted to see Old Auchans House so I was happy to help.
Whilst we were there we looked for the old farm ruins that fellow blogger Paul Wilkinson told me about. I wasn’t sure where to look as I didn’t check a map before I left. With a bit of exploring off the path we found the ruins deeper in the woods towards the quarry. I’m so glad we walked up here as this was an even more beautiful area.
The ruins were fenced off and sat right next to the quarry.
My friend’s handsome Fox Red Labrador dog really enjoyed his walk too. He certainly blended in with the autumn colours! I did ask his permission to use these photos of him. Woof, woof, bark was his reply … I think that was a yes.
Another treasure! Look what we found hanging around amongst the trees. Yes, we did … really great fun and we didn’t even break it!
These are some winter photos I took of Old Auchans House in 2018 with a light dusting of snow.
I changed this one to black and white, it looks quite spooky!
I found another trail one day from the high path that took me even higher along the cliff top! It was starting to get dark I wasn’t sure where it would lead, but I just kept walking. My sense of direction is awful sometimes.
Luckily, I ended up coming back on to the Smugglers’ Trail. Phew, I knew where I was. It was another lovely trail with views of the castle from the cliff top.
What great adventures I’ve had exploring this area over the last few years. I love that my friends have also enjoyed their time here too. My life will be forever autumn … until next year.
My next post is exploring more of Dundonald’s ancient woodlands in different seasons!
Thanks for reading.