Seaside Towns and Rural Cliffs – Port Glasgow to Stranraer

Stretching along both the Clyde estuary and the Firth of Clyde, between Port Glasgow and Stranraer, this coastline encounters a variety of different landscapes, from expanses of rural cliffs and steep hills, and various Victorian-era seaside towns.

This section of coastline begins along the southern side of the Clyde estuary, at the town of Port Glasgow. Located 28 km (17 miles) to the west of Glasgow’s city centre, Port Glasgow became a great shipbuilding hub during the 19th and early 20th Centuries, with shipyards lining the entire 5 km (3 mile) seafront between Port Glasgow and the neighbouring town of Greenock in the late 1800s. Although all but one of the shipyards have disappeared since the Second World War, the red-sandstone town centre remains [1]. The port town of Greenock also has a rich shipbuilding heritage – this has declined massively, but both container ships and cruise ships dock here fairly regularly. Part of the seafront also includes entertainment outlets, with a cinema and an arts centre being two large attractions [2].

Moving westwards along the coast, the coastal town of Gourock lies around 5 km (3 miles) to the west of Greenock. Gourock is a quieter residential-style seaside town than both Greenock and Port Glasgow, with hotels, cafes and a promenade bordering the western side of the town. Amazing views can be seen across the Firth of Clyde of the craggy peaks located on the Cowal peninsula [3]. Moving south-westwards past the seaside villages of Ashton and Castle Levan, the coast makes a sudden turn at Cloch Point, a headland with an ornate lighthouse built amongst the shoreline, and travels directly southwards.

The coast between Cloch Point and the seaside town of Saltcoats is flanked by wild and hilly Scottish countryside to its east, with open moorland and countryside which is sometimes interspersed with woodland. Several seaside towns border the coastline at various intervals, including Wemyss Bay, which is renowned for its beautiful Victorian-era station [4], and Largs, a resort town with a promenade and a large pebble beach [5]. Saltcoats is another large resort town – with its sandy South Bay flanked between two rocky promontories, this is a traditional holiday destination that is popular with visitors. It contains traditional attractions found in most British seaside towns, including a promenade and an amusement park [6]. A few sandy bays are dotted along this part of the coast, including both the North and South bays around Saltcoats. However, must of the coastline is either rocky or pebbly. As well as Cloch Point, Fairland Head is the main headland promontory, stretching out around 2.5 km (1.5 miles) into the Firth of Clyde. From the shoreline, great views can be seen of the Cumbrae islands and the Isle of Bute.

Between Saltcoats and the town of Ayr, large sandy bays characterise the shoreline, with portions of sand dunes behind them. Irvine Bay is the largest of these – with a 22 km (14 mile) stretch of sand, the bay also contains a beach park, with grassland areas amongst the sand dunes, and a range of sailing and golfing activities on offer [7]. The small resort town of Troon marks the southern limit of Irvine Bay – with half of the town bordering a sandy beach, and the other half located on a small rocky promontory, the shoreline around Troon is bordered by a lively esplanade. Amazing views of the Isle of Arran can be seen across the Firth of Clyde. A pleasure marina is located on the side of the promontory – yachts are commonly moored here [8].

Another wide sandy bay lies between Troon and the south of Ayr; however, it is noticeably less rural than Irvine Bay, with the residential town of Prestwick located around mid-way along the bay. Another popular Scottish seaside resort, Ayr is located 60 km (37 miles) south-west of Glasgow, and is renowned as the birth place of Scotland’s most celebrated poet – Robert Burns. The town has a rather bustling seafront, consisting of a promenade that overlooks an extensive sandy beach. It is backed by a wide expanse of grassland, and many 18th and 19th Century townhouses. Hotels and restaurants are frequently found in Ayr [9].

The coast between Ayr and Stranraer is generally much wilder and more rural than the coastline previously covered in this article – sections of cliffs, steep slopes, small bays and rocky headlands are in great abundance here. South-west of Ayr, the sandy beach peters out and the cliffs begin, marked by the Heads of Ayr headland, from which brilliant views can be seen not only of the aforementioned seaside town, but also across the Firth of Clyde. Another more accessible viewpoint can be found close to the seaside village of Dunure, at the Broad Craig headland, which is located some 10 km (6 miles) south-west of Ayr. After the coast winds its away around the cliffs, it borders the beautiful Culzean Bay, with its nice stretch of golden sand flanked with farmland. Culzean Country Park is located on the southern side of the bay – it contains vast acres of gardens, woodlands and beaches, all of which are overlooked by an incredibly large 18th Century stately home named Culzean Castle [10].

To the south of Culzean Bay, one passes the rocky Turnberry Point headland, and a sandy, pebbly and rocky shoreline, towards the traditional fishing village of Girvan. With its harbour filled with small boats, this is an idyllic place to visit [11]. South of Girvan, the coastline continues on its rugged way, bordered by the steep hills of south-west Scotland. Amongst the rugged Bennane Head and Finnarts Point headlands, and the rocky shoreline towards Stranraer, space is made for short beaches at Carleton Bay, Ballantrae Bay and Finnarts Bay. At Finnarts Point, the coast leaves the Firth of Clyde, and starts bordering the Loch Ryan inlet. At the head of Loch Ryan sits the port town of Stranraer – with a long history as a ferry port linking Scotland and Belfast (although this has since been moved to Cairnryan, located some 9 km (5.5 miles) to the north), the town itself contains centuries of history, including the Castle of St. John, a ruined tower house. With its lovely twisting streets flanked by buildings painted in various colours, this is an attractive town to visit.
















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