Until recently, the seaside town of Largs would not have been a Scottish destination I would have associated with hill-walking. Ice-cream, yes, scenic hiking, not so much. However, I am happy to admit when I am wrong and wanted to share with you a fairly easy hill walk that I discovered which gets top marks for effort to reward ratio in my opinion.
Castle Hill has the best view of the Firth of Clyde that I've come across and a short detour at the start to visit a prehistoric tomb makes this a worthwhile adventure to add to your Largs itinerary.
The walk up Castle Hill is accessed via Douglas Park, a short stroll from the town centre, and when I visited the play-park opposite was full of gorgeous pink cherry blossoms. I couldn't resist standing beneath the floral coated branches while the fragile petals rained down in the wind.
The start of the Castle Hill walk is well signposted once you reach the park but I suggest you follow the path to visit the Haylie Chambered Tomb first.
Discovered in 1772 by James Wilson of Haylie, the remains of 5 bodies were found within. Sadly today all you are likely to find within is rubbish and the tomb does seem pretty unloved considering it is such a fascinating piece of local prehistoric history. However, its unexpected location in a little clearing behind some houses is worth a look.
I took a well worn short cut from the chambered tomb up to the official path for the Castle Hill viewpoint but you can take the path back to the signposted route at the start if you prefer. This is really a walk of two halves as the first stretch is along a path surrounded by patchy grass and scrubby undergrowth and isn't that picturesque. It is also quite steep going in places and I certainly felt my calf muscles working harder than usual.
However, keep checking behind you as the view opens up across the Firth of Clyde and you will get all the encouragement you need to keep going. There are also some benches where you can enjoy the view if you need a little breather.
When you get to a gate and cross a country lane, the scenery changes and I really began to feel like I was on a proper hill walk and the sunny yellow gorse brightened up the landscape. A rather long flight of stairs was the final challenge before my destination came into view and honestly it wasn't quite as intimidating as it looked from the bottom!
I loved the fact that there were so many well-maintained resting points along the route as the spectacular view deserves some time to be appreciated.
When I reached the viewpoint, Largs looked like a little toy town and I was fascinated by the tiny CalMac ferry crossing backwards and forwards to the island of Cumbrae. I loved having the coast in one direction with views across various Scottish islands and rugged green hills in the other direction, for me this is the best of both worlds and one of the main reasons why I've rated this walk so highly.
If, like me, you enjoy doing a bit of geocaching while you are out and about, you can also have some fun searching out a cache near the viewpoint. I always try to leave a business card in the caches I find so if you ever come across one do let me know. This was a fairly easy one and I love combining outdoors exploring with a bit of treasure hunting whenever I get the chance. If you've never tried geocaching then I really recommend giving it a go, once you start it is pretty addictive!
The view from Castle Hill is breathtaking and photographs just don't do it justice so you will have to make the effort and visit for yourself to witness the panoramic vista. It really is the most incredible view I've enjoyed across the Firth of Clyde with clear views of the main islands that dot the coastal waters.
Arran is unmissable in the far distance with its jagged peaks and my home island of Bute sits in the middle to the right and in the foreground are the Cumbraes. The view also stretches down the Ayrshire coast to the left and all the way across to the Cowal and Kintyre Peninsulas in the distance on the right. Apparently you can even see Jura on a clear day but you would need better eyesight than me or a pair of binoculars to gaze that far into the horizon!
Whenever you do manage to pull yourself away from the amazing scenery and head back to town there is only really one way to celebrate and that is with an ice-cream and a sea-side stroll along Largs promenade, which is exactly what I did obviously!
At the moment I don't personally record my walking distances but according to the Walkhighlands website the height climbed is 190m and the distance from the town centre and back is approx 3 miles.
You can easily do this walk in under 2 hours, although I took a picnic up and spent a bit longer and on a nice day I would recommend you do this too.
I can't believe all the times I've visited Largs and never knew about this viewpoint, I can only imagine how spectacular it must be at sunset. If you've never been to Castle Hill then you really should make the effort, as I said at the start, the reward is well worth it, especially on a clear day. I'm so glad I headed off the beaten track to discover this sea-side gem.
If you know of any other hidden gem walks that I should check out, be sure to let me know in the comments below.
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