Dundonald’s ancient woodlands

Dundonald’s ancient woodlands in Ayrshire, like all woodlands, are ever-changing. There’s always something different to see and capture in nature.

This designated ancient woodlands is covered in elm, ash and larch. It has been a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1975.

I wrote a rather long post about my walk along the Smugglers’ Trail to Dundonald Castle in November 2016. I eventually got around to splitting my stories into smaller posts:

In May 2019 I created this video of the woodlands and Old Auchans House:

Spring woodlands

Snowdrops, wild garlic and bluebells are in abundance in spring. It’s difficult to know exactly when they will appear. I often explore too early or too late. I’ve also noticed that spring flowers appear at different times all over Scotland. It really depends on what kind of weather that particular area has been experiencing.

There are of course many other wild spring flowers, but I don’t know them all yet.


Usually around late January/February, the snowdrops will start to pop out of the ground. Little pretty snow flowers all huddle together for a short while. When you see them like this in abundance, it’s such a beautiful sight. On a windy day it looks like they are all dancing.

Snowdrops at Old Auchans House

Snowdrops at the drystone wall, Old Auchans House

Snowdrops near Dundonald Castle

This year, January 2018, I found the snowdrops had already sprung in winter.

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Snowdrops at Old Auchans House

Wild garlic

The first time I walked in these woodlands I didn’t know garlic grew wild. I remember seeing the white carpet of flowers bordering paths, and the smell … “I can smell garlic” I said … that’s because it was. You won’t see any vampires in these woods!

The wild garlic usually appears at the beginning of May. You can also forage some of the leaves and make wild garlic pesto. 

A white carpet of wild garlic in the woods
Wild garlic

Wild garlic, bluebells, fern and trees
Wild garlic, bluebells, fern and trees

Wild garlic near the castle

Wild garlic in 360


Ah, the really pretty bluebells (that are purple). I think they are my favourite. These woodland flowers usually appear in May. You can smell the scent of the flowers in the air, even more so when the wind blows through the trees.

I’ve only ever captured the full bloom of the bluebells once. I usually always miss them at their best.

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Bluebells in 360

Bracken (Fern)

I’d never noticed the way baby Fern grows until a few years ago. The young Fern looks so alien like when it’s growing! It slowly uncurls and transforms into a tall and strong plant indeed!

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I love watching and listening to the fern blowing in the wind. It looks magical against the backdrop of the deep woods. Like a magic fairy forest. Some can grow really tall, maybe even up to your waist!

This fully grown fern is going through yet another change … beautiful autumn.


Merkland loch in May

This wee loch sits off the main Smugglers’ Trail path. It was once a place where locals would play curling in winter when it froze over. It has now been taken over by nature with reeds filling its space.

An old loch that's filled with reeds
Merkland Loch

Autumn woodlands

I also enjoyed another walk through the woods in autumn and I took more photos of the changing trees.

I loved being on my own, taking my time and going where I wanted to go. While it was fairly silent in the woods, I could occasionally hear the noise of the quarries that surrounded what’s left of the woodlands.

I stepped off the trodden path a few times this day … and found some amazing fairy magic!

Mossy dry stone wall

Miniature standing stones

As I was dilly dallying along the path I couldn’t believe my eyes what I saw next. An autumn leaf was floating in front of my eyes!

Floating leaf

The inner child came out in me. I wanted to believe it was magic but of course my sensible head knew that a strand of spider silk must have been clinging on to it. It was dangling from quite a height and I couldn’t see anything visibly attached.

I walked round the leaf and stood for a while watching it twist and turn in the wind. It was going to fall soon … right?

I walked on reluctantly, but with a smile on my face. I really didn’t want to see it fall and kept the magical feelings inside me.

Changing flowers

Autumn path

Flowers in autumn

The autumn trail


The trail and fungi

Golden autumn path

Winter woodlands

Winter is cold, but it’s still a great experience walking through woods when you’re wrapped up nice and cosy.

These are some photos of a recent winter walk in 2018. It was strange though, the snowdrops had already sprung and it was only January. Some autumn colours sneak in as well. A beautiful mix of all seasons.

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Smugglers’ Trail

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Smugglers’ Trail

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Smugglers’ Trail

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Smugglers’ Trail

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Drystone wall with moss and snow

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Collenan Reservoir and snowy Arran, Smugglers’ Trail

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Dundonald Castle from the Smugglers’ Trail

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Tree and castle

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High path trail

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High path trail

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Old Auchans House

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Merkland Loch in winter

I’ve only covered three seasons in this post. As you can see, the landscape around us constantly changes.

When I was a child, it was said that you shouldn’t touch Dandelions as they would make you wet the bed. The bright yellow headed flower would eventually transform into this beautiful flower!

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The changed dandelion

It was okay to pick it now, blow the seeds off and make a wish. The seeds would float into the air like little fairies.

Another myth was that it could tell the time. The number of times it took you to blow off all the seeds was the hour.

This might sound silly, but it always amazes me how strong nature is. Trees, flowers and shrubs in the woods are deep rooted and keep coming back to shine again and again.

I hope you enjoyed walking with me in Dundonald.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Dawn-Marie x

4 thoughts on “Dundonald’s ancient woodlands

  1. I love woodlands and their ever changing nature. Can’t wait to photograph showrooms and bluebells

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, that’s a strange predictive text, I wonder if your phone thought mushrooms šŸ˜‚


    1. šŸ˜ƒ the woods are such an amazing place to reflect in your own thoughts and watch them change around you. I’ll look out for your photos! Thanks!


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